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.
The leader of a Christian nonprofit organization in California is celebrating after a federal appeals court has agreed to review a previous court decision ruling that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects social media platforms such as Vimeo from liability in censorship cases.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New York City, has agreed to rehear the case of Pastor James Domen v. Vimeo en banc. The lawsuit comes after the streaming service Vimeo suspended the account of Jim Domen, a pastor who leads the California-based nonprofit organization Church United, for posting videos highlighting the stories of five individuals who left the LGBT community to pursue their Christian faith.
Vimeo alleges that the videos violated its terms of service, which ban content promoting the practice referred to by critics as “conversion therapy.” Domen, who is himself a former homosexual, reacted to the development in an interview with The Christian Post. “I’m grateful that the Second Appellate Court en banc has been granted,” he said.
“Church United has a network of over 2,000 California pastors, and we’re growing nationally.” We have representatives in other states across the nation … and … Church United … helps senior pastors engage in government, [and] engage in culture at the local, state and federal level,” said Domen, elaborating on the mission of his organization.
The announcement that the entire Second Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case comes four months after a three-judge panel on the appellate court sided with Vimeo, ruling that the pastor cannot sue the streaming service for terminating his account. Domen alleged that he was “canceled because of my faith,” as well as his status as a former homosexual.
“They completely deleted our account,” he added. “It was so targeted. It was so evident that it was a direct assault on my faith … not only … my story, but all these other former LGBTQ people.”
Domen recalled how he received an email at 5 a.m. on Black Friday 2018 informing him: “’you have 24 hours to remove all of your videos because we’re going to completely delete your account.’”
He told CP that the videos were deleted the first week of December that year, which he noted is “one of the holiest months of the year for Christians, obviously celebrating the birth of Christ.”
“When they deleted our account, it plummeted our organization financially,” Domen explained. “That’s how we share our impact stories, our pastors sharing their stories of how Church United has helped them engage in government … stop evil [and] stand up against injustice.”
“It took months before we could even find another place” to post the videos. He maintained that he has also faced censorship by other prominent social media platforms, including Google, YouTube and Facebook.
Domen rejected the argument that Vimeo, as a private company, has the right to do whatever it wants, including banning certain users if it so chooses. He stressed that private companies “can’t discriminate against someone’s sexual orientation” and say, “I’m not going to hire you because you’re LGBTQ or you’re black or you’re Muslim. That’s exactly what they did to me,” he added.
Likening his battle with Vimeo to a “David and Goliath” scenario, Domen vowed to “take this to the Supreme Court of the United States of America,” if necessary. At the same time, he expressed relief that the Second Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case en banc after a three-judge panel ruled in favor of Vimeo.
“Historically, they’ve been known to deny that and the fact that a court said ‘we want to hear your case’ shows not only how biased … the last four liberal justices have ruled, but what’s scary is how can someone, even as a judge, be as … intellectually astute and yet rule against blatant discrimination against someone’s faith and religion and against someone’s sexual orientation.”
Domen attributed the adverse treatment he’s faced to the fact that he has “a different narrative” and “they oppose that.” Describing himself as a person who “stands and does what’s right,” he proclaimed that “people shouldn’t be canceled, discriminated against or treated subhuman because they have a different worldview or a different experience than what others might perceive or believe.”
The entire case against Vimeo revolves around whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act insulates social media companies, who portray themselves as platforms instead of publishers, from the legal liability that traditional publishers like newspapers and radio stations often find themselves subject to. So far, the judicial branch has decided that social media companies are protected from such lawsuits.
As explained in a legal memorandum filed by Domen’s legal team, Section 230 asserts that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of — any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
The memo asserted that previous court interpretations of the Communications Decency Act, which the lawsuit is seeking to overturn, “give immunity to Big Tech whenever such a company commits unconscionable discrimination in their online filtering decisions against protected classes of individuals.”
In Domen’s case, the “filtering decisions” resulted in him losing his Vimeo account as a result of five videos he uploaded to the site.
One of the videos of concern featured testimony from Domen, who detailed how he dealt with same-sex attraction dating all the way back to junior high school. Despite his efforts to resist the temptations, he ultimately pursued the homosexual lifestyle.
“It will ruin your life. It’s devastating. It will destroy your life,” he warned.
Domen credits God for helping him avoid contracting HIV and Hepatitis C despite the fact that his partner at the time had both. In his interview with CP, Domen said his former partner died in 2006.
In 2002, three years after embracing the homosexual lifestyle, Domen began an “incredible journey of healing and restoration through the power of Jesus Christ, through the power of professional counseling and logical thought, and understanding what same-sex attraction is.”
Today, Domen is married to a woman and together they have a “4-year-old daughter, a 1-year-old son and a baby on the way.” He characterized the homosexual lifestyle as “death, destruction and disaster,” contrasting it with the “life, beauty, tranquility and peacefulness” that defines heterosexual relationships.
Another video tells the story of Luis Ruiz, a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub terrorist attack. The shooting took place in June 2016 at an Orlando entertainment venue frequented by the LGBT community. Ruiz recalled how he thought he was “going to die” but ultimately survived, remarking that “God showed His grace on my life.”
Ruiz also expressed confidence that his mother’s prayers played a role in his survival. He left the homosexual lifestyle after testing positive for HIV. He recounted how after calling out to God, his “desires became less and less” to the point where same-sex attraction was “no longer an issue” in his life. The video concluded with footage of a speech given by Ruiz where he characterized God as “the only man in my life that would die for me.”
The third video that Vimeo sees as problematic is a 44-second promotion for the Freedom March in Los Angeles that took place in 2018. The event featured speeches from former members of the LGBT community, including Domen and Ruiz.
In the fourth video, Andrew Comiskey, the founder of Desert Stream Ministries, explained that although he received encouragement from his father and his alma mater of UCLA to embrace his same-sex attraction, he quickly realized, “I didn’t like the person that I was becoming.” After engaging in reflection, Comiskey began attending a new church at UCLA. He stressed that he did not see the end goal of leaving the homosexual lifestyle as heterosexual marriage but rather “being able to walk conscientiously with our God.”
Comiskey ultimately married a woman and the two began ministering to people in West Hollywood who experienced same-sex attraction. This effort grew into a larger ministry called Living Waters, which Comiskey and his wife have run for four decades.
In contrast to the other videos, the fifth video is a 14-minute package profiling Evan Low, an openly gay member of the California State Assembly who spearheaded the effort to ban conversion therapy in the state. Low withdrew the bill at the last minute as part of an effort to find common ground with members of the religious community. The video includes clips of Domen and others speaking in favor of conversion therapy, as well as critics deriding the practice as harmful.
Christian-owned arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby has been accused of “dominionism” after running a full-page ad in newspapers nationwide on the Fourth of July promoting the idea of “One Nation Under God.” The ad highlighted quotes from prominent Americans promoting God and the Bible.
The ad featured a child running with an American flag with the words, “One Nation Under God.” Lower in the advertisement are the words of Psalm 33:12, which reads, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”
The page also features a series of quotes from American founders and other leaders essential to the shaping of the nation, touching on the importance of God or the Bible. Among those highlighted are former presidents, Supreme Court justices and Founding Fathers. The bottom of the page offered contact information for those interested in having a relationship with Jesus.
Social media users slammed the ad as “unconstitutional” and “propaganda.” And the secular legal organization Freedom from Religion Foundation posted a rebuttal.
“In Hobby Lobby We DON’T Trust,” the title of FFRF’s rebuttal webpage reads. The webpage includes a breakdown of each of the quotes Hobby Lobby included in the ad. “Do these quotes prove we are a Christian nation? Click them to find out,” FFRF, which advocates for strict separation of church and state, posted with an exposition of each quote.
Critics accused Hobby Lobby of advocating for dominionism, a subset of American Christianity seeking a Christian-run nation governed by their understanding of biblical law.
David Weissman, a former Republican Trump supporter-turned-liberal Democrat, tweeted:“As an American Jew who served in the United States Army and took an oath to defend the Constitution; I find your statement of America should be lead by Christians to be asinine and unconstitutional. Shame on you @HobbyLobby.”
A headline on the LGBT blog Joe My God reads, “Hobby Lobby Goes Full Dominionist In July 4th Ad.”
Prominent evangelical leader Franklin Graham, the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham and leader of the evangelical humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, commended Hobby Lobby’s ad and thanked God for Hobby Lobby’s owners.
“Hobby Lobby is being attacked for running some beautiful full-page newspaper ads on July 4. …,” Graham shared on Facebook.
“I hope this exposure for their ads, even though it was intended for harm, will actually allow even more people to read the message and appreciate what Hobby Lobby’s owners, the Green family stand for,” Graham continued. “I thank God for the Green family, their Christian-run business, and their strong public stand for the Word of God and biblical values.”
Messianic Jewish radio host and author Michael Brown published an op-ed defending the ad’s message.
“What we do believe is that God’s ways are always best, and that’s why we advocate for biblical principles and seek to live by them personally,” Brown wrote. “In the same way, others (such as atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, or secular activists) advocate for their own particular spiritual or secular worldviews and seek to live accordingly. This is all part of the fabric of our nation.”
“In short, I do believe that the more truly Christian we are, the more blessed we will be as a nation,” he continued. “But we are not forcing this on anyone (God forbid), and we live by the rules of a Democratic Republic. Since the Hobby Lobby ad will get a lot of negative attention, let’s be prepared to affirm what we do believe and deny what we don’t.”
Hobby Lobby, a company known for its conservative, Christian values, ran a similar ad in past years on Independence Day. The company includes biblical messages in most of its holiday ads and provides a list of its prominent holiday ads since Easter 1997 on its website. Each of the ads provides a spiritual component. Holiday Messages became part of Hobby Lobby’s mission when founder David Green felt commissioned to do something more with advertisements in 1995 after noticing that newspapers failed to provide the true meaning of the advertised holidays.
Hobby Lobby ran its first newspaper ad that explained the true meaning behind Christmas in 1996. The company began “placing beautiful full-page ads celebrating the real meaning of Christmas, Easter and Independence Day in newspapers across the country” from then on, the Hobby Lobby website explains.
“There is nothing exempt from the peril of mutation,” said Elizabethan sage Walter Raleigh.
Or, as an anonymous patriot of his period put it to would-be agitators in his nation: “You will chip away and chip away until nothing is left that makes Scotland Scotland.”
One looks now at the drastic alterations of America’s spiritual, psychological, social, and political DNA, and the mutating dynamics they set loose upon the nation’s very being, and wonders if America will be America for the present generation’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Scientists like Francis Collins taught us much about the human genome and the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that carries the information and genetics forming the nature of a person.
Collins led the task force that decoded the human genome. On the day of the announcement, President Clinton said: “We are learning the language in which God created life… We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.”
On this July 4th it would be a good idea for Americans everywhere to reflect on the beauty and wonder of the “DNA” that formed the best of America.
Ages ago God led Moses and his people into the Sinai wilderness and to the foot of Mount Sinai. God summoned Moses up the mountain to renew His Covenant with the people. Receiving that Covenant would give birth to the nation, Israel. God made it clear that Israel must not worship the gods of the Canaanites lest they become like the Canaanites. (See Exodus 34)
So, to worship the “gods of the land” is to take on the spiritual “DNA” of the people of the land, and to take on the identity of the people of the land is to adopt their gods.
For example, previous generations in America—including people and churches identifying as Christian—embraced slavery, in conformity with their culture.
Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, nevertheless could not quiet the voice of judgment within his mind and heart: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
And it did not.
A nation-rending war resulted. Succeeding generations learned little and perpetuated discrimination through officially sanctioned racism and segregation.
God warned that If Israel worshiped the “gods of the land” when it arrived in Canaan, then Israel would cease to be Israel and lose its purpose and destiny.
America is by no means the “new Israel,” but she has had remarkable blessings of liberty, prosperity, and security.
God’s aim in history is for the good news of His beautiful Kingdom to be proclaimed to all the inhabited earth. This is the business, not of the state, but of the church within the nation. For this mission to be carried out there must be freedom of religion so the church can go about its business, and have the material means to take the gospel globally.
Any nation that permits such freedom will be blessed. The health of a nation, therefore, is in direct ratio to the health of the church within the nation.
Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington explored what we refer to here as America’s “DNA” in his book, Who Are We? There he discussed the American “Creed” comprised by these and other “DNA” components:
The rule of law
Huntington did not shy from crediting the Judeo-Christian worldview as the source of these elements of America’s spiritual “DNA”.
If there is socio-cultural sin in our past and present it is not because these principles were corrupt but because sinful human beings of all persuasions corrupted the “DNA”. We have too often worshiped the “gods of the land” and in the process defiled the Source of our blessings, to the hurt of many and alteration of our national character.
The present struggle in American society and culture spans the past, present, and future. All the generations are at stake: We are ashamed of the sins of the past, hopeless in the conflicted present, and anxious about an uncertain future.
Therefore, this Fourth of July we must reflect on the sobering truth of what will happen as America’s “DNA” is altered. The nation will go…
From the conviction that God is Transcendent—above all and to Whom all must give an account, including government—to the belief that there is nothing Transcendent but ourselves and ultimately our rulers
From the freedom not to believe to enforced state or cultural religion
From churches to re-education centers
From schools pursuing knowledge to schools indoctrinating
From the Bible as God’s revelation to us and the source of our formative worldview to the displacement of the Bible from public life
From constitutionalism to tyrannical edict
From healthy individuality to collectivism
From a free market economy to a state-controlled economy
From democracy to oligarchy through the elite establishments of Information, Entertainment, Academia, Politics, Corporations
From mature independence to socialist dependency
From a healthy respect for just law to antinomianism
From unity to fragmentation
From freedom of religion to bondage to the secular humanist religion of the state
From nuclear family to state-determined family
If all that happens our national “DNA” will be altered so drastically that America will no longer be America.
A violent revolution will not save America. The matter at the core is spiritual and only a spiritual revolution, “great awakenings,” will save us.
Pulpits must once again reach into the depths of biblical revelation and proclaim the Kingdom of God rather than the therapeutic or prosperity “gospels”.
Congregations must learn anew the importance of going to their knees… standing in the “gap” … for their nation before God.
ABOUT THE COMMENTATOR:
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.
Just type the words IRS, Christian, and Bible in your search engine and you’ll get a flood of results, most of them starting with headlines like this: “IRS denies Christian nonprofit tax exemption, saying biblical values are Republican.” Or this, “IRS denies tax-exempt status to Christian nonprofit group because ‘Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican Party’.”
Naturally, there has been outrage among Christian conservatives over this ruling, pointing to this yet another example of the IRS’s anti-Christian, anti-conservative bias. That’s also why most of the commentary has focused on the egregious ruling itself, which is being appealed.
Yet, in the midst of this very wrong ruling, the IRS made a very right observation: by and large, the Republican Party is more aligned with biblical teaching than is the Democratic Party.
Of course, neither major party is fully aligned with God and His Word. And, without a doubt, the world of politics cannot be confused with the purity of the spiritual realm and the kingdom of God. We can also debate which party’s policies are closest to biblical values when it comes to helping the poor or the immigrant.
That’s why, on principle, even though I have voted for Republican candidates for years while not voting for a single Democrat, I am registered as an Independent. It’s just my way of saying that I cannot align myself fully with any political party.
At the same time, when it comes to important biblical values, in the great majority of cases, the Republican platform is more aligned with Scripture than is the Democratic platform, to the point of getting the backhanded recognition of the IRS.
As for the organization involved in this ruling, it is called Christians Engaged, and its stated purpose is: “to awaken, motivate, educate, and empower ordinary believers in Jesus Christ to.”
Their threefold emphasis is: “Pray for our nation and elected officials regularly. Vote in every election to impact our culture. Engage our hearts in some form of political education or activism for the furtherance of our nation.”
Yet when they applied for tax exempt status, they were rejected.
In the words of the official IRS ruling (I’m quoting the most relevant section), “Specifically, you educate Christians on what the Bible says in areas where they can be instrumental including the areas of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations. The Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican Party] and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under IRC Section 501(c)(3).”
Again, the mocking headlines were well deserved, including this one, from RedState: “The IRS says if you believe in God and the Bible, you are working for the GOP.”
That’s why, for good reason, the ruling is being appealed by First Liberty Institute, which has argued that the IRS ruling “errs in three ways: 1) [it] invents a nonexistent requirement that exempt organizations be neutral on public policy issues; 2) [it] incorrectly concludes that Christians Engaged primarily serves private, nonexempt purposes rather than public, exempt purposes because he thinks its beliefs overlap with the Republican Party’s policy positions; and 3) [it] violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech, and Free Exercise, and Establishment clauses by engaging in both viewpoint discrimination and religious discrimination.”
Yet in the midst of the pushback against the IRS, many have missed the biting irony of the words of the ruling where biblical teaching is associated with the Republican Party. In large measure, the IRS got this exactly right.
As noted in RedState, “The Bible, yes, IRS, the word is capitalized, is not neutral on the sanctity of life. It is not neutral on homosexuality. It is not neutral on marriage. It is not neutral on justice.”
Let’s remember that the Democrats positioned themselves as the party of the Religious “Nones” (meaning, people with no religious affiliation).
And it is the Democrats who have become increasingly radical in their pro-abortion zeal.
And the Democrats who are pushing the Equality Act, which guts religious liberties in favor of LGBT extremism.
As I noted in September 2019, “There is no question about it. There is not even a desire to hide it. The Democrat Party continues to grow spiritually darker to the point of actually proclaiming itself the party of the religiously non-affiliated. Is it any surprise?”
Or, as I pointed out in August 2020 (with regard to the Biden-Sanders “Unity Plan”), “God is never mentioned in the document. Not once.” In contrast, “the word gender occurs 22 times.
“More importantly, ‘transgender’ occurs twice, and in very specific contexts: ‘we will act expeditiously to reinstate Department of Education guidance protecting transgender students’ rights under Title IX and make clear that schools shall not discriminate based on LGBTQ status.’”
In sum, “LGBTQ” is “mentioned 17 times in the plan” while “‘religion’ is mentioned once, ‘Christian’ and ‘Jew’ and ‘God’ are not mentioned at all, but ‘LGBTQ’ is mentioned 17 times. Need I say more?”
And what of the rising, virtually unchecked tide of anti-Zionism and antisemitism within the Democratic Party?
For good reason the IRS pointed to what “the Bible says” with regard to “U.S. and Israel relations.” Here, too, the Republican Party stands much closer to Scripture than does the Democratic Party.
So, while the IRS ruled quite wrongly in denying Christians Engaged tax-exempt status, it ironically got one thing right: if you teach the Bible accurately, by and large, you’ll end up siding with the Republicans rather than the Democrats.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries. He is the author of 40 books. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
Critics of the COVID lockdowns often argued that, in the end, the lockdowns would do more harm than good, not just financially but also medically. One reason was that patients needing treatment would be less inclined to visit a doctor or hospital, increasing their health risks. Critics also pointed to the psychological aspects of the lockdowns, leading to increased loneliness, depression, and even suicide.
What about forbidding Christians (and other people of faith) from gathering for worship, prayer, and ministry? What kind of impact did this have on the overall health and wellbeing of tens of millions of Americans (along with countless others worldwide)? Or, conversely, what positive role did faith play in the overall health and wellbeing of Americans during the lockdowns?
A new article posted in the Scientific American, by David H. Rosmarin, and titled “Psychiatry Needs to Get Right with God,” addressed these very questions.
According to Rosmarin, “Spirituality has historically been dismissed by psychiatrists, but results from a pilot program at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts indicate that attention to it is a critical aspect of mental health care.”
He noted that, “In the past year, American mental health sank to the lowest point in history: Incidence of mental disorders increased by 50 percent, compared with before the pandemic. Alcohol and other substance abuse surged, and young adults were more than twice as likely to seriously consider suicide than they were in 2018. Yet the only group to see improvements in mental health during the past year were those who attended religious services at least weekly (virtually or in-person): 46% report ‘excellent’ mental health today versus 42 percent one year ago.”
It looks like churches and houses of worship were delivering “essential services” after all.
Unfortunately, Rosmarin explains, “Since Sigmund Freud’s characterization of religion as a ‘mass-delusion’ nearly 100 years ago, mental health professionals and scientists have eschewed the spiritual realm. Current efforts to flatten the COVID-19 mental health curve have been almost entirely secular. The American Psychological Association’s extensive set of consumer resources makes no mention of spirituality. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s only spiritual recommendation is to “connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.” Of more than 90,000 active projects presently funded by all 27 institutes and centers within the National Institutes of Health, fewer than 20 mention spirituality anywhere in the abstract, and only one project contains this term in its title.”
He continues, “This situation goes beyond separation of church and state. Health care professionals falsely disconnect common spiritual behaviors and experiences from science and clinical practice. As a result, we ignore potential spiritual solutions to our mental health crisis, even when our well-being is worse than ever before.”
Of course, God’s Word, the Bible, was quite aware of these realities, demonstrating an understanding of the connection between body, mind, spirit, and emotions, to the point of offering what could be called psychosomatic observations.
When writing my doctoral dissertation on the primary Hebrew word for healing, the root raphah, I noted that the fundamental meaning of this root was “to restore, make whole,” out of which the other meanings (including physical healing) flowed. Put another way, the concept of healing was holistic. The results of that dissertation, in a much more expanded – and hopefully, more readable! – form were published in my 1985 volume, Israel’s Divine Healer. The book has been very useful in curing insomnia. Start reading it late at night, especially focusing on the 85,000 words of endnotes, and you’ll soon be out like a light.
In my studies, I also noted how some verses in the Book of Proverbs, a treasure trove of practical, divine wisdom, directly addressed the connection of internal and external health.
For example, Proverbs 3:7-8 exhorted, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be healing to your fleshand tonic to your bones.” So, humility and godly living would lead to physical health as well.
Proverbs 14:30 observed, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” As the Jewish commentator Malbim aptly noted, “flesh and bones are only as healthy as the spirit they encase.” Indeed.
Other verses state, “What brightens the eye gladdens the heart; good news puts fat on the bones” (15:30). And, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (17:22). And, “A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (18:14).
Commenting on these verses (and others), popular Christian author Elmer Josephson wrote, “Right attitudes encourage and refresh the soul and strengthen the moral spirit; actually, then the blood and the sympathetic nervous system are rejuvenated, which make for good cell construction and build healthy body tissues. Wrong relationships and attitudes depress the mind and fill the blood with alkaloid poison. The involuntary sympathetic nerve system actually causes a malformation of cell construction and tissue arrangement” (See God’s Key to Health and Happiness).
Yet Josephson made these observations back in 1976, citing medical studies to back his claims. (Whether medical professionals would agree with every one of his points or not, the overall claims are certainly true.)
It’s a shame that mental health professionals, along with other healthcare providers, have been so slow to recognize the important connection between spiritual health and mental health.
I say it’s high time for the wellbeing of those struggling that naturalistic biases and presuppositions be removed in the interest of truth and health. We are more than material beings, and that by divine design.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries. He is the author of 40 books. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
In the absence of religious faith, fear reigns and freedom recedes.
Discerning the origin of the current, fear-based American social climate is not difficult. Don’t blame scientists in China for releasing the angst virus assaulting traditional American liberties. Blame the tech engineers operating in Silicon Valley laboratories. They invented the social media apps that amplify fear and empower “cancel culture,” the nuclear weapons dislodging America from its Judeo-Christian values.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey are Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Douglas S. MacArthur ending America’s 60-year culture war with an unparalleled bombing campaign. What started with President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiative is closing with repression of speech, corporate media propaganda, and an evisceration of America’s Judeo-Christian ethos.
Facebook and Twitter finished the mission of turning America secular, godless, and shamelessly immoral. The apps allegedly intended to bring us together have torn us apart. We should not be surprised. The apps urge self-worship, celebrity worship, and consumerism, which lead to hedonism, idolatry, and materialism. A secular society always produces chaos and division.
Photo courtesy Jason Whitlock
Branded as racists, Uncle Toms, coons, homophobes, transphobes, hypocrites, and misogynists, American Christians fear publicly identifying themselves by their faith. They’ve placed their political identity and racial identity above their religious identity. They’re conservatives. Or Republicans. Or nationalists, both white and black. Or libertarians. Or liberals. Or social justice activists. Or, worse, Trump supporters and Trump resisters.
They avoid saying the name that made John Brown and Frederick Douglass abolitionists, compelled Thomas Jefferson to write that “all men are created equal,” comforted Union soldiers during the Civil War, and inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. They avoid directly referring to the name that made America great in the first place, the name that forced us to overcome our superficial differences and transform those differences into our greatest strength.
He’s been canceled, crucified by a toxic secular culture that bullies His believers with threats to expose their sins on the Satan-con Valley social media platforms and/or the Satan-con Valley-catering corporate media outlets.
Photo courtesy Jason Whitlock. Jason Whitlock (left) and his brother James (right) sit together on Easter Sunday in 1974.
Fear is the enemy of truth, freedom, and the American dream.
I signed a contract to partner with Blaze Media on a digital media project dedicated to pushing back against the corporate-supported, systematic effort to undermine America through racial division and fear. I joined Blaze Media because I wanted to partner with people who wouldn’t look at me funny when I referred to Jesus as part of my journalistic worldview and platform. I joined Blaze Media because Glenn Beck smiled when I said Jesus is the only solution for what ails America, because Steve Deace wears his faith publicly, and so do Phil Robertson, Allie Beth Stuckey, and others.
I am not a sports journalist-turned-preacher. I’m not a finger-wagging hypocrite looking down on the people who don’t share my beliefs. I’m a sinner. I’m the same guy who wrote hilarious Pussy Galore columns for Fox Sports, the same guy who used to waste his time and money drinking and carousing inside the Spearmint Rhino in Las Vegas, Tootsie’s in Miami, Diamond Joe’s in Kansas City, and Magic City in Atlanta.
I’m someone who knows that in order for me to make better decisions — in all aspects of my life — I need Jesus. I’m someone who recognizes that any success I’ve achieved in a 30-year career is a byproduct of the values my grandmother, a tiny church in Indianapolis, my parents, and my siblings instilled in me as a young boy. My testimony is amazing. It’s further evidence of the power of faith and the availability of the American dream.
My brand and approach to journalism and broadcasting are fearless. My courage is rooted in faith.
Photo courtesy Jason Whitlock
Fear is destroying America. It locked us in our homes, forced us to cover our faces, and forbade us to worship together for more than a year. It stole freedoms we took for granted. It allowed Colin Kaepernick to polarize our national anthem. It turned rare incidents of deadly police misconduct into a fictional genocidal pandemic. It spawned race hoaxes and a generation of race-baiting grifters. It diminished sports’ ability to unify.
That’s why we are launching the Fearless platform, which will start with my show, “Fearless with Jason Whitlock,” and a second podcast showcasing my friendship with my right-hand man, “Uncle Jimmy” (Dodds), and will eventually include a Fearless writing vertical.
We’re going to fight back. We’re going to be the abolitionists of fear. From my new hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, we’re joining hands with Beck, Deace, Robertson, Mark Levin, Steven Crowder, Dave Rubin, Allie Beth Stuckey, and the rest of Blaze Media to stand as an example of what Americans can accomplish when we put our differences aside and work together.
On the surface, Fearless will look a little different from the rest of the Blaze Media family. But our love of country will be just as strong, our appreciation for this nation’s founding documents just as sincere, and our search for liberating truths just as intense.
The 400-year African American journey is this nation’s most compelling and powerful narrative. It’s proof the American dream is real and attainable. That’s why our adversaries abroad and within are perverting, manipulating, and weaponizing the African American narrative. Black Americans’ fight for freedom made the United States live up to the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence — the equality of man and unalienable rights bestowed by our Creator.
Our relentless pursuit of freedom was the iron that sharpened American iron.
The Chinese Communist Party knows this. The revolutionaries in Satan-con Valley know this. The editors at the New York Times know this. The trained, self-described Marxists who founded Black Lives Matter know this.
In order to destroy America, you must cripple belief in the rags-to-riches American dream and the conviction that America is a force for good. Reshaping the African American narrative into a journey that damns this nation — rather than one that illuminates our unprecedented resolve to do better — hastens our decline.
The black journey fueled American exceptionalism. The elite architects of chaos cleverly and covertly attack this obvious truth.
“Black Twitter” is not an organic construct. It’s a social media algorithm designed to paint any truth-speaking public figure as a racist or a race traitor. The New York Times’ 1619 Project isn’t journalism. It’s the companion of academia’s virus, critical race theory, propaganda designed to foster racial animus and erode black patriotism. Black Lives Matter isn’t concerned with the welfare of black men. It’s a fundraising arm of the Democratic Party and a lobbyist for the LGBTQ agenda.
The racial conflict BLM, Antifa, and social media influencers promote smokescreens a far more insidious plot — the plot to cancel Jesus and impose a cultural Marxism on the United States. Global elites prefer China’s system of authoritarian governance and worker exploitation. Backers of the Great Reset and Build Back Better prefer that America function the way China does. Jesus and communism cannot coexist. Karl Marx, the father of Marxism and the proponent of communism, explained that in his political theory.
The racial smokescreen is working. We’re losing the faux race war and surrendering the freedoms that made America the envy of the world.
We’re losing because we’ve sidelined our best soldier — Jesus. The original combatants of the Civil War drew on Jesus as their primary power source. Have you ever studied the lyrics of the Battle Hymn of the Republic?
Here’s my favorite passage:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was borne across the sea With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me As he died to make men holy let us die to make men free His truth is marching on Glory, glory hallelujah
Julia Ward Howe, a white abolitionist, wrote those words in 1861. The words spurred men to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of others. Mine eyes have seen the glory of what Americans can accomplish when we come together as one nation under God, when we conquer our fears.
Your sin does not nullify your Christianity. It justifies it. Let go of that fear. Your sins, no matter what they are, do not prohibit you from speaking truth, standing on biblical principles, and being heard.
The enemies of truth, the elites rewriting history and redefining American freedom, are not silent or scared. Their immorality (sin) emboldens them. Our sin silences us. Not any more. Not if I can help it.
The mission statement of the Fearless Project is simple: We’re a digital media platform dedicated to promoting a culture of fearlessness, free speech, truth-seeking, and American patriotism. We will accomplish our mission by critiquing, lampooning, and probing the events shaping conversations around sports, race, and popular culture.
You will not have to believe what I believe to enjoy and benefit from “Fearless.” That’s the gift of a Judeo-Christian culture. It works to ensure that non-believers receive the same opportunity to pursue their dreams as everyone else.
WASHINGTON — Men and women who once lived and identified as part of the LGBT community are confident that a “rainbow revival” is at hand. Gathered under the blazing sun with temperatures in the mid-90s at the Sylvan Theater in the shadow of the Washington Monument, approximately 200 attended the Freedom March, an event for formerly LGBT-identifying people who share testimonies of how Jesus transformed their lives.
The gathering was first held in the same location in 2018. Last year’s Freedom March was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many sporting T-shirts decorated with rainbow flags and the words “Rainbow Revival,” march participants spoke with The Christian Post about the transforming power of Jesus.
Angel Colon, who miraculously survived after Omar Mateen shot him several times at the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting in Orlando in June 2016, said the “rainbow revival” is a sign of God’s covenant.
“We are taking back the rainbow,” Colon said. “It’s His. For us, it’s something beautiful.”
“We are here and we’re loud, letting the world know that the rainbow is something beautiful,” he added. “And we shouldn’t be ashamed of what it really is.”
Colon and his compatriots are hearing from increasing numbers of people who desire to leave the LGBT life to follow Jesus, as Freedom March events have continued. He believes that the COVID-19 pandemic was a blessing in disguise because it forced many to go deep with the Lord.
“Especially now during Pride month, we want to say we love you” to the LGBT community, Colon said.
“We want to tell the gay community that we love them. We don’t want to judge you or condemn you and welcome you with open arms and be a reflection of Jesus. We’re not the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to do anything but love everyone.”
Freedom March co-founder Jeffrey McCall told CP that he noticed an uptick in emails he received from people wishing to leave the LGBT life and identity behind last summer. He was especially encouraged to hear pastor Kent Christmas of Regeneration-Nashville speak prophetically at The Return intercessory prayer event in September that the Lord would bring healing and salvation to the LGBT community.
That uptick in correspondence “has never stopped since last summer,” McCall said. “We are getting more emails, more people reaching out and wanting help than we’ve ever had in the past three years,” he continued. He believes that the Church is at the beginning stage of reaching out effectively to LGBT individuals with the transformational power of life in Christ.
In some church environments in the 1980s, including the one Drew Berryessa was raised in, how homosexuality was treated was harsh and condemning. Not knowing what to do with his struggle with same-sex attraction, the Medford, Oregon-based pastor who leads A Living Letter Ministries shared from the stage how he consistently felt disqualified from God’s love.
“In 20 years of ministry to the LGBT community, I know there are many people that they were Christians, that they loved Jesus in their childhood, but they just felt disqualified from His love and grace and redemption because of what they experienced,” he told CP.
“And I’m here to say — and I know that we all are — that the blood of Jesus speaks a better word. We are qualified for His redemption and grace.”
Kim Zember, who is Catholic and on the march’s board of directors, shared with CP that the phrase “conversion therapy” is misleading.
“It’s not about ‘converting’ someone,” Zember said. “When Jesus walked the earth, he didn’t walk around converting people. He invited people to be transformed. And we’re transformed in a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“Jesus went into the dark places,” She stressed. “He encountered those who were sick, those who were blind and broken.”
The Freedom March board member said that those who participated in the event believe they have been “touched by who we believe is the Physician, Jesus Christ.”
“He transforms our lives, not forcing us, not changing us because we have to,” Zember explained. “[It’s] not a doctrine or certain church teaching, but because Christ Himself has encountered each one of us and we want to share that, not only the transformation He has brought to our lives but [it’s] continuing as well.”
In order for churches to posture themselves effectively to reach the LGBT community, she said the Church needs an increase in humility and realize “we ourselves are broken as well and allow Jesus to mend our own brokenness.” She says churches must be “willing to be transparent with others struggling about our own battles and share about Jesus who is our only hope for complete healing.”
After three hours of sharing testimonies and worship, participants marched with a banner from the Sylvan Theater, looping around the pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial and back.
The Freedom March is one of several events in which formerly LGBT-identified people who traveled to the nation’s capital participated. Although the Equality Act appears to be stalling in the U.S. Senate, men and women with the CHANGED movement spent part of Friday speaking with congressional staffers about their concerns with the pending legislation. The movement is a cohort of formerly LGBT-identifying people who have publicly declared their testimonies of restoration through Jesus.
The legislation would codify discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity into federal law. The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House and is supported by President Joe Biden. Those who met with staffers are particularly concerned about efforts to limit counseling options for those experiencing conflicting or unwanted sexual feelings and impulses or gender confusion related to their faith. Faith-based approaches to help individuals deal with these unwanted attractions are often derisively referred to as “conversion therapy.”
Speaking at a press conference outside the Capitol building at Union Square near the reflecting pool, CHANGED movement co-founder Elizabeth Woning said it is incredibly unjust for lawmakers to outlaw such avenues for women, who have long been ignored.
Woning, a pastor with Equipped to Love in Redding, California, who helped co-host the Freedom March, said the lesbian experience was often diminished in favor of male priorities within the LGBT community.
She believes that they are the true liberals in this debate.
“A truly liberal posture seeks understanding. It seeks to incorporate multiple ideas from multiple sides,” Woning told CP in an interview Friday. “It’s constantly learning and constantly flexing and willing to accommodate multiple views for the sake of valuing another person. Truly liberal ideas are being squashed in America.”
She warned that “seeking understanding and having dialogue should not be frightening and it shouldn’t be considered abusive or harmful.”
“We should be going for enlightened discussion and discourse,” she argued.
The conversation over “conversion therapy” continues to harm many women, Woning added.
She recently spoke to a married lesbian who said she had been sexually assaulted and raped by a man. The experience impacted her entire life of sexual expression, even with her wife. The woman also acknowledged that pursuing a counseling route to resolve the trauma from being raped to recognize that there could have been harm to her sexuality that would have implicated her sexual orientation was anathema.
“She couldn’t speak of that in her circles,” Woning recalled. “She could never be allowed the opportunity to dialogue on that with the option of resolution. But what if those traumas were resolved?”
Law professors and scholars are calling on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to pressure the State Department to sanction Finland’s prosecutor general for prosecuting a Christian politician who shared her biblical beliefs on sexuality and marriage. In an open letter published by Real Clear Politics last Friday, professors from Ivy League institutions like Harvard University, Yale University and Princeton University spoke out in defense of Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola. They both face criminal charges related to Räsänen expressing her Christian views on marriage.
Räsänen, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, could face up to six years in prison after being charged with three counts of ethnic agitation related to statements she made expressing her beliefs pertaining to human sexuality and marriage.
Räsänen is the former chair of the Christian Democrats and a former interior minister who has served in Parliament for seven terms. The mother of five, who is married to a pastor and Bible college principal, has been under police investigation since June 2019.
She publicly voiced her opinion on marriage in a 2004 booklet on sexual ethics, describing marriage as between one man and one woman. She also expressed her views on a 2019 radio show and tweeted church leadership on the matter. Prosecutors determined that her previous statements disparage and discriminate against LGBT individuals and foment intolerance and defamation. The mother of five is adamant that her expressions are “legal and should not be censored.”
In their open letter, the professors argue that the prosecution of the politician for her remarks could “compel Finland’s clergy and lay religious believers to choose between prison and abandoning teachings of their various faiths.”
“The charges against Dr. Räsänen stem from her authorship of a 2004 booklet entitled, Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity, published by the Luther Foundation,” they wrote. “In the booklet, Dr. Räsänen argues that homosexual activity should be recognized by the church as sinful based on the teachings of the Hebrew Bible and Christian scripture.”
“Second, the Prosecutor General has charged the Bishop-Elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, with one count of ethnic agitation for publishing Dr. Räsänen’s booklet,” the letter continues.
“The Prosecutor General’s pursuit of these charges against a prominent legislator and bishop sends an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station: no one who holds to the traditional teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and several other religions on questions of marriage and sexual morality will be safe from state harassment should they, like Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen, express their moral and religious convictions.”
The letter argues that the prosecutions“constitute serious human rights abuses”because they violate Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Those documents affirm the right of an individual “to manifest his religion or belief in teaching.”
The professors urged commissioners serving on the congressionally-mandated independent commission tasked with advising the U.S. government on international religious freedom matters to urge Secretary of State Antony Blinken to sanction Finland Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen because of “a gross violation of human rights.”
The letter’s signatories include Princeton University law professor Robert P. George, Harvard University’s Learned Hand Professor of Law Emerita Mary Ann Glendon and Harvard constitutional law professor Adrian Vermeule.
Other signatories include: Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; Middlebury College political science professor Keegan Callanan; Yale University history and religious studies professor Carlos Eire; Princeton University math professor Sergiu Klainerman; Princeton University international studies professor John B. Londregan; Harvard University African American studies lecturer Jacqueline C. Rivers; and attorney David Rivkin of the law firm BakerHostetler.
The signatories argue that Räsänen’s prosecution isn’t merely “mundane applications of a European-style ‘hate speech’ law.”
“No reasonable balance of the goods of public order, civil equality, and religious liberty can ever support this suppression of the right to believe and express one’s beliefs. The prosecutions are straightforward acts of oppression,” they write.
“To uphold the internationally recognized rights of freedom of expression and religious liberty, the United States must now respond to the abuses in Finland as it has recently responded to other violations of religious liberty in non-western nations.”
The letter points to how the U.S. government designated a Chinese government official as a human rights abuser for “his involvement in the detention and interrogation of Falun Gong practitioners for practicing their beliefs.”
“Prosecutor General Toiviainen’s status as a European official must not shield her from sanctions for her abuse of traditionalist Christians in Finland,” the letter argues.
In addition, the letter urges USCIRF to pressure Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to designate Toiviainen for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows for sanctions to be placed on foreign officials believed to be responsible or complicit in severe human rights abuse.
“Prosecutor General Toiviainen and any line prosecutors who choose to assist her plainly meet this description,” the professors argue. The letter contends that there is “no statue of limitations on human rights violations of this magnitude.”
“Should calls by USCIRF to designate and sanction Prosecutor General Toiviainen and her accomplices fall on deaf ears, we respectfully request that USCIRF not simply let the matter drop,” they conclude.
Räsänen is represented by ADF International, which argues that her case is about the freedom to express religious beliefs in the public square without the fear of government investigation.
In a March statement, Räsänen said that she did not threaten, slander or insult anyone and that her comments were all “based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.” She vowed to defend her right to “confess” her faith.
“The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets,” she said.
Earlier this month, the European Evangelical Alliance voiced its support for Räsänen, asking if the prosecutor is “attempting to redefine human rights law.”
“Freedom of expression gives the right for anyone to share their opinion,” EEA General Secretary Thomas Bucher wrote in a statement. “The right to freedom of expression exists to legally protect those that express views which may offend, shock or disturb others.”
A high school in Michigan has reversed course after initially telling a graduating senior that references to her Christian beliefs were “not appropriate” for her upcoming valedictory speech, her lawyers say. After receiving a demand letter from the First Liberty Institute, officials at Hillsdale High School relented after pressuring student to alter the valedictory speech for her June 6 graduation ceremony.
“I’m grateful I will be able to share my faith with my classmates, and I pray that God uses this situation to advance His kingdom,” Turner said in a statement Thursday shared by First Liberty Institute, a legal nonprofit that defends First Amendment rights.
The religious liberty group sent the letter to Principal Amy Goldsmith on Wednesday, asking her to allow the valedictorian to talk about her faith as she had initially planned.
“Graduation is a time for celebration not censorship,” First Liberty Institute Counsel Keisha Russell said in a statement.
“Students retain their constitutional rights to freedom of expression from elementary school all the way through the graduation ceremony. All public schools should protect the private religious expression of their students.”
Turner, who was chosen as one of the school’s valedictorian speakers, had planned to tell the crowd that her “future hope is found in my relationship with Christ.”
“By trusting him and choosing to live a life dedicated to bringing his kingdom glory, I can be confident that I am living a life filled with purpose and meaning,” one section of the student’s speech reads. “My identity is found by what God says and who I want to become is laid out in scripture.”
After reviewing a revised draft of Turner’s speech Monday, First Liberty reports that Goldsmith informed Turner that “we need to be mindful about the inclusion of religious aspects.”
According to the demand letter, Goldsmith told the student that “These are your strong beliefs, but they are not appropriate for a speech in a school public setting.”
“I know this will frustrate you, but we have to be mindful of it,” the principal was quoted as saying.
In the letter, Russell and First Liberty Counsel Mike Berry criticized Goldsmith’s assertion that Turner’s remarks about her religion were “not appropriate for a speech in a public school setting,” citing guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.
The guidance, issued Jan. 16, 2020, states that when students or other private graduation speakers are “selected on the basis of genuinely content-neutral, evenhanded criteria” and “maintain primary control over the content of their expression,” that “expression is not attributable to the school and therefore may not be restricted because of its religious (or anti-religious) content.”
The guidance acknowledged that in cases “where school officials determine or substantially control the content of what is expressed, such speech is attributable to the school and may not include prayer or other specifically religious (or anti-religious) content.”
However, the guidance encouraged schools “to avoid any mistaken perception that a school endorses student speech that is not in fact attributable to the school” by making “appropriate, neutral disclaimers to clarify that such speech (whether religious or nonreligious) is the speaker’s and not the school’s speech.”
While Goldsmith never mentioned the First Amendment or the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Turner’s attorneys explained to her that “student graduation speeches constitute private speech, not government speech, and private speech is not subject to the Establishment Clause.”
Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Westside Community Board of Education v. Mergens, the attorneys maintained that “Ms. Turner’s statements do not transform into government speech simply because they are delivered in a public setting or to a public audience.”
“Hillsdale High School must comply with the law by allowing private student religious expression during graduation,” the attorneys concluded. “By doing so, it will teach students that the government should treat religion neutrally.”
Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, Berry and Russell told Goldsmith that “any perceived danger in students seeing their classmates engaging in religious expression, including prayer, is no greater than the danger in students seeing religion banned from public view.”
They warned her that “you are violating federal law which permits private religious speech at school events” and requested that she allow Turner to “express her private religious beliefs at the graduation ceremony.”
The attorneys also included screenshots of emails between Turner and Goldsmith indicating that the principal had already asked the valedictorian to make changes to her speech before she asked her to scrub its “religious aspects.” Turner expressed concern that she would not “be able to deliver a genuine speech” based on the stipulations laid out.
“I don’t agree that we should avoid the topic of tragedy and death because that is a part of everyone’s future,” Turner wrote. “I understand what you are saying but for me, this is a time for my peers and I to evaluate our lives and to choose how we want to live since we’re not promised tomorrow and I don’t want to write a speech that won’t be meaningful just to check off the box. I believe it is celebratory to call people to a life of purpose and meaning and a call to action to live a life as well.”
Turner stressed that “my personal future relies on my faith and I also want the freedom to be able to address that in my speech if the opportunity arises.” Goldsmith reportedly responded in a follow-up email, arguing that “I think one can call for a life of purpose without using the words death and tragedy.”
“While there is a degree of freedom to the content of your speech, there are also considerations of what the content and message should be at a commencement celebration and it’s appropriateness for the audience,” she continued. “When crafting a speech it is important to consider purpose and audience. Your speech has a good thesis, it’s the connotations of the word that you can avoid.”
Turner forwarded that email chain to her pastor, who then sent it to Russell. The demand letter was filed two days later.
In a subsequent chat, also attached to First Liberty’s demand letter, Goldsmith asked Turner, “what did you decide about presenting the speech?” Turner informed Goldsmith that she was planning on giving it, to which the principal replied, “You have added more content of a religious and focus on death nature so this was not clear to me.”
On Thursday, Russell praised the school’s decision to “ensure that religious students can freely exercise their right to express their faith in a graduation speech.”
“Elizabeth is thrilled that she’ll be able to celebrate her graduation without being censored,” Russell said. “We hope that future graduates will be free from religious censorship.”
Over the last decade, Lucas Miles began noticing what he believes is a “really damaging, antithetical to the Gospel, and certainly heretical” issue metastasizing across the Western Church.
“I’ve seen what The New York Times has called this ‘Ascendant Liberal Christianity’ invade churches. And of course, they present ‘Liberal Christianity’ or ‘Progressive Christianity’ in a positive light, but I think it’s actually extremely dangerous to the Body of Christ,” Miles, a pastor, author and filmmaker told The Christian Post.
But over the last 36 months, Miles said he began seeing this liberal ideology invade churches at an unprecedented rate, at first through the mouths of well-known professing Christian politicians, pastors and teachers, but eventually in local church leaders too.
“I would hear people start talking about Christianity using progressive language, and the Jesus they presented was more of a great social organizer than the Savior of the world,” he said.
“I live in a red state and blue county, and there are probably four or five churches right around me that are flying a Marxist Black Lives Matter flag or Christian socialism symbol or a rainbow flag, and they’re flying those higher than the cross. I think it says a lot about where the churches in America are right now.”
Like many beliefs, the Christian Left is a “spectrum,” Miles said, as “not everybody who has progressive ideas are true leftists or Marxists.” Some, like Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock and Democratic politician Pete Buttigieg, are on the “far left and have created this hybrid version of Christianity and Marxism,” he explained.
But more subtly, within the Christian world, people like Bible teacher Beth Moore and journalist Jonathan Merritt “have kept one foot in biblical orthodoxy and one foot in progressive ideology.”
“We’re seeing things like critical race theory and liberation theology very strongly pushed, and it’s becoming more and more concerning,” he said. “The Gospel is not something that’s legalistic, and it’s important that we not fall into fundamentalism, either. But if we begin to downgrade Scripture to something other than the Word of God, Christianity begins to erode.”
Feeling an urgency to help Christians discern biblical truth from dangerous ideology, Miles penned his latest book, The Christian Left: How Liberal Thought Has Hijacked the Church. In it, he examines church history, world politics, and pop culture to expose the agenda of the Christian Left. The Christian Left, he said, is “really good at hijacking terminology” in order to “ooze their way into being recognized” as “Christian.” One way they do this, he said, is by increasingly pushing for a “Christian Universalism” that says all paths lead to Christ.
True leftists, he said, “know that they cannot win elections unless they divide the church and win some of the religious vote.”
“The Democratic Party in years past was quite content to be referred to as the ‘godless party’ and even made efforts to take the word ‘God’ out of their party platform. Now we’re seeing sort of this doubling down on faith by the left, and it’s really a partnership with liberal Christian universities, certain mainstream media outlets, and even certain mainstream faith outlets,” he contended.
One reason progressive ideology has so easily permeated churches across the West is because of growing biblical illiteracy, Miles said. According to the State of the Bible 2020 report, the proportion of Americans who read the Bible daily also fell to fewer than one in 10 (9%), the lowest number on record during the 10 years of the State of the Bible research study. Another recent study found that only 6% of Americans have a “biblical worldview.”
“We really need to look at, what are these core beliefs of Christianity that we can find unity in, and then what are these secondary or tertiary issues or concerns that we can have some degree of difference?” he said. “What do they say about gender and sexuality? What do they believe about the Bible and about individuals?”
“One thing that we do not have the liberty to have a degree of difference on is the authority of Scripture, because the moment that the authority of Scripture is challenged, all the other aspects of our faith rooted in it are challenged as well. The moment we adopt and begin to accept forms of Christianity that downplay the authority of Scripture, it gives way to embracing things that aren’t Christian, but yet we’re calling Christian.”
Already, The Christian Left is the No. 1 bestseller in three different categories on Amazon, indicating that more and more Christians are “concerned by the number of pastors embracing LGBT and transgenderism, downplaying pro-life issues, and presenting an ‘acceptable Christianity’” from the pulpit.
“I’ve had so many people who said they are tired of going to church and feeling like it’s a commercial for the Democratic Party or having critical race theory crammed down their throats, he said. “There’s a huge concern for the future of the Church in America.”
Through his book, Miles said he hopes to equip and empower the Church to stand firm on biblical truth and elevate God’s truth, justice, and wisdom over leftist ideology. Until the Church does so, he said, there will not be unity among the Body of Christ.
“We cannot call things that are not Christian or rooted in the teachings of Christ or the unity of Christ ‘Christian’ just because we want to,” he stressed. “We’re not even worshipping the same Christ. We can both call this person Jesus, but the identity is two very, very different people. It’s important that we recognize that we cannot have real Christian unity and Christian fellowship with people that do not actually worship Christ the way that we know Him in Scripture.”
He added: “I want to see people really return to the Gospel of God’s grace, but also understand that it is not a ‘choose your own adventure novel’ where you pick your own truth. Scripture does not give us that opportunity. I believe that true love is manifested in speaking truth towards each other, and that is something the ‘Christian Left’ is missing.”
A Michigan public high school principal is getting called out by a legal firm after telling one of the valedictorians that mentioning her Christian faith in her graduation speech is “not appropriate.”
According to First Liberty, one section of the speech Elizabeth Turner prepared for Hillsdale High School’s graduation ceremony next Thursday noted that “for me, my future hope is found in my relationship with Christ. By trusting in him and choosing to live a life dedicated to bringing his kingdom glory, I can be confident that I am living a life with purpose and meaning. My identity is found by what God says and who I want to become is laid out in scripture.”
The legal firm said the school’s principal, Amy Goldsmith, reacted by highlighting that paragraph, along with a second, and telling Turner that “you are representing the school in the speech, not using the podium as your public forum. We need to be mindful about the inclusion of religious aspects. These are your strong beliefs, but they are not appropriate for a speech in a school public setting. I know this will frustrate you, but we have to be mindful of it.”
Apparently Turner got in touch with First Liberty, because the law firm said it sent a letter to Goldsmith informing her that she’s “violating federal law, which permits private religious speech at school events, and demanding that she allow Elizabeth to reference her faith.”
First Liberty also said that student graduation speeches constitute private speech, not government speech, and private speech is not subject to the Establishment Clause. The law firm added that Turner’s statements “do not transform into government speech simply because they are delivered in a public setting or to a public audience.”
The letter concludes by requesting that Goldsmith “allow Elizabeth Turner to express her private religious beliefs at the graduation ceremony on June 6, 2021. Please confirm that you agree to our request by Friday, May 28, 2021 at 5PM.”
According to another document from First Liberty, Turner emailed Goldsmith regarding her requested changes and said “unfortunately I don’t think I would be able to deliver a genuine speech under those circumstances. I don’t agree that we should avoid the topic of tragedy and death because that is part of everyone’s future. I understand what you are saying, but for me, this is a time for my peers and I to elevate our lives and to choose how we want to live since we’re not promised tomorrow, and I don’t want to write a speech that won’t be meaningful just to check off the box. I believe it is celebratory to call people to a life of purpose and meaning and a call to action to live a life well. For me, my personal future relies on my faith, and I also want the freedom to be able to address that in my speech if the opportunity arises.”
It is currently the No. 1 book in several Christian categories on Amazon and is listed among the top 100 bestselling books on the e-commerce website, where 95% of those who have reviewed it gave it a five-star rating. On the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s bestsellers list for May, it sits at the No. 2 spot.
Data from Salem Books show that since its official release on April 6, nearly 50,000 hard copies of the book and just under 10,000 ebooks have been sold.
“This author has given us the definitive handbook for responding biblically to the critical theories assaulting evangelicalism. This is confessional polemics at its best. The author has carefully defined the terminology crafted, the truth compromised, and the trajectory considered — in the enemy’s battle against the sufficiency of the Scriptures,” gushed David Pitman, one of the many verified purchasers who gave Fault Lines a five-star review on Amazon.
“Though he has winsomely interwoven biographical and historical backgrounds, nevertheless, he never loses sight of the centrality of the cross of Christ. On page 233 he writes, ‘The Jew-Gentile divide was far more significant than the black-white one. If Christ took care of that on the cross, how much more did He take care of any man-made divisions we face today?’ I urge you to read this book carefully. The language, the logic, and the love in it — love for God and love for neighbor — are exactly the biblical message most needed in these tumultuous times,” Pitman wrote.
And these “tumultuous times” refer to the racial reckoning that has erupted in the evangelical church since the killing of George Floyd last May and the debate over whether issues like social justice and racial inequality should be explored through any other lens outside the Bible, such as critical race theory.
Critical race theory, as explained by Purdue University, “is a theoretical and interpretive mode that examines the appearance of race and racism across dominant cultural modes of expression. In adopting this approach, CRT scholars attempt to understand how victims of systemic racism are affected by cultural perceptions of race and how they are able to represent themselves to counter prejudice.”
In the summer of 2019, the Southern Baptist Convention passed Resolution 9“On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality,” in which they defined CRT as “a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society. Intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap to inform one’s experience.”
Kimberlé Crenshaw, the law professor at Columbia and UCLA who coined the term intersectionality more than three decades ago, said, according to Time magazine: “It’s basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”
While acknowledging that “critical race theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify, which result from sin,” SBC leaders accepted in Resolution 9 that “these analytical tools can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences.”
Many prominent Southern Baptists like Baucham decried the SBC for adopting the resolution, and he believes it should be scrapped at the SBC’s annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, next month.
“In terms of the SBC, I think there needs to be something done on Resolution 9. I think Resolution 9 was unfortunate, and I think there are a lot of things that led to Resolution 9 being passed that had nothing to do with whether or not the SBC believes or agrees with CRT and intersectionality. So I’m hopeful there will be an appropriate response at the convention next month because this stuff is poison. This stuff is deadly. It corrodes and destroys everything that it touches,” Baucham, who is dean of theology at African Christian University in Zambia and a board member of Founders Ministries, told The Christian Post in a recent interview.
“[It is] absolutely not [a useful analytical tool]. CRT is built on premises that are anti-biblical. That would be akin to someone coming into your church and talking about Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva … and you coming and saying, ‘I understand these things come from Hinduism, but if we just look beyond the words and beyond the other religion, maybe there is something useful that we could use.’ That’s not what you do when somebody is coming with another gospel,” he said.
“The four main premises of critical race theory are things that we have to completely reject. The idea that racism is normal and unavoidable and ubiquitous in the United States and its history; the idea that white people are incapable of righteous actions on race unless their interests converge. You can’t get more anti-biblical than that,” Baucham explained. “…They reject objectivity and meritocracy, and their main idea is that we ascertain truth through narratives. Now, what part of that is a useful tool for Christians trying to understand racism? Absolutely none of it. So I think these people are completely wrong when they make this statement and they never get to specifics.‘
“They’ll say OK, CRT is a useful analytical tool, but they don’t say, here are the specific elements of CRT that are useful to us. And the other thing that they don’t do, is they don’t say here’s what CRT gives us that Bible and theology don’t give us. And that’s where this is hugely problematic because they’re essentially arguing that the Bible is not sufficient on issues of race, ethnicity, racism, et cetera., that CRT is needed to inform the Scriptures on these particular issues. So no, I couldn’t disagree more with people who try to take that third way or that middle ground,” he said. “There is no third way or middle ground with CRT and intersectionality.”
“I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks,”she wrote.
Baucham says he doesn’t believe in white privilege.
“I don’t agree with McIntosh and others on that concept or idea,” he said. “I don’t. I don’t believe that McIntosh was right. I don’t believe that that concept that comes from her is something that is real or is something that exists.”
When asked if he would agree that there is racial inequality, he said it would depend on how race is defined and noted that there is nowhere in the world where equality exists.
“It depends on what you mean by racial inequality. And it also depends on what you mean by race. I would need that term defined in terms of what is racial inequality. There is no place on Earth, nor has there ever been any place on Earth, where anything has been distributed equally among various people groups. No two groups of people are the same, which means that by definition, there is always going to be inequalities,” he said.
“And it goes both ways. I mean, in the NFL and the NBA, black people make up 75% and 80%, respectively, of those leagues. That’s racial inequality, right? Austrians, wherever you go in the world, are some of the best violin makers in whatever country they find themselves in. That would be racial inequality, but is that an evil? Is that a sin?‘
“So I think the problem is when people say racial inequality, what they are referring to is this idea that any disparate outcome equals injustice. And that is just completely unsupported by the facts,” he said.
And Baucham boldly tackles this issue in his book. In addressing the argument of disparity in policing, Baucham takes high-profile cases highlighted in mainstream media of black people killed by police such as Tamir Rice, Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Philando Castile, and compares them to similar cases where the victims are white but didn’t get much media attention.
“Have you heard of Tony Timpa? Like Floyd, ‘Timpa wailed and pleaded for help more than 30 times as officers pinned his shoulders, knees and neck to the ground,’ reported The Dallas Morning News in August 2016. Timpa, a 32-year-old schizophrenic, called the police himself, saying he was off his meds and needed help. When police arrived, Timpa had already been handcuffed by a security guard. Three Dallas Police Department officers restrained Timpa for nearly 14 minutes as he pleaded, ‘You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me!’ Eventually, Timpa went limp, at which time the officers mocked him and made jokes. In the end, when the paramedics finally came and put Timpa’s flaccid body on a stretcher, one officer said, ‘I hope we didn’t kill him.’ But they had,” Baucham noted.
“The George Floyd case was indeed tragic. However, it was not unique. Nor does it represent clear evidence of a particular pattern of police brutality regarding black men. No one took to Twitter demanding that Christian leaders prove their bona fides by speaking out on the Timpa case, and no one wrote articles in leading Christian publications about losing sleep over it. In fact, few—if any—of the people who mounted their moral high horses and took to the streets in protest over George Floyd even knew Tony Timpa’s name. Why? Because he was white, and his case did not advance the right narrative,” Baucham explained.
One Amazon critic who only discussed his assessment of the cases as Amazon Customer #1080, and only gave the book a one-star rating, called Baucham’s assessment “disturbing.”
“Case after case is made that gives comfort, justification, and sanctuary to the senseless killings of unarmed African American men, women, and children. In doing so however, the writer succeeds in making the case that America indeed has a serious policing problem. This was undoubtedly unintended,” the critic wrote. “This book is deceptive. The author regurgitates the echo chamber talk of his sect. Drawing from an amalgamation of dated propaganda, Cold War Era rhetoric, and exaggerated unpersuasive arguments of fear, the writer will no doubt stir both a bizarre joy and philosophical panic in the religious minds of those who already lean the direction of his views.”
When asked if his target audience for the book was an echo chamber of sorts based on his arguments, Baucham said he considered the question an “insult.”
“I didn’t sit down and try to figure out how to write a book for an echo chamber. My goal in writing the book is my love for the bride of Christ and my belief that there is a threat to her. That threat to her is this modern ideology of social justice, critical race theory, intersectionality, critical theory. These ideologies — that I’ve been watching and speaking on and writing about since the early 2000s, by the way — these ideologies come straight out of classical Marxism,” he insisted.
“And cultural Marxism, these ideologies that have taken root in academia and that now are being talked about in popular culture by people who have no idea where they come from and no idea what these things mean and no idea how antithetical they are to biblical Christianity. So this is a threat. This is a wolf. And my job as a shepherd is to fight off wolves. This has nothing to do with echo chambers or want to please certain kinds of people. If anything, this book is the opposite of that,” he said.
He further pointed out that despite being evangelical, his positions have made him an outsider in the evangelical community.
“Popular evangelicalism is woke, so most of the things that I’m pointing out put me on the outside of the echo chamber, not the inside. I mean, I’m not going to be invited to CRU or Intervarsity or the Gospel Coalition or I could run down the list. I’m not going to be invited by any of those things that are the premier places in evangelicalism,” he said.
“Forget the SBC, forget the PCA, a Southern Baptist seminary couldn’t hire me today because of all of these ideas. They would be completely pilloried if they hired me. So far from writing for an echo chamber, I’m actually speaking out and putting myself outside the echo chamber.”
Baucham, who was some six weeks into his recovery from coronary bypass surgery when he spoke with CP, said he believes his book is resonating with evangelicals because many people are still grappling with the social justice movement.
“I haven’t divided up the people in terms of how many black people or how many white people I’ve heard from, but I’ve heard from people across the spectrum. And regardless of people’s color, what I’ve heard from people is: ‘This is a real issue. This is a real problem, and I’ve wanted to be able to wrap my head around it, and you helped me to wrap my head around it,’” he said.
“In terms of some black people, they’ve recognized if they speak out on this issue they get their head chopped off. They’re called sellouts, house ni**er, Uncle Tom … and so a lot of them are staying in the shadows because it’s just not safe to speak out on this issue,” he said.
“They’ve been very grateful to have another black Christian to speak out against this and somebody who has a platform, if you will. In terms of white Christians, you’ve been seeing similar things where they’re going, ‘I don’t agree with this narrative. And the minute I say I don’t agree with this narrative, I’m called racist. I’m called white supremacist,’ so on and so forth. So I think on all sides of this, because of the nature of what’s been going on over the last several months, a lot of people feel like this has given them a voice,” he added.
Like many evangelicals, Baucham sees the use of critical race theory by Christians as a threat to the Gospel, and he wasn’t afraid to highlight names of prominent evangelicals in his book, who he sees on both sides of the divide to which he currently sees no real solution.
“Why are people and groups like Thabiti Anyabwile, Tim Keller, Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, 9Marks, the Gospel Coalition, and Together for the Gospel (T4G) being identified with Critical Social Justice on one side of the fault, and people like John MacArthur, Tom Ascol, Owen Strachan, Douglas Wilson, and the late R.C. Sproul being identified on the other?” he asks in the introduction of his 270-page book. “It is not a stretch to say we are seeing seismic shifts in the evangelical landscape. But is it an exaggeration to call this a coming catastrophe? I don’t think so,” he writes.
The divide is so strong, Baucham argues, that America is on the verge of a “race war.”
“I have pursued justice my entire Christian life. Yet I am about as ‘anti–social justice’ as they come—not because I have abandoned my obligation to ‘strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14), but because I believe the current concept of social justice is incompatible with biblical Christianity,” he argues in the book.
“This is the main fault line at the root of the current debate—the epicenter of the Big One that, when it finally shifts with all its force, threatens to split evangelicalism right down the middle. Our problem is a lack of clarity and charity in our debate over the place, priority, practice, and definition of justice. The current cultural moment is precarious. The United States is on the verge of a race war, if not a complete cultural meltdown. And the rest of the Western world seems to be following suit. Tensions are rising in every place the African slave trade has left its indelible mark.”
Early this year, another prominent black Southern Baptist leader, Pastor Dwight McKissic, who founded and leads Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and where Baucham previously worked, according to his book, cut ties with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention over its “strongly worded, anti-CRT policy that denounces all aspects of critical race theory” and warned that if leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention rescind Resolution 9 on critical race theory at their convention next month, he would cut ties with them too.
That announcement came amid an exodus of prominent black SBC pastors, such as Ralph West and Charlie Dates, over a decision by the denomination’s Council of Seminary Presidents to denounce critical race theory and intersectionality as incompatible with their beliefs at their 2020 annual session. The Council of Seminary Presidents, which is comprised of six seminaries, voted to reject CRT as incompatible with their faith while condemning “racism in any form.”
When asked what advice he had for the black pastors that left the denomination, Baucham said many of the ones who have left the nation’s largest Protestant denomination weren’t really that committed to the SBC.
“What’s interesting is most of the black pastors who have left weren’t very committed to the SBC in the first place. Many of them had recently come to the SBC and had been given platforms. They weren’t committed to the Baptist Faith and Message, they weren’t committed to the Southern Baptist doctrine, per se. Many of their churches weren’t contributing very much to the SBC. And so again, not in all cases, but in many cases, these people left because they were never really committed to the SBC in the first place,” he said.
When pressed further for what advice he would give them, he suggested they follow their conscience.
“I guess my message would be they need to go wherever their consciences dictate,” he said. “You don’t change the SBC by leaving. It’s one of the most diverse religious organizations in the world. And you don’t change it by leaving.”
For Christians who read his book, Baucham, who plans on heading back to Lusaka in mid-to-late June, wants them to get from his message that “the Gospel is under attack.”
“We are at war because this ideology is at war with the Gospel and is at war with Scripture. And so I wanted people to see that. I wanted people to see that this is about so much more than just black people see things one way, white people see things another way, Asians see things another way. It’s about so much more than that. And what’s ironic is that the rest of the culture is waking up to this,” he said.
“There are legislators now writing the law dealing with CRT because they see that it’s poison. And yet, Christians are still sitting around saying, well, useful analytical tool or third-way nuance … That’s why I chose the fault lines metaphor. That idea of an earthquake that’s coming that’s going to divide even more than it already has. On the one hand, I don’t want to see brothers and sisters divided. But on the other hand, I absolutely want to see a clear divide between the truth of the Gospel and the lie of CRT and anti-racism.”
As more and more people publicly walk away from the Christian faith, pastors must urge their congregations to have deep, personal encounters with God and bring “sacredness” and “reverence” back into worship, according to pastor and author Francis Chan.
“I am seeing so many people, friends of mine who were in ministry, who are just saying they don’t believe, or they’re walking away; ‘I don’t know if I believe that anymore,’” Chan said during Exponential’s Reset Summit this week. “And I just think that’s crazy. We’re seeing people that we look up to, leaders fall. We’re seeing the world look at evangelical Christianity as an absolute joke right now … it’s every day you can just jump on Instagram … and someone is saying, ‘I’m not a Christian anymore.’”
The Until Unity author lamented that there’s a “lot of Isaiah 29:13” going on in churches and denominations across the country today. The verse reads, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
“In other words, it wasn’t an encounter [with God],” he said, explaining that true, lasting faith doesn’t come from simply hearing a message, but spending intentional, one-on-one time with God.
“Don’t get away from your own encounter with God,” he said. “We have to make sure we get people to encounter Him, and that their fear of God is not just a commandment that was taught to them by us.”
“This is a new season. And all of this, people walking away and fighting and angry about everything and so opinionated, is because they’ve spent too much time in our presence, and in our evangelical talk, talk, talk, talk presence and not enough time before a Holy God and sacred and reverent, silence and awe and just recognizing their oneness with Him.”
To have more unified horizontal relationships in the church, there must be a deeper, vertical relationship with the Father, Chan stressed.
“The world is going to get worse; persecution is going to get worse. And when they’re alone with Him, is there enough of this awe and enjoyment of Him, and a fear of Him that they can survive anything?” he asked.
“I think this pandemic showed us that there’s just way too much of this horizontal going on. And now we’re trying to keep these people with us, and it’s more like we have to direct people to Him. We have to do a better job of bringing sacredness back into our worship.”
A recent study found that 43% of millennials stated they either don’t know, don’t care or don’t believe God exists, and 16% of millennials believe that when they die, they will go to Heaven only because they confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their savior. Yet, 57% of millennials still call themselves Christian.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Michael Youssef, pastor of the 3,000-member Church of The Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia, warned that more and more pastors are “falling into the trap” of woke culture because it’s “popular and appeals to the flesh.”
“Bowing to woke culture allows you to avoid rejection by culture and society,” he said. “It’s a very, very popular message that is now being preached from many evangelical pulpits; traditionally Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches. We have gone so far that it just grieves me to the point that I literally sometimes just weep tears.”
“I’ve always believed, as goes the pulpit, so goes the pew. As goes the pew, so goes the culture,” he continued. “As a pastor, I put the full blame on us, right in our laps, because we want to be liked, loved, and followed on social media by millions of people. Pastors are the culprits. We need to be about Jesus, not about being liked, because that is deadly as far as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned.”
Youssef urged those who love Jesus to be “encouraged and motivated to stand up and not to be afraid,” and compel those “teetering” to find the strength and courage to stand for the truth of the Gospel.
“We must take charge,” he said. “Christians have abandoned so many areas of society, from media and the classroom. Instead of withdrawing, we need to go and invade these areas and take them for Christ and not be afraid. We are on the right side. We have read the last chapter, and it says we will win.”
Just 26% of Gen X and 16% of millennials believe that when they die, they will go to Heaven only because they confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their savior, compared to nearly half of the generation before them, a new study has found.
The American Worldview Inventory 2021, a survey of the philosophy of life on American adults from Arizona Christian University, assessed the worldviews of four generations: millennials (born 1984-2002), Gen X (1965-1983), baby boomers (1946-1964) and builders (1927-1945).
Researchers found that among other recent generations, millennials have gone farther in cutting ties with traditional Christian views and normative biblical teaching.
For example, nearly half of all boomers believe that when they die, they will go to Heaven only because they confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their Savior, compared to only 26% of Gen X and 16% of millennials.
A staggering 90% of builders believe you treat others as you want them to treat you, while less than half of millennials agree.
Additionally, 43% of millennials stated they either don’t know, don’t care or don’t believe God exists compared to 28% of boomers, and 44% of millennials believe Satan is a real and influential, compared to 64% of boomers.
The study also found that overall, younger Americans are significantly more likely than the two previous generations to embrace horoscopes as a guide and Karma as a life principle, to see “getting even” with others as defensible, to accept evolution over creation, and to view owning property as fostering economic injustice.
On spiritual matters, Americans younger than 55 are far more likely to distrust the Bible and to believe God is uninvolved in people’s lives.
Interestingly, a majority of Americans call themselves Christian, ranging from 57% of millennials to 83% of builders.
Researchers warn that the beliefs and behaviors of younger Americans, especially millennials, “threaten to reshape the nation’s religious parameters beyond recognition.”
“In fact, this radical spiritual revolution has created a generation seeking a reimagined world without God, the Bible, or churches,” they wrote.
Commenting on the study, George Barna, CRC director of research, said that Gen X and the millennials have “solidified dramatic changes in the nation’s central beliefs and lifestyles,” adding: “The result is a culture in which core institutions, including churches, and basic ways of life are continually being radically redefined.”
The American World Inventory corroborates an earlier study from Barna that found that two-thirds of teens and young adults (65%) agree that “many religions can lead to eternal life” compared to 58% of teens and young adults surveyed in 2018.
Additionally, 31% of teens and young adults “strongly agree” that what is “morally right and wrong changes over time, based on society,” compared to just 25% in 2018.
Recent survey data released by Gallup found that one in six Gen Z adults identify as LGBT — the highest percentage of any generation in history — and that number is likely to continue to increase.
Jacob Bland, the new president and CEO of Youth for Christ, told The Christian Post that despite the challenges facing today’s young people, he looks toward the future with optimism.
“Teens today are facing crises like never before, but it’s often in the darkness that light shines the brightest,” he said. “To enter into a disciple-making relationship where you’re introducing a kid to an unconditional love that maybe they’ve never even considered, showing them the goodness and love modeled in Jesus — there’s a lot of hope in that.”
“Jesus has a way of being new and fresh for the circumstances of today, and He is certainly doing that,” Bland added.
In recent years, the number of Christians identifying as “Christian Socialists” or “Christian Communists” has skyrocketed in a way not seen in over 40 years. Sarah Ngu, in her 2020 article “Why These Young American Christians Embrace Socialism” wrote the following: “Over the past three years, some American Christians have rediscovered this tradition and found themselves gravitating to socialism—in all its varieties, from democratic socialism to full-fledged communism.” Gary Dorrien, a professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary, writes “The revival (of Christian socialism) is a Christian flank of the current upsurge for democratic socialist”. For the most part, the orthodox Christian community has remained silent about this growing trend, seemingly oblivious to the dangers. It’s time we acknowledged how the Trojan Horse of Socialism entered the Church, and fight back.
First, doctrine and history make clear that Biblical Christianity and Socialism and/or Communism are in opposition on fundamental levels. The intellectual forefather of Socialism, Karl Marx, taught this about Christianity: “The social principle of Christianity preaches cowardice, self-contempt, abasement, submission, humility….” Marx further asserted “The more of himself that man gives to God, the less he has left of himself”. Like all future communist and socialist leaders who follow Marx, he believed: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, and the soul of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opiate of the people.” (Communist Manifesto, the Bible of Communism).
The history of the socialist war against Christianity is instructive. “The League of the Militant Godless” was developed by early Soviet leaders like Leon Trotsky and Lenin. Its slogan tells volumes: “The struggle against religion is the struggle for socialism”. In just over 15 years, the League boasted 3.5 million members and included a hundred ethnicities. This was while Soviets in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were executing tens of thousands of Priests, millions of Christians, demolishing churches and ruthlessly suppressing Christianity. The official literature of the Comintern (International Communist Front), stated “One of the most important tasks of the cultural revolution affecting the wide masses is the task of systematically and unswervingly combating religion – the opiate of the people.”
Ben Gitlow was a top figure in the early Communist Party (USA), and twice ran as Vice President of the US on the Communist Party ticket in 1924 and 1928. He left the Communist Party in 1929, and began hearings before Congress about Communist infiltration in America starting in 1939. According to Gitlow in answering Congress about the Communist “united front” technique of infiltrating America: “the tactic of the united front adopted by the Communists in 1922 after they realized that their militant policy for instigating a revolution in Germany and then throughout Europe and the world had failed…….. The united front tactic enabled the Communists to greatly increase the effectiveness of their infiltration activities.” The aims were to first build pro-Soviet sentiment in America. Second, to set conditions for Communists to capture trade unions. Third to “Spread Communist propaganda, incite discontent amount the people, undermine the loyalty of the American people and to divide them on religion, national, racial, and economic lines.”
Importantly, Gitlow said this about infiltration of the Christian Church in America: “the united front policy enabled the Communists to widely expand their infiltration activities on the religious field because instead of using the Communist Party directly (on Christian organizations)”, they used united-front organizations not directly connected to the Communist Party. Communist Party USA leader Manning Johnson told Congress that “deceit” about the anti-Christian nature was “a major policy of the Communist Propaganda”. According to Johnson: “(Communists) made fine gestures and honeyed words to the church people which could be will likened unto the sea nymphs luring millions to moral decay, spiritual death, and spiritual slavery. An illustration of this treachery, I might point out, is smiling, sneaky Earl Browder, for example, who was vice chairman of the American League Against War and Fascism, greeting and praising ministers and other church workers participating with him in the united front anti-war activities, while secretly harboring in his heart only contempt for them and for the religion that they represented.”
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and no longer commands the worldwide Comintern. However, Communism as a worldwide movement continues. The ideology spawned during those decades made substantial inroads into the Church and academia (an estimated 18% of American Professors today identify as Marxist). United Methodist Reverend Lindsey Joyce provides a window into the modern infiltration: “Socialism gave me a politics that finally provided clarity….. It wasn’t about my individualistic faith or spiritual gifts.” Christianity centers around individual spiritual redemption, while socialism is about the collective and material. Communist “Christian” Dean Dettloff is indicative of the fraud being promulgated to soften and revive Communism within the Church. Dettloff claims “the worst abuses in history have actually been committed by people who are devoted to Jesus Christ”. This glosses over the upwards of 100 million people who died under 20th century communism, a number that dwarfs almost 2000 years of alleged Christian “abuses”.
The Church can no longer remain silent. The Trojan Horse of Socialism and Communism, wheeled in to the US in the 1920s, is a growing “enemy within”. Neither Communism, nor Socialism can be reconciled with Christianity, and it’s time to voice that truth boldly and loudly. We fight back with spiritual weapons and in Christian love, but against this threat we must fight back.
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Bill Connor, a retired Army Infantry colonel, author and Orangeburg attorney, has deployed multiple times to the Middle East. Connor was the senior U.S. military adviser to Afghan forces in Helmand Province, where he received the Bronze Star. A Citadel graduate with a JD from USC, he is also a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Army War College, earning his master of strategic studies. He is the author of the book Articles from War.
Pastor John MacArthur has warned that culture is “systematically designed” and “weaponized to destroy children” and stressed that God will severely judge parents who fail to raise their offspring “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
“What we’re facing today is fierce — I will confess — [but] of all the things that disturb me in this culture, of all the horrific, sinful, wretched, wicked, corrupt influences that go on in this culture, I think the thing that distresses me most is the war on children,” MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, said in a sermon delivered over the weekend.
“… This culture is weaponized to destroy children. It’s systematically designed to do that.”
Abortion has resulted in 62.5 million babies “slaughtered in the womb” since Roe v. Wade, MacArthur said, adding that even if a child makes it to birth, they will be bombarded with anti-Christian teaching in the world.
“It is likely that the child will be sent to a public school and come under the influence of those whose agenda is anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Scripture,” he said. “As you know, our country [and] the politicians who lead it are making laws that are devastating to children under the pressure of sexual freedom, homosexuality, transgenderism. The desire is to make that normal and to punish people who speak against it with laws in the category of hate speech. The lies of systemic racism and the race hustlers dominate the ideologies of universities and even churches.”
The entertainment industry, social media, and big tech “literally pump out things that destroy children,” the pastor said, adding: “Children are under a relentless assault by all the forces of evil, and they are defenseless. And we have a society and a culture that wants to make sure that those who are pumping out this destruction are free to keep doing it without restraint.
“Children are defenseless,” he emphasized. “When their parents sell them to a human trafficker, who drops them 8 to 10 feet over a wall into Sodom and Gomorrah all by themselves. Or when the Disney Corporation creates characters that are transgender to seduce children into accepting wickedness as normal. Or when parents insanely offer their children gender identity options. Children are under assault now.”
It’s the God-given responsibility of parents to raise children to fear and love the Lord, MacArthur stressed, pointing out that “God judges when one generation fails its responsibility to pass on righteousness to the next.”
“We’re going to have to answer to [God] too, for the little ones He gives us,” MacArthur said. “When they arrive, they are [H]is. And our life commitment is to make sure that as they grow and we influence them, they come to faith in Christ, right? That’s raising your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
A recent study from Barna found that 31% of teens and young adults “strongly agree” that what is “morally right and wrong changes over time, based on society,” compared to just 25% in 2018. A previous study from Barna characterized Gen Z as the “first truly ‘post Christian’ generation,” with only 4% adhering to a biblical worldview.
Singer Kira Fontana, who worked as a successful vocal coach to major labels and shows such as “Glee” and “The Voice” before leaving the industry to focus on Christian music, recently warned that the content coming out of the secular entertainment industry is “darker than most people could ever imagine” and is “poisoning” children like never before.
“If you look at the content of the lyrics of the songs that are played on the radio, it’s unbelievably immoral and dark and anti-Jesus. When I started to see the sheer percentage of songs and videos that were leaning heavily in that direction, I came to recognize that it could not be an accident. People in very powerful positions are backing it; there are gatekeepers who are wanting this content that we hear now to be prevalent in our society.”
“It’s akin to poisoning our community, and our kids are drinking from a very, very, very destructive cup,” she said. “I saw the effect on kids as I worked in the city, and that effect is spreading. LA is the communication center for this planet; when you go to other countries, you still see content made in Los Angeles. It became a really heavy responsibility.”
“People can try to minimize what comes out of Hollywood and say, ‘Oh, it’s just entertainment,’ but it has a tremendous effect on the psyches and souls of our young people,” she said. “The Church needs to stand up against this darkness because it’s truly having a devastating effect on the next generation.”
Recently, pastor and author Michael Youssef highlighted the Church’s responsibility in light of this reality, warning that if the Body of Christ fails to adhere to biblical truth, the consequences will be devastating for future generations.
“The home is number one, the church is number two and school is number three,” he said. “Even if the school is working against the kids, if they have the strength in the home and in the church, they will make it. But when the church avoids talking about issues or goes along with culture, then kids are confused.”
Satan is “working overtime” to deceive children,” Youssef said, adding: “If these words are terrifying, I’m glad they are because it’s time for us to build the fences around our children and their hearts and seal them with the Holy Spirit.”
“Children must know that there is a Satan, and he hates God, he hates God’s children, and he’s conspiring against them every minute of every day. Therefore, they have to galvanize themselves with the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, in order to fight.”
World-renowned supermodel Kathy Ireland recently revealed details about her faith walk and her first unexpected encounter with the Bible.
Ireland has been a featured model in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition for more than a decade, including the 25th-anniversary issue, which became the highest-selling cover of all time. Now at 58, Ireland said she’s surrendering to Jesus, following years of picking and choosing what aspects of Christianity she wanted to follow.
Ireland first became intrigued with God at age 18. At the time, she was an up-and-coming model living in France.
“I was living in Paris and it was really a hard time,” Ireland said in an interview with Fox News. “I know it might sound glamorous, but I was alone modeling.”
One night in 1981, while going through her suitcase, the former cover girl found a Bible in her bag, placed there by her mother.
“I didn’t even know how to read one,” Ireland admitted. “I’d never read one before in my life. I opened up the book of Matthew. And as I’m reading in the middle of the night, I knew I was holding the truth in my hands. There wasn’t anybody in the room saying, ‘Be this denomination or that denomination.’ It was like, ‘I want to follow Jesus Christ.’ And He was nothing like I thought.”
“In my industry, at that time, it was filled with a lot of really sketchy guys,” she continued. “I was drawn to how powerful Jesus was. How loving and honoring he was of women. It gave me such comfort. And so, he became my Lord and Savior. The experience forever changed my life.”
However, she continued pursuing her career, and although she eventually became a successful supermodel, she revealed that the Bible was hard for her to study.
“Some things I would read and really love,” she told Fox News about her Scripture reading. “And other things, I would read and say, ‘Oh, that must be a typo. That’s a different interpretation or a cultural thing. Certainly doesn’t pertain to me.’ So I was picking and choosing what I liked and neglecting the rest of it.”
“I was trying to mold God into what I wanted Him to be, rather than just surrendering and letting Him make me into the person He made me to be. And oh my goodness, He was so patient. I was 44 when I finally read the whole Bible. It continues to teach me every day.”
Ireland is now married and has three children and a successful business. For her, she said the overarching theme while reading the Bible was always God asking her to put Him first, which eventually helped her learn spiritual disciplines that changed her life for the better.
“The message that I just felt pounding in my heart was, ‘Put me first. And I’ll give you more time, better time with your kids.’ So I started to set my alarm for 15 minutes [every morning] for a quick prayer. Those 10 minutes of prayer and reading turned into an hour and more. It’s not a duty. It’s a joy. It’s my daily bread and water,” Ireland added.
“And on days that I don’t do that, it’s not a good idea because if I open my mouth to say something, I’ll be apologizing before 8 a.m.,” she acknowledged.
Ireland founded Kathy Ireland Worldwide in 1993 and has since gone on to be listed by Forbes as “one of the most successful women in America” who built a $420 million fortune. According to the outlet, she lent “her name, taste and marketing prowess to some 17,000 products.”
Among her humanitarian efforts, Ireland supports many nonprofits, including YWCA Greater Los Angeles as an ambassador, and the Dream Foundation, Providence Educational Foundation, 911 for Kids/AEF, and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Ireland also serves as International Youth Chair for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, as well as an ambassador for the American Cancer Society and ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
The Harper’s Bazaar “most successful model in the world” shared her testimony in more detail in her “I Am Second” video.
Recent weeks have seen a renewed focus of the conservative Christian movement on “woke capital.” Following corporate denouncements of the new Georgia voting law, many Christians and conservatives are looking for ways to resist the growing tide within corporate America of partisan activism. Amidst this controversy, a coalition of conservative and evangelical thought leaders opposed to corporate activism, has launched a new website: StopCorporateTyranny.org. It is dedicated to exposing left-wing activism with corporations and educating conservative Christians about how it can be opposed. The website is a hub for updates, information, and resources for normal investors who are troubled by the growing trend of explicit corporate activism. It includes articles highlighting recent examples of woke capital and will call attention to campaigns to push-back against corporate politics.
“Free speech is under attack like never before. Activists are weaponizing Big Tech and other corporations as an arm of cancel culture,” said Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel and SVP of communications at the Alliance Defending Freedom. “While we continue to enjoy strong legal protections for free speech, our cultural institutions, our universities, and our corporations are rejecting free speech, and even punishing people for expressing their ideas. We face the very real risk of our societal norm of robust debate and dialogue being replaced with shaming, shunning, and silencing. Big Tech’s ongoing campaign of censorship against conservative and religious views is a prime example of this ominous threat to all Americans. Free speech is a cornerstone of a vibrant and prosperous nation. It’s essential for democracy, the search for truth, and as a check on governmental power and tyranny. Instead of virtue signaling to a woke mob that’s never appeased, corporations should take actions that build up a culture of free speech and religious freedom that will serve their customers, employees, and all Americans for generations to come.”
Within the conservative movement, there has been much discussion over the possibility of regulating big business to ensure ideological neutrality by law. Such a move is rife with potential complications, and even if those complications are resolved and some concrete policy proposal is found, it will likely be several years before the Republican Party is in a position to legislate on this issue.
But, while some wait for fairer political winds, progressive partisanship in American business is only increasing. The StopCorporateTyranny.org project is a mobilization of the conservative movement to fight back against corporate activism now, regardless of which party controls the White House.
This campaign comes at a time of increasing scrutiny over corporate activism. For many religious and conservative leaders, the recent attacks by corporate America on Georgia’s voting law have prompted a re-examination of what the political focus for their movement should be. Since the election of Donald Trump, big businesses – particularly tech giants – have become more openly partisan and politically involved. Richard Manning, President of Americans for Limited Government, said by email that “the attack on Georgia over their decision to require voter identification for voters by multi-national corporations is reminiscent to the attack on North Carolina led by Silicon Valley corporations when the state voted to keep men out of women’s restrooms.”
In the intervening years between North Carolina’s 2015 “bathroom bill” and today, corporate boardrooms have increasingly become a focal point for progressive politics. Despite the long-standing tradition of conservative support for corporations, corporate activism is now so widespread that many Republican officeholders are openly advocating punitive actions by government against some of the largest companies in America.
Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri recently announced his support for breaking up Amazon. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida declared his support for Amazon workers attempting to unionize, accusing the tech-giant of “waging a culture war against working-class values.” It is increasingly the view of many that the alliance between the political left and corporate America represents a serious threat to traditional values.
In the midst of this flashpoint, StopCorporateTyranny.org is an emerging resource for educating conservatives and Christians on how to push back against the politicization of big business – which does not rely on government action, as the makeup of the federal government does not determine whether shareholders, investors, and customers can rein in boardrooms. It is a grass-roots effort, headed by some of the leaders of the conservative Christian movement, designed to provide tools to ordinary Americans for resisting corporate activism. “Right now, nearly 400 large corporations are pushing Capitol Hill to enact the Equality Act. Working in concert with the far-left Human Rights Campaign, these major businesses are not only seeking to end women’s sports, but to end religious freedom. Full stop,” Justin Danhof, director of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research, said by email. “Americans of faith must engage with these corporate oppressors and https://www.stopcorporatetyranny.org will provide you with the tools and resources to do just that. It’s time that big businesses heard from all ‘stakeholders’ not just those pushing leftist policies.”
Christians must “change their strategy”to keep graphic sex materials out of public schools, an expert has advised, following reports that an Ohio public high school has assigned freshman students to read a slam poetry book about a girl who liberates herself by abandoning her Christian faith and engaging in sexual promiscuity.
According to The Daily Wire, Hilliard Bradley High School, located near Columbus, the state’s capital, has assigned ninth-grade English students to read a poetry book titled, “The Poet X,” in which the main character, named Xiomara, rejects her faith and engages in sexual activities at school as a minor.
Parents of students enrolled at Hilliard Bradley High School must ask their children to “opt-out”of reading the assigned book if they’re opposed to the “graphic content,”DW added.
“In the first two pages of the assigned poetry, the underaged main character Xiomara addresses drug dealers who cat-call her. At one point the drug dealer says that ‘church girls are all freaks.’”
The book also reveals that Xiomara is pressured to send nude photos of herself to boys.
One of the poems in the book, by Elizabeth Acevedo, a National Poetry Slam Champion, is titled, “I Think the Story of Genesis Is Mad Stupid.” The book also features descriptions of graphic sex acts, including a poem titled “Fingers,” which describes masturbation. Another poem, titled “Hands,” describes Xiomara touching her love interest in a classroom setting. Yet another poem describes the main character and her love interest preparing to have sex.
Aaron Baer, president of the Columbus-based Center for Christian Virtue, said Christians and social conservatives who routinely object to this kind of thing have to change their strategy because as soon as they manage to make a school stop doing something objectionable, like teaching sexually explicit content, they’ll find another way to do it.
“The reality is that public schools have no meaningful accountability measures in place to stop the sexualization and harm to children,” Baer said in a phone interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday. “When a public school is failing and ignoring parents, they get more money from the taxpayers and government. So there is no incentive structure to stop schools from doing this level of harm to children.”
This is happening in public schools everywhere — in inner cities, suburbs and rural areas, he stressed. Teachers and administrators have been emboldened to teach such political and sexual curriculum to young people. He believes none of this will stop until universal school choice is a reality nationwide.
“I don’t care how many people launch campaigns to replace the school board or how many outrage campaigns there are … until the parents can say, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing and if you don’t stop, I’m taking my kid out and you’re going to lose the money for them,’ this will not change,” Baer said.
“There are no market forces on public schools to make them change. They have no incentive to listen to parents other than to maybe make them go away. What inevitably happens every single time we have a situation like this is, if we’re able to get the school to stop, within a few years, those parents move on and the school does it again.”
The same Columbus-area school district had, in recent weeks, ordered teachers to have students lobby for a sexual orientation and gender identity bill at the state capitol building. “We got them to stop, and now there’s this [sexually graphic poetry],”Baer added.
“They’re not going to stop because there are so many teachers and so many bureaucrats and so many political forces inside the school that until the parents are able to hold the school accountable, it’s not going to get better. Christians and social conservatives broadly have, for too long, lived in this bubble thinking … ‘Well, if we could only just take over the school board and fight the curriculum, we could stop this.’
“We’ve done that for 50 years, and we’re now teaching that Christianity is evil and that boys can become girls. We have failed. We have to go for universal school choice. Anything else is a cop-out.”
CP reached out to the Hilliard school district’s communications director for comment on this article but did not receive a response by press time.
Donna Senchesak, the director of the Parents for Educational Rights chapter in Ohio and a Hilliard Bradley parent, said in an interview with The Daily Wire that the district’s goal was to provide poetry written by non-white authors, though she was confused why the school opted for the graphic content. She withdrew her daughter from the class that was reading the book and said she will continue pushing back against the district on behalf of other parents and students.
“I am still fighting for these students and parents even though my daughter does not have to read it anymore,” she said.
“I am concerned for kids … that they can’t handle it.”
We live in a time where people are truly perplexed over what has gone wrong with our world. There seems to be so much instability in people’s lives. When you look into what’s happening within our culture and world, there seems to be so much moral confusion. How does a modern person determine what is right or wrong?
Max Hocutt, professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama says:
“The fundamental question of ethics is, who makes the rules? God or men? The theistic answer is that God makes them. The humanistic answer is that men make them. This distinction between theism and humanism is the fundamental division in moral theory.”
Hocutt is correct. The problem then becomes if morals and ethics are determined by men, who makes these decisions? Who determines how we ought to live? How should we conduct our lives?
To personalize it, how do we determine what is moral if there is no God who reveals to us what is right or wrong? Is it determined by our feelings, by our ability to reason?
If there is no God, who or what is a guiding force in our lives? We must conclude what Richard Dawkins rationally describes in his bookRiver Out of Eden:
“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference, DNA neither knows or cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”
Think about what he said. If God does not exist, then what are we as human beings? We are purposeless products of biological evolution, which means all morality is subjective. It is based on your opinion.
This has such an impact on a culture when there is no moral compass. You just follow your DNA, wherever it leads you. Richard Dawkins admitted this in a radio interview with radio host Justin Brierley, as Dawkins makes it clear that human morality is nothing more than the outcome of the evolutionary process:
Brierley: “When you make a value judgment, don’t you immediately step yourself outside of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it’s good? And you don’t have any way to stand on that statement.”
Dawkins: “My value judgement itself could come from my evolutionary past.”
Brierley: “So therefore it’s just as random in a sense as any product of evolution.”
Dawkins: “You could say that…Nothing about it makes it more probable that there is anything supernatural.”
Brierley: “Ultimately, your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six.”
Dawkins: “You could say that, yeah.”
This is astonishing that the world’s most prominent atheist could not emphatically say that rape is immoral. Though he may not believe this is true within his heart, he seeks to be a consistent Darwinian atheist.
However, Dawkins does believe that it is not good for a society always to follow Darwinian morality because it is “ruthless.” He says,
“I have always said that I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to the way we should organize our lives and morality. We want to avoid basing our society on Darwinian principles.”
Dawkins, on the one hand, says that we live our lives based on our DNA, but then introduces a moral code by telling us not to follow our DNA. The more I read of Richard Dawkins, the more I recognize how inconsistent he can be.
The individual who has had the most to say about atheism and morality is the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He clearly stated that there is no absolute right or wrong. For this reason, he had much contempt for Christianity, because it elevated such beliefs as love, morality, and humility. You can’t build a civilization of power on these beliefs.4
Nietzsche predicted that the English-speaking world would seek to abandon a belief in God, but would attempt to hold on to Christian values. However, he predicted correctly that when societies reject God, Christian morality itself will eventually disappear. The reason is because it will be more difficult to motivate people to be moral, for they will naturally follow their selfish instincts and desires.5
Dr. Arthur Leff, now deceased, was a brilliant professor at Yale Law School. Back in 1979, he published an article in the Duke Law Journal titled “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law.” Today, it’s considered a very important and prominent essay. It is uncertain what Leff believed about God, but what troubled him was that if there is no God, then there’s no way that one can make any kind of case for human morality, particularly human rights. Here is a paraphrased summary of what he said:
You can say it is wrong for a majority to take advantage of any minority by force, but that is an opinion and not an argument. You can assert all sorts of things, but what you cannot do is say one point of view is morally right and all others are not. If someone says it is all right to enslave a minority, and you say no, it is wrong, who is to say your view of morality is right and theirs is wrong? Maybe it helps to frame it this way: if there is no God, who among us gets to impose their will on everyone else? Who gets to establish the moral laws that people are to follow? These questions are so intellectually troubling that you would think there would be more legal and ethical thinkers trying to come to grips with this.
Leff’s words suggest that if there is a God, then He would make the law for us to follow. We’d base our law on Him. And this, by the way, is how Western civilization was built, with biblical truth as its foundation. We require a moral foundation on which to build a culture. As T.S. Eliot penned many years ago:
“It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe… have been rooted.”
Returning to Leff’s argument, his words also suggest that if there is no God, then moral law has to be grounded in human opinion. So, we must ask, who gets to establish their human opinion as law so that everyone has to obey it? Why should your view of morality have privilege over my view? Ultimately, what you end up with is that those in power will make sure their moral values prevail. Of course, that’s what happened in Nazi Germany.
I close with this quote from Charles Malik, Former Lebanese Ambassador to the United States, President of the United Nations General Assembly:
“There is truth, and there is falsehood. There is good, and there is evil. There is happiness, and there is misery. There is that which ennobles, and there is that which demeans. There is that which puts you in harmony with yourself, with others, with the universe, and with God, and there is that which alienates you from yourself, and from the world, and from God…The greatest error in modern times is the confusion between these orders.”
Richard E. Simmons III is a Christian author, speaker, and the Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership, a non-profit, faith-based ministry in Birmingham, Alabama.
His best-selling titles include The True Measure of a Man, The Power of a Humble Life, Wisdom: Life’s Great Treasure, and his newest book, Reflections on the Existence of God.
Follow Richard on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @thecenterbham. Tune in to
Richard’s Reliable Truth Podcast on your favorite podcast app.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday pressed President Joe Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of health on whether the government should override a parent’s consent to allow a gender-dysphoric child to begin taking hormones or pursue sex-change surgery.
Paul asked Dr. Rachel Levine, who identifies as a transgender woman, whether minors are capable of making life-altering decisions to undergo irreversible medical procedures that permanently change their bodies. In his question, Paul compared sex-change operations for minors to genital mutilation.
“Genital mutilation has been nearly universally condemned. … Genital mutilation is considered particularly egregious because, as the WHO notes, it is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children,” Paul said.
“Most genital mutilation is not typically performed by force, but as WHO notes, by social convention. Social norm. The social pressure to conform. To do what others do and have been doing as well as the need to be accepted socially and the fear of being rejected by the community,” he continued.
“American culture is now normalizing the idea that minors can be given hormones to prevent their biological development of their secondary sexual characteristics. Dr. Levine, you have supported both allowing minors to be given hormone blockers to prevent them from going through puberty, as well as surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia. Like surgical mutilation, hormonal interruption of puberty can permanently alter and prevent secondary sexual characteristics. The American College of Pediatricians reports that 80-95% of prepubertal children with gender dysphoria will experience resolution by late adolescence if not exposed to medical intervention and social affirmation,”he continued.
“Dr. Levine, do you believe minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?” Paul asked.
Levine replied, “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed and if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of health, I’ll look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office and discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine.”
Unsatisfied, Paul accused Levine of evading his question.
“Do you support the government intervening to override the parent’s consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia? You have said that you’re willing to accelerate the protocols for street kids. I’m alarmed that poor kids with no parents, who are homeless and distraught — you would just go through this and allow that to happen to a minor,” he said.
Paul shared the story of Keira Bell, a 23-year-old U.K. woman who is taking legal action against the NHS, claiming that she should have been challenged by medical staff on her decision as a teenager to undergo a sex-change operation to appear male. She now regrets that decision.
“What I am alarmed at is that you’re not willing to say absolutely minors shouldn’t be making decisions to amputate their breasts or to amputate their genitalia,” Paul told Levine.
Levine responded that “transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field and if confirmed to the position of assistant secretary of health, I would certainly be pleased to come to your office and talk with you and your staff about the standards of care and the complexity of this field.”
Paul again accused Levine of refusing to answer his question.
“You’re willing to let a minor take things that prevent their puberty, and you think they get that back? You give a woman testosterone enough that she grows a beard, do you think she’s going to go back to looking like a woman when she stops the testosterone? You have permanently changed them,” Paul said.
He continued: “Infertility is another problem. None of these drugs have been approved for this, they’re all being used off-label. I find it ironic that the left that went nuts over hydroxychloroquine being used possibly for COVID are not alarmed that these hormones are being used off-label. There’s no long-term studies. We don’t know what happens to them. We do know that there are dozens and dozens of people who’ve been through this who regret that this happened. And a permanent change happened to them. And if you’ve ever been around children, 14-year-olds can’t make this decision.”
“In the gender dysphoria clinic in England, 10% of the kids are between the ages of 3 and 10. We should be outraged that someone’s talking to a 3-year-old about changing their sex!” Paul exclaimed.
What the Bible Says about the Idea of Transgenderism
Humankind’s potential for self-destruction through the lusts of the flesh appears to be limitless. While there is nothing new in the sensual sins and wanton debauchery that we witness in our culture, technology has undoubtedly advanced its influence. And one such sin is being promoted in an apparently fanatical fashion: transgenderism.
What Is Transgenderism?
The subject of transgenderism, includes, specifically, “Trans-sexuality, cross-dressing,” and seeking “gender identitydevelopment,” i.e., physical identity through radical surgeries, and hormone treatment; and, more broadly, “gender atypicality” that includes “myriad subcultural expressions of self-selecting gender,” and “intersectionality” with other “interdependence” movements, i.e., feminism, homosexuality. The idea of transgenderism has its roots in the primordial rebellion of humankind to the creation order of God.
Ancient pagan rituals would have included some aspects of transgender practice. More currently, social anarchists such as the otherwise brilliant French social critic, Michael Foucault, argued that Christianity, in particular, has leveraged its cultural “powers” (a recurring them with Foucault) to repress human sexual expression. Foucault taught that gender is a social construct, not a biological fact. The absurdity of such thinking was largely unchallenged in the 1960s and 70s when Foucault and others were teaching such dogma in prestigious universities in Canada, France, and the United States.
Perhaps, we felt that it was too ludicrous to engage. Recently, in 2019, when a former United States Vice-President was asked how many genders there were, he responded, “At least three.” Such a frighteningly fallacious response by a person of influence constitutes an unmitigated endorsement of Foucault’s radical deconstruction of reality. For someone to affirm, with a straight face, in serious dialogue, “There are at least three genders” is an Orwellian case study in, “doublethink,” “newspeak,” and the “thought police” writ large. To speak seriously about a gender other than male and female is surely the untenable subordinating to the inconceivable.
The Medical Truth about Gender Dysphoria
At one time it would have been unnecessary, but it, now, has to be said: The American College of Pediatricians should be awarded a courage award for stating the obvious:
“Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of male and female, respectively – not genetic markers of a disorder. The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident.”
To those who suffer from “gender dysphoria” (the new diagnostic language in DSM-5 replacing “Gender Identity Disorder” in DSM-IV-TR), feeling trapped in a person of the opposite sex, the prestigious association responds with merciful scientific clarity:
“No one is born with an awareness of themselves as male or female; this awareness develops over time and, like all developmental processes, may be derailed by a child’s subjective perceptions, relationships, and adverse experiences from infancy forward. People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.”
Then, how do otherwise smart people fall for the newspeak of Michael Foucault and Kimberlé Crenshaw, and, increasingly, advocate for public school textbooks that endorse transgenderism? How is it that parents in Long Beach, California, who oppose transvestite “drag queens” (invited by former First Lady, Michelle Obama) reading to their kindergartners, are considered “haters?” And that leads us to the Scripture that describes this incredible cultural transformation.
Photo credit: Pexels/WendyVanzyl
The Biblical Truth about Gender
Sexual sins, including transgenderism, were among the most heinous practices of the peoples living in Canaan. The lessons of their judgment because of deviant sexual practices remain as ominous warning signs to us today. When we prefer unbelief to faith in God, in order to advance the lusts of our flesh, we inevitably, and often irretrievably, destine ourselves for judgment. In the cases before us, the people groups living in Canaan digressed from what is clearly shown in creation and in God’s Word—that we are born as either male or female, and that our God-given human sexuality is divinely sanctioned, and most beautifully expressed as complimentary (man and woman), and within the covenanted bonds of matrimony (husband and wife)—led to a veritable infestation of the land, which “vomited” the people from the land, and led to judicial hardening of their hearts, and their ultimate destruction.
1. Male and Female He Created Them
God has not left us without His Word and, thus, His will concerning sexuality. Firstly, humankind is binary. There is no third or fourth category of a human being. Nature attests to what Scripture reveals. Human beings are made in God’s image and created either male or female.
“Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created” (Genesis 5:2).
Our Savior, Christ Jesus, by whom the world was created and through whom it is sustained, appealed to His own Word in Genesis to affirm the divinely created order, and the sanctity of marriage (Colossians 1:16).
“He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
The Scriptures not only provide creation-background for what we see plainly in biology, but the texts also show us that God’s creation was—and is— good. Male and female are perfectly complementary in biology, physiology, emotion, and spirit. Humanity finds its fullest expression in the unity of people being made one in marriage, a sacred and inviolable covenant instituted by Almighty God. Thus, it is not enough for us to merely point out the evil and, therefore, the consequent tragedy of sexual sin. We must also be diligent to lift up the beauty and blessings that flow from the created order of a loving God.
2. Sexual Sin as Abomination
Secondly, although the text I would cite is concerned with God’s command forbidding same-sex relationships, one could deploy the transgender movement’s “intersectionality” instrument to include the passage in our study. Nevertheless, the prohibition against same-sex relations is indicative of God’s abhorrence of such wickedness: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).
3. Cross-Dressing Forbidden
Transgenderism is explicitly addressed in the Bible. This fact reminds us that the phenomenon of trans-sexual expression is not new. The practice is a deviant display of witness rebellion against the created order of God. For those, like Foucault, who saw gender as merely social constructs, enforced by puritanical power structures and subject to deconstruction, the voice of God in the Bible still speaks:
“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5).
4. Living in the Land of Unbelief
Thirdly, believers should walk carefully in this present, evil “Secular Age,” as the imminent Canadian philosopher, Dr. Charles Taylor, has described our Post-Christian culture. What did the Lord say to Cain?
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).
Every believer must be alert to the dangerous presence of anti-Christian powers, and demonic spirits of this world, using unrepentant sinners who are beating at the door of our consciences to demand that we accept and approve of what God forbids. God called Israel to be conscious of the seducing powers of the Canaanites, whose wickedness in sexual sins led to divine judgment:
“For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 18:29-30).
Male prostitutes were marked out by God as those whose wickedness brought judgment:
“And there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel” (1 Kings 14:24).
We would do well to mark the comments of the old pastor-scholar John Gill (1697-1771) instructing Christians who live in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4):
“Now Christ gave himself a sacrifice for the sins of his people, that as in consequence of this they might be delivered and saved from the damning power, so from the governing power and influence of all that is evil in this present world; as from Satan, the god of it, who has usurped a power over it; from the lusts that are predominant in it; from the vain conversation of the men of it; from the general conflagration of it at the last day, and from the perdition of ungodly men, and their eternal destruction in hell.”
It is difficult to imagine a contemporary social movement that is more dangerously consistent with the downward spiral of Romans chapter one than transgenderism. Read these words from St. Paul and ask yourself if we are not living in the times that he describes:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18-22);
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (26-28).
“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).
In Romans 1:18-32, the Apostle Paul describes unbelieving man’s descent into a hell of his own making. Unbelief in the presence of the undeniable coupled with intellectual and spiritual anarchy devolves into not only the normalization of the irredeemable but the codification of the indefensible. Reading Romans Chapter One is like living through the last twenty years. For as Dr. D. James Kennedy once said, “When your code cracks, your creed crumbles.” One is only amazed at the rapid rate of decline.
What’s the Big Deal about Sexual Sin?
The truth is undeniable: God abhors sexual sins because it strikes at the image of God in Man. Sexual sin, including transgenderism, explicit and exemplarily condemned in the Word of God, degrades human beings. Our women and children will always suffer the most if we allow such corruption to continue without divine intervention. So, the Lord speaks to us today:
“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
The gospel is a perennial word of hope. We do not have to fall into these sins. Paul wrote,
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
Transgenderism is a sad symptom of a soul in torment. The sin is an especially virulent pathology of the human soul. And the disease is spread by normalizing the forbidden, trivializing its lethality to the soul and to the community; and by naïvely promoting its supposed gaiety. Behind the laughing drag queen, however, is always a tragic and dying soul in need of Jesus Christ’s love.
If, in fact, you or your loved ones have been infected by the strong spirit-killing viruses of this agent of our present evil age, then, you must know: you can be healed. Life and love may be pure and holy before God. You can be fully human. Gospel transformation is not just available but is inevitable when one confesses his sin, turns to the Lord Jesus Christ to receive His mercy, grace, and receives His cleansing power of the cross: His life lived will cover yours. His death offered as a substitute for the punishment of our sins brings you redemption from the devices of the devil and the fetters of the flesh. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, a notoriously noxious group of sinners, who had been caught in every vile trick of the devil, especially in sexual sin. Paul’s words are most instructive for our study:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Did you read that? “And such were some of you”(emphasis added). Our Lord welcomes you into the company of the redeemed. The sin that so easily besets you today will become the chains lying on the floor of that old cell where you used to exist. But, praise God, you are not what you were. You are not what you will be. You are who you are: a sinner saved by grace, a child of God, loved by Him, redeemed by Him, and destined for a life you only imagined.
1. See S. Stryker and S. Whittle, The Transgender Studies Reader (Routledge, 2006), 1,2; https://books.google.com/books?id=HBRR1isU-VAC. The concept of intersectionality, attributed to UCLA and Columbia Law School professor, Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw (1959–), an intellectually fertile academic who also coined “Critical Race Theory.” See, e.g., Kimberle Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” u. Chi. Legal f. (1989): 139.
Association, American Psychiatric. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub, 2013.
Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” u. Chi. Legal f. (1989): 139.
Michael A. Milton, Ph.D. (University of Wales; MPA, UNC Chapel Hill; MDiv, Knox Seminary) Dr. Milton is a retired seminary chancellor and currently serves as the James Ragsdale Chair of Missions at Erskine Theological Seminary. He is the President of Faith for Living and the D. James Kennedy Institute a long-time Presbyterian minister, and Chaplain (Colonel) USA-R. Dr. Milton is the author of more than thirty books and a musician with five albums released. Mike and his wife, Mae, reside in North Carolina.
As racial division widens, the Church must shift from solely talking about racial reconciliation and incorporating racial justice discussions. If COVID-19 has taught us anything; it is that that we have ignored the apparent disparities that persons of color have faced in the U.S. and the Church has been divided on these discussions.
Black history and black struggle have been left out of the White American evangelical story in many ways. Most white churches have little or no understanding of the ways black and brown people have turned to their faith and churches in times of significant racial discrimination and suffering. According to a recent study, the Barna Group revealed “a significant increase in the percentage of practicing Christians who say race is ‘not at all’ a problem in the U.S. (19%, up from 11% in 2019).”
I believe the disconnect and breakdown stems from inappropriately conflating two distinct conversations in a way that prohibits understanding and progress: racial justice and racial reconciliation.
Over the past years, the white evangelical Church has engaged in safe conversations surrounding racial reconciliation, using the gospel as its primary source to carry this conversation forward. Often, these conversations are led by white men, who pastor significantly large churches who invite black and brown people into these spaces to talk about how we all need to come together and forgive another because of the sins of racism that has created division and disunity in the Church and the world.
Many of these conversations are well-meaning and even encourage believers that unity is possible. I have even been a part of many of these conversations. However, most white churches forget there is a long line of systemic, oppressive, and marginalizing structures that have disadvantaged black and brown people disproportionately in economics, employment, healthcare, housing, wage income, and even clean water in cities like Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey.
Moreover, while forgiveness is what we need, the racial reconciliation conversation leaves out how a White supremacist system created the oppressive structures that disadvantaged people of color, who have had to overcome and are still overcoming to this very day. This is where the racial reconciliation and racial justice conversations differ. Simply because you can’t forgive yourself out of oppression, you must be liberated from it.
Societal issues cannot be solved through peace, unity, and racial reconciliation conversations alone. We must deploy thoughtful racial justice, love, mercy, and solidarity. The Church holds an advantageous position in the conversation about racial justice and racial reconciliation because it can embody both to achieve liberation and a sense of togetherness. The Church universal has every nation, tongue, and tribe in it as John writes about in the book of Revelation.
We need to see the gospel as empowering us to forgive one another and also pushing us show up like Jesus on the frontlines having good news for the poor, weary and oppressed.
Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, (Luke 4:18)
What if the Church modeled how to be about both forgiveness and liberation of the oppressed? It was the great Howard Thurman in his book Jesus and The Disinherited that reminded us that Jesus himself identified with those who were minorities and under oppression.
Reconciliation without justice to correct the systems that created the injustices and separation is a form of racial trauma and even abuse. It asks for the person who had been disproportionately affected by racism, white supremacy, and other forms of psychological and emotional trauma to forget what they have experienced and forgive the system that was designed for their failure, without correction.
Our focus for the near future should be on racial justice, rather than skipping steps to rush to racial reconciliation. Many White Christians think that racial reconciliation solves many of the injustices that persons of color face. I think there needs to be a robust education of the differences between the two because they are not the same. Making the distinction between the two is vital because reconciliation and progress cannot organically come without first acknowledging and rectifying the historical systems that have disadvantaged black and brown people. There can be no forgiveness without lament and repentance. When overlooked or hastened as a way to assuage guilt, this can result in more significant harm through putting a superficial Band-Aid on issues that require more extensive surgery to achieve long-term change.
While the racial reconciliation conversation is an important one to have, it cannot happen while ignoring the injustices that affect black and brown people in communities across the country. One conversation cannot happen apart from the other. Both are needed.
It is my hope and desire to see brothers and sisters walk together in the garment of destiny that MLK Jr. spoke about, and it is also my deep desire for the Church to lead this charge.
The responsibility for this lack of awareness sits with the Church. As one holding Good News, the Church must lead the conversation of both faith in a God of forgiveness and justice for God’s children who are oppressed. It was James Cone that eloquently penned in his book, God of the Oppressed, “The scandal is that the gospel means liberation, that this liberation comes to the poor, and that it gives them the strength and the courage to break the conditions of servitude.”
God honors all stories of creation equally, including black and brown stories that systems have oppressed. When Jesus entered the world, he did not do it for a specific group; his purpose and salvation were incorporated into each group of the world.
Jesus himself modeled what it meant to be proximate and engage in stories and conversations untraditional to a Jewish Rabbi. He demonstrated this many times by taking longer routes on his way to Galilee to connect with the Samaritan woman at the well, breaking social norms to bring healing and salvation to a woman who was an outsider. Like Jesus, the Church must listen, stand in solidarity with the oppressed, go out of its way to embrace the marginalized, and take on the responsibility of educating its majority members on how to do this wholly.
The Church must be about reconciling, with justice in mind. What better way to honor God during black history month than to lean in and embrace the full stories of those who have a hue that matches the skin of Jesus.
 Thurman, Howard. Jesus and the Disinherited. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1996.
Terence Lester is the founder of Love Beyond Walls, a nonprofit organization focused on poverty awareness and community mobilization. He is the author of I See You and the forthcoming title When We Stand.
A new post-election survey reveals that a majority of those who voted for President Joe Biden don’t believe “God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator” who rules over everything in Heaven and Earth today.
The Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University released the fourth in-depth report about its 2020 Post-Election Survey last week. The survey was conducted between Nov. 4 and 16, 2020. The latest installment of the survey focuses on the views of Biden’s voters as compared to the views of Americans who voted for former President Donald Trump as well as voters and adults as a whole.
More votes were counted in the 2020 presidential election than any other in U.S. history. Former Vice President Joe Biden got over 81 million votes, the most votes for any presidential candidate, to President Trump’s 74 million, the second-most votes in an election. Their totals also broke the record of votes cast for former President Barack Obama, who received 69.5 million votes in 2008.
Biden voters make up a plurality of those surveyed by the Cultural Research Center, accounting for 426 of the 1,000 respondents. Measured at 387, Trump voters were slightly less represented in the sample.
While 65% of Biden voters describe themselves as Christian, most (56%) said they see themselves as “spiritual but not religious”and 57% said they were not “deeply committed to practicing” their religion. Additionally, most of the Biden voters held views that were at odds with the teachings of Christianity.
For example, 68% of Biden voters believe that “The Holy Spirit is not a living entity but is a symbol of God’s presence, power, or purity.”
Sixty-three percent of Biden voters rejectedthe notion that “God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator of the universe who rules that universe today” and 72% said that they believe that “a person who is generally good, or does enough good things for others, will earn a place in Heaven.”
Only 30% agreed that the Bible “is the actual or inspired Word of God and contains no errors.”
Seventy-five percent of Biden’s voters cite something other than the Bible as their most trusted source of moral guidance.Most Biden voters who fit into this category identified their feelings, experiences, friends and family as their sources of moral guidance.
Biden voters were more likely than adults in general to believe that “having faith matters more than which faith you have,” with 79% of Biden voters and 74% of all adults agreeing with that statement. Biden voters were less likely to identify as Christian than adults as a whole and Trump voters.
Seventy-five percent of Biden voters believed that “identifying moral truth is up to each individual; there are no moral absolutes that apply to everyone, all the time.”Among all adults, 67% said the same.
When asked if they believe that “all religious faiths are of equal value,” 68% of Biden voters answered in the affirmative compared to 62% of all adults and 56% of Trump voters. On social issues, Biden voters held divergent views from the adult population as a whole as well as their Trump-voting counterparts.
Regarding the issue of abortion, a supermajority (60%) of Biden voters believe that the Bible is ambiguous on the matter, along with a narrow majority of adults as a whole (51%) and a minority of Trump voters (41%).
Forty-two percent of Biden voters agree that “the marriage of one man to one woman is God’s only acceptable plan for humanity, for all cultures on earth”while majorities of all adults (54%) and Trump voters (69%) believe that God’s plan for humanity requires the upholding of traditional marriage and the nuclear family.
The idea that only those who have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior will go to Heaven when they die has 15% support among Biden voters, compared to 24% of all adults and 34% of Trump voters.
Thirty-seven percent of Biden voters see God as “the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator of the universe who rules that universe today” while 47% of all adults and 60% of Trump voters hold the same view of God.
It also found that 31% of Biden voters are active in a Christian church compared to 42% of Trump voters.
The share of those who identify as theologically conservative stands at 25% among Biden voters and 42% among Trump voters. One-quarter (25%) of Biden’s voters accept the teaching that “absolute moral truths exist and are defined in the Bible,” as opposed to 43% of Trump voters.
The report also included data about the religious demographics of the supporters of the two major presidential candidates.
A plurality of Biden’s voters (29%) “don’t believe in God/care about God/think God’s existence is knowable”while 27% attend a Protestant church, 21% attend a Catholic church, 13% “attend a Christian church, type undetermined“ and 9% are non-Christians.
Meanwhile, those who attend a Protestant church constitute 42% of Trump’s supporters, while Catholics made up 21%, and those who “attend a Christian church, type undetermined” were 13%, non-Christians were 7%, and those who “don’t believe in God/care about God/think God’s existence is knowable”comprised the rest of his voters at 18%.
Overall, Protestant voters surveyed favored Trump over Biden by a 14-point margin (47% to 33%), while the so-called “Don’ts” faith segment preferred Biden to Trump 45% to 25%.
George Barna, the director of the Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center who conducted the study, warned: “If our government denies the core principles on which it was founded — which were originally derived from the Bible — in favor of an inconsistent patchwork of modern philosophical preferences, the result will be chaos, constant disputes, and widespread dissatisfaction.”
According to Barna, “A strong and thriving society requires a stable foundation of truth on which to make just and appropriate decisions. The more the United States puts distance between itself and its moral and spiritual moorings, the less likely we are to have an effective vibrant government and a healthy and vibrant way of life.”
We see it everywhere. Thanks to Corporate America, mainstream media, so-called civil rights groups, academia and a relevance-worshipping Church, we are a nation increasingly judging one another and separating ourselves by the color of our skin. We’re surrounded by marketing that elevates one group while excoriating another. It’s okay, we’re told. It’s all in a day’s work toward “diversity” and “inclusion.”
Funny thing how so many get excluded in those pursuits. Racism is evil. Exploiting it, marketing it, and expanding it is too.
The racial messaging is loud and clear: if you’re not the right hue, there’s obviously something wrong with you. And those reminders are relentless. From Hollywood babble to pandering politicians to Big Tech Tyrants to Institutions of Higher Mislearning to euphemistic bridges to nowhere in woke churches, we’re barraged by an unending stream of color conscious craziness that demands society sees hue before they see you.
As with all things rooted in human frailty, today’s celebrated form of segregation is immensely profitable, especially for those peddling the victimhood. There’s no scarcity of New York Times bestselling authors reminding us to define ourselves by our “whiteness” or “blackness,” and to assess every situation, every word, every interaction with others through the broken narratives of Critical Race Theory. It’s exhausting. That’s not living.
At every turn we’re being commanded to check our color, check our privilege, check our to-do-lists of guilt-oriented tasks. Corporate America has taken genuflection to a whole new low. Remember when Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy got on his knees and started shining hip-hop artist Lecrae’s shoes in a seriously cringey display of reconciliation-gone-wrong? He told other white people to do the same. If you ever try to shine my shoes, I will kick you. I repeat. I. Will. Kick. You. This doesn’t erase racism. This doesn’t change the past. This just makes someone feel really uncomfortable.
Guilt is a powerful thing. And when it’s coupled with racism, it’s a cash cow, especially for the groups that rely on victim evangelism. The Black Lives Matter movement raked in millions while cities and businesses burned last summer. The NAACP, in full denial of the massive violence and destruction wrought by many #BLM “peaceful protests,”was the recipient of millions more in pledges from Corporate America.
Apple has turned up the volume on its social justice rhetoric with its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative and its “Black Unity”branded watch. Why not a “Unity” collection that celebrates us all? Never mind these same corporations closed and boarded up their businesses to protect their assets during BLM protests. They sent out press releases that sounded like an abused spouse making excuses for the abuser.
Taxpayers get to be force-fed the Cult of Neo-Segregation even in our museums. Remember when the Smithsonian posted an infographic about “whiteness” and “white culture” claiming that having a “protestant work ethic” was a “white thing.” So, as someone with brown skin, I don’t believe in working hard? The Smithsonian got fierce pushback and removed the infographic, but (of course) kept the racist “whiteness” section on their website.
We’re siloing, and it’s toxic. I’m all about expressions of diversity and learning others’ cultures. We are a beautifully diverse nation, and that diversity exists even within the same shades of pigmentation. But we don’t make up for the suppression of some cultures by demonizing everyone else. We don’t bring people together by constantly obsessing over our hues, our past, and our assumed “privileges.”
I’m all about addressing inequality…real inequality. I’m all about taking steps to dismantle systemic racism where and when it actually occurs (let’s start with Planned Parenthood —the leading killer of black lives). I’m all about criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability, but I won’t embrace a lie (BLM, CRT, DNC) to achieve it. I’m all about more healthy dialogue, more relationships and more unity around the fact that we’re one human race.
Church, can you help me out on this? Acts 17:26 if you’ve forgotten.
I’m not about living in the past. I’m not about mainstream media’s and academia’s revisions of the past. And I’m not about a mindset that certain people can never escape the past. Thank goodness this doesn’t apply to us in the spiritual sense. We’re forgiven by a God who loves us and redeems our past. But a broken worldview wants us to hold someone responsible for something they may or may not have done. Some want perpetual penance for wrongs someone’s ancestors have committed.
Are we responsible for the crimes of even our parents? Am I responsible for the crime of my biological father because I was conceived in rape? Too many times the past is weaponized and used to justify present behavior. If African-Americans, who lived in the horrific oppression of slavery, could forgive and move forward, what’s holding our modern society back?
The Civil Rights Act of 1871 (aka the Ku Klux Klan Act) was a piece of legislation that addressed the horrific KKK violence that terrorized black Americans and their white allies. No surprise, but zero Democrats in the House and Senate voted for the bill. A group of African-American Congressman (they were all Republicans) had a profound take on the legislation which alarmingly allowed pardons for former Confederates. The trailblazer legislators were Senator Hiram Revels and Representatives Robert Elliott, Robert De Large, Benjamin Turner and Joseph Rainey — all born into slavery. They proclaimed: “We have open and frank hearts toward those who were our oppressors and taskmasters. We foster no enmity now, and we desire to foster none for their act in the past to us, nor to the Government we love so well.”
We have a lot to learn from our past. But the most powerful lesson that benefits all of us, regardless of our beautiful hues, is how (especially as Christians) we can choose to have a more loving, more forgiving and more unified future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ryan Bomberger is the Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of The Radiance Foundation. He is happily married to his best friend, Bethany, who is the Executive Director of Radiance. They are adoptive parents with four awesome kiddos. Ryan is an Emmy Award-winning creative professional, factivist, international public speaker and author of NOT EQUAL: CIVIL RIGHTS GONE WRONG. He loves illuminating that every human life has purpose.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Russell Vought, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Trump administration. | Wikipedia
An evangelical former Trump cabinet member has launched a new think tank designed to advance the “America First” principles popularized in the previous administration and seeks to “restore an American consensus of a nation under God.”
Russell Vought, the former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget under former President Donald Trump, announced the creation of the Center for American Restoration late last month. In an interview with The Christian Post Tuesday, Vought elaborated on the new think tank’s goals. He gave details about how the organization will operate. While Vought acknowledged that there are many things he would have liked to accomplish in a second Trump term, he embraces the opportunity to start a new venture, calling it “the silver lining in some respects of … not being in office.”
“A lot of the things that have been rattling around in my mind for a number of years are the things that the Center for American Restoration is going to be working on,” he said. “I think that this gives us an opportunity to articulate and work on issues and proposals and ideas that you need a little bit of time outside government to be able to work on and to be able to set up future policy-makers to work on these issues.”
He explained the goals of the new organization in an op-ed for The Federalist published on Jan. 26. According to Vought, the Center for American Restoration will “help restore an old consensus in America that has been forgotten, that we are a people For God, For Country, and For Community.” Vought remarked that “notwithstanding policy victories on taxes, welfare, and the right to life in the last several decades, the tide of progressive liberalism has not been turned.”
He argues that “few are equipped to stand athwart the age and make a full-throated defense of something other than ‘progress’ or going forward.” He believes that “most won’t fight because they no longer believe, and repeatedly lose policy fight after policy fight because they have no firm footing.”
“The Center for American Restoration exists to provide that footing,” he wrote. “Its mission statement is to restore an American consensus of a nation under God with unique interests worthy of defending that flow from its people, institutions and history, where individuals’ enjoyment of freedom is predicated on just laws and healthy communities.”
Vought, who was questioned about his evangelical beliefs by Sen. Bernie Sanders during a 2017 confirmation hearing, decried liberals’ control of “the commanding heights of culture.” He said those heights include “the academy, the media, [and] the entertainment industry.” He described the Trump presidency as “the first real counter assault to the left in decades.”
The Center for American Restoration’s overarching theme is that “the counter-assault” against the political left that began with the Trump presidency must not come to an end even though he has left office.
“We hope to give voice to the common, forgotten men and women across this great country, possessed with extraordinary intuition, who work hard, pay their taxes, and attempt to raise their families in healthy communities,” he maintained.
According to Vought, it is important to remember that “we’re a country under God.”
“We were created to honor God, to be for God,” he told CP. “And to the extent that we are, that it impacts our happiness [and] our satisfaction in life. That should be a part of what we align public policy with.”
In his op-ed, the former Office of Management and Budget director criticized the American foreign policy that led to “endless war, America-as-world-policeman, sclerotic multilateralism, and trillions spent on foreign aid and a sprawling defense-industrial complex.”
He also took issue with “the plundering of the American economy by multinational corporations eager to claim the benefits of American law while disclaiming all responsibility to provide remunerative employment to American workers.”
He also criticized immigration policies that led to “borders being overrun for generations, creating unfair labor competition for the least off in America without any debate by its citizenry and laying great burdens on local communities.”
Vought told CP that “there will be two organizations,” the Center for American Restoration and American Restoration Action. The former organization, a think tank, will “flesh out these ideas, put them into concrete proposals, [and] think through implementation.” American Restoration Action, an activist organization, will work to establish “policy fights that are informed by where we want to take the policy over time.”
“My view is that policy fights are a good thing, that they provide an opportunity to educate and allow people to see both sides of a conversation,” he said. “We’ll be involved in the think tank side and we’ll be trying to get activists into the fight and giving the support that’s needed to members of Congress and those who are championing our ideas in the media.”
As a nonprofit organization, the Center for American Restoration will not actively recruit candidates who share its values to run for public office. However, Vought expressed hope that “the people running for office … are running … on public policies that we have been championing, that put America first, that stress for God, for country and for community.”
“That is our hope for the next several years, and we hope to the extent that people are talking about us, they’re talking about those ideas,” he continued.
Other endeavors the Center for American Restoration plans to undertake are “extending the principle of being pro-life to a nationwide enthusiasm for promoting life and increasing the birth rate” by encouraging people to have more children and bigger families.
The think tank also will reject “the militant ‘successor ideology’ that has taken root in elite institutions” and seeks to dampen the power of “cancel culture.”
Vought, who studied at Wheaton College in Illinois and George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., previously worked for the conservative lobbying group Heritage Action. He also previously served as executive director for the Republican Study Committee and policy director for the Republican Conference of the U.S. House of Representatives. Vought began his career in Washington, D.C. as a legislative assistant for Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.
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.”
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.”
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.
A 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.”
A congregation in Pennsylvania recently gave out gift cards worth $50 each to all the employees of a local grocery store, while also helping to pay the bills of 200 customers. Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh, a predominantly African American congregation founded in 1903, held what it called a “grocery store takeover” on Saturday at a local Giant Eagle.
In addition to the $50 gift cards given to the Giant Eagle employees, the church also paid upwards of $50 of each grocery store bill for patrons of the store.
“We’re able to be a blessing in our communities because of faithful givers like YOU! Thanks to all staff & volunteers as well as the management at Southside Giant Eagle for making this an excellent initiative.”
Pastor Brian James Edmonds, senior pastor of Macedonia Church, told The Christian Post that his congregation decided to do this event because “our world is hurting right now.”
“We are battling multiple pandemics, people are grieving lost loved ones, and frontline workers are putting their lives on the line. We thought this would be a powerful way to give people hope and demonstrate the love of Christ during uncertain times,” said Edmonds.
The total cost for the event was around $13,000, with Edmonds telling CP that it was “rooted in our understanding that the church should also tithe into the communities that it serves.”
“This is what it means to be a good neighbor. As a part of this particular outreach, we also gave $40,000 to local nonprofits who are doing transformative work,” he continued.
“For the past couple years, we have taken an entire weekend offering and devoted it to local nonprofits. We call it ‘Give100,’ since we are giving away 100% of what comes in.”
Ultimately, Edmonds told CP that he hoped the church taught people “that they are not alone, that they are appreciated, and that the love of God just might surprise you at the grocery store.”
“Our prayer is that someone’s faith is birthed, strengthened, or restored, as we are faithful to our calling to be the church,” he added.
As the United States continues to reel from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn, many churches are ramping up their charitable efforts to help the needy. Last year, One Church, a multisite congregation based in Ohio, held a fundraiser aimed at providing gift cards to every foster teenager in the state, or approximately 5,300 individuals.
One Church Lead Pastor Greg Ford told CP in an interview last month that the idea for the gift card charity drive stemmed from a meeting with Franklin County Children Services last year.
“They shared with us that typically during the holidays, many donors want to provide toys and gifts for little kids but the teens are usually left out since they’re typically not interested in toys at that stage,” Ford said.
“They said if we could provide gift cards for local fast food restaurants or retail stores, that gives the teens a sense of independence. When they’re out with their friends, they can have a meal and enjoy themselves.”
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.
During a human trafficking investigation in California, called “Operation Lost Angels,” the FBI recovered 33 missing children, eight of whom had been sexually exploited,the agency said.
For the operation, which began Jan. 11, the FBI worked with more than two dozen law enforcement and non-governmental partners “to identify, locate, and recover missing children, particularly those who have been or were suspected of being sexually exploited and/or trafficked.”
Of the underage victims recovered, eight were being sexually exploited at the time of recovery, the agency said in a statement, as part of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“Two were recovered multiple times during the operation while on the ‘track,’ a common term used to describe a known location for commercial sex trafficking. It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud, or coercion,” it said.
“The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims,” said Assistant FBI Director Kristi K. Johnson.
As part of the operation, a suspected human trafficker was arrested on state charges and multiple investigations were launched.
“The effects of COVID-19, as with other catastrophic events, are disproportionately impacting communities suffering from systemic or generational inequality – the same communities traffickers often prey upon,” the report said.
The FBI also revealed that its caseload for trafficking-related crimes, for both sex and labor, had increased significantly in the past several years. Last year, the agency started 664 human trafficking investigations across the country, arresting 473 people. As of last November, there were more than 1,800 pending trafficking investigations, including those involving minors exploited through commercial sex trafficking, the FBI said.
The Tallahassee Police Department, Florida, announced last November that more than 170 people were charged as part of a two-year investigation uncovering a sex trafficking network in the state.
“Operation Stolen Innocence,” a secretive probe into the commercial trafficking of a teenaged girl, began in November 2018 when police investigators saw images of a child being posted on a website advertising sex for money.
Last October, the U.S. Marshals rescued 27 missing children in Virginia as part of nationwide operations to save exploited children. The Department of Justice announced at the time that the five-day law enforcement effort, called “Operation Find Our Children,” took place throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Though the majority of Gen Z is not engaged in scriptural study and has a distrustful relationship with religious institutions, they are eager for trusted adults, including religious leaders, to invest in their lives.
“The State of Religion & Young People 2020,” a new study by the Springtide Research Institute, collected data from over 10,000 surveys and over 150 interviews with young people ages 13–25. It found that Gen Z is largely not engaged in scriptural study, with just 12% saying they’re attending gatherings for this purpose.
Additionally, nearly 40% describe themselves as religiously “unaffiliated,” whether agnostic, atheist, or nothing in particular. Interestingly, the study shows 60% of surveyed young people who are not involved with organized religion describe themselves as “spiritual,” and 19% indicate they attend religious gatherings at least once a month.
Today’s young people are also the “loneliest of any generation,” the study found, with 60% saying they feel “very isolated.” The study notes this phenomenon is likely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced young people to socialize, learn, and engage with one another virtually.
“The inner and outer lives of Gen Z are complex, and the world they live in, it’s complicated. The way that young people form bonds, make meaning, and live out their values is constantly changing. This is without a doubt the most diverse generation that has ever existed,” Josh Packard, executive director of Springtide Research Institute, said.
Nearly 7 out of 10 (69%) young people who were surveyed said they have three or fewer meaningful interactions per day. About 4 in 10 say they have nobody to talk to and nobody who really knows them well, and two in 10 young people (21%) with no meaningful interactions per day said they never feel like their life has meaning.
However, the study found that a single meaningful interaction reduces the number to 4%, underscoring the importance of relationships. Sixty-nine percent of surveyed individuals who have one adult mentor reported that their life has meaning and purpose. A staggering 85% who have two to four adult mentors and 91% of those who have five or more adult mentors said their life has meaning and purpose.
Young people crave “relational authority,” the study found. Seventy-nine percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “I am more likely to listen to adults in my life if I know that they care about me,” and 87% of young people said they trust adults who take time to foster relationships.
The study also found that Gen Z is eager for more productive and empathetic conversations around politics, but feel dismissed by the adults in their lives.
“Our data show that … checking the boxes affiliated or unaffiliated on a survey doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story about young people’s religious identities,” Packard said. “It doesn’t tell us what we need to know about the things that young people long for and where they belong to. More important than checkboxes, behaviors. More revealing than affiliation, relationships.”
“The State of Religion & Young People 2020” corroborates earlier studies revealing the complicated way Gen Z approaches issues of religion and spirituality. A 2018 study from the Barna Group characterizes Gen Z as the “first truly ‘post Christian’ generation,” with only 4% adhering to a biblical worldview.
However, another report from the law firm Becket found that 74% of Gen Z respondents felt that faith was “at least somewhat important” during the pandemic, putting them above the 62% average of all generations.
Speaker and author Sadie Robertson Huff, 23, recently said her generation is craving mentors and discipleship. She advised her peers to “invite” older Christians to the table and listen to their wisdom.
“Sometimes, our generation is fearful to ask for a mentor or fearful to ask to be discipled, but we crave it,” she said. “And so if you are in the older generation, … if you came up to us and said, ‘Can I disciple you?’ I know my answer would be yes every time. And I know a whole lot of people who would agree with me who are my age.”
Huff also said she believes church leaders are asking “too little” of the younger generation and often make “excuses” for them.
“I’ve sat in a room with church leaders who I love and adore. … But there are times where I’ve even heard them say things like, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t do a conference at night because that is the night that college kids like to party.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s why we should do a conference that night because people are going to party if we expect too little,’” Huff said.
“Let them [decide] if they’re going to go with the world or if they’re going to go with God because you’ve got to make that decision,” she stressed.
“The wicked freely parade and prance about while evil is praised throughout the land” (Psalm 12:8).
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.
Even before the horrible year that was 2020, New Year’s Eve celebrations have long been filled with the near-certain expectation that things will definitely get better. Generally speaking, it’s a fine sentiment. Optimism is good; hope is good; and striving to improve the future from where we are today led us from the cave to the fields, across vast oceans, and into the limitless of outer space.
But nothing magical happens when the calendar year flips over. There’s no unexplained scientific phenomenon that shifts the incalculable number of atoms in our known universe into undaunted forces for good simply because we’ve reached the conclusion of this year’s cycle through the Gregorian calendar. Instead, history tells us things can always get worse.
After the stock market crashed in 1929, the Great Depression didn’t reach its darkest days until 1933. The 1938 Nazi annexation of Austria was followed by the invasion of Poland in 1939, then the steamrolling of France and near-defeat of Britain in 1940.
Yet while there’s no iron-clad guarantee that 2021 will be great, every one of us can contribute to the effort to make a redemptive year a reality.
No government action will make 2021 better than what we just went through in 2020. As with most positive change, any meaningful, lasting shifts in the trajectory of our towns and our nation will stem from individuals choosing to do good.
World events of a grand nature will remain outside our ability to master. Pandemics, wildfires, and — unless you live in one of a handful of swing states — presidential elections involving more than 158 million votes are things almost entirely beyond our control. Yet, even in the worst of times, we can control how we interact with our fellow Americans, and a shift in the right direction in this regard is one of the simplest — albeit difficult — steps we can take.
It’s within the grasp of each of us, as individuals, to decide if what we both consume and contribute is life-affirming or malevolent, restorative or toxic. In our workplaces, online using social media, with our families, and interacting with total strangers, we are responsible for how we live amongst one another.
In our current rancorous political environment, we’ll have a chance at a better year if we realize most genuine conversations or debates aren’t best served in a tit-for-tat on Facebook or Twitter but in person over coffee, lunch, or a drink after work. This doesn’t mean surrendering our principles or allowing ourselves to be walked over. It does, however, require we prudently recognize whose minds are open to change, and those who refuse to be unconvinced of what they believe; which arguments may bear fruitful discussion, and those that will only lead to more frustration and anger this country can do without.
Regardless of one’s faith, there is wisdom in the instructions given in the Bible’s 2 Timothy:
Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. (2 Timothy 2:23)
As the author of the epistle to Timothy later notes, being honest doesn’t mean being needlessly hurtful or tactless, and he reminds us to “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth.” There’s an Aristotelian golden mean between failing to state a necessary truth and being an overly blunt jerk about it.
Similar valuable cautions are given in Titus 3:2 not to slander, to “avoid quarreling,” and to “show true humility to everyone.” Later in the chapter, we’re also reminded it may be best to walk away from those who continue to engage in foolish controversies:
If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. (Titus 3:10)
Admittedly, it’s hard to do, especially in a climate that often mistakenly views the last person who responded in a Facebook fight as “the winner” or politeness as a sign of “weakness.” Even so, it’s one of the few ways to lower the temperature to the point where authentic, amiable exchanges and healthy debates are possible. We’ll be a better nation in 2021 if Americans take time to ask and reflect, “Will this truly make things better?” before acting.
Furthermore, giving 2021 a fighting chance will involve constantly “checking one’s priors” at the door. Or, as Jordan Peterson has phrased it, we’d do well to “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something that you don’t.”
As more Americans limit their media consumption to voices and opinions they already agree with, ideological and philosophical blind spots pose an increasingly higher risk. Yet rarely are things as simple as either the “left” or “right” (antiquated terms to begin with) being absolutely correct or absolutely wrong.
Taking in the views of only a small territory of the political spectrum is one of the contributing factors that led us to a place, never more evident than in 2020, where one half of the country can’t even stand being in line next to the other half — six feet apart, no less. We don’t have to agree, but we have to be able to at least relate to where those we disagree with are coming from. This begins with the humility to acknowledge we may be wrong about something, or, at least, not as correct as we think we are.
“Genuine conversation is exploration, articulation, and strategizing,” Peterson writes, “When you’re involved in a genuine conversation, you’re listening.” This may also require mingling outside a safe, “bubbled,” friend group, especially if that group is comprised of similarly like-minded folks.
It means not assuming to know the totality of someone’s beliefs and values based on their stance on a single issue. It means being OK with someone thinking, even acting, in a way we personally disagree with (as long as it doesn’t directly infringe on anyone’s rights to life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness). A tolerance of true intellectual diversity will be a key factor in helping 2021 rebound after the past year.
In what could be the most important New Year’s resolution we make, by exercising humility, patience, and grace, we can each take responsibility in helping make 2021 the year we all need it to be, one individual choice at a time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Joshua Lawson is managing editor of The Federalist. He is a graduate of Queen’s University as well as Hillsdale College where he received a master’s degree in American politics and political philosophy. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaMLawson.
Sadie Robertson Huff warned that today’s generation “looks more like Instagram influencers than Jesus Christ” and urged young people to find their identity and strength not in social media, but in God.
“We have a generation waiting to feel a sense of love … waiting to feel wanted by people gathering up to them instead of just gathering behind the King of kings and knowing that you’re wanted, knowing that you’re loved, knowing that you’re accepted because of what He’s already done for you,” Huff, 23, told some 500,000 people who joined the Passion 2021 Conference virtually on Thursday.
“We got to stop obsessing over who is following us and obsessing over the one that we’re following.”
But in a social media-obsessed culture, people will “follow anybody if it’s their 15 minutes of fame,” the speaker and author contended, from the Tik Tok star to the Instagram “it” couple.
“If you’re following somebody, they are influencing you one way or another,” she stressed. “And that’s why we have a generation that looks more like the Instagram influencers than Jesus Christ because we’re following them first instead of Jesus Christ first.”
“I don’t have interest in following anybody who’s not leading me in the direction I want to go. And we need to take that really seriously.”
Jesus, and not social media, is the “only way to the Father,” Huff said, adding: “It would be a shame if we spent more time thinking about when our 15 minutes of fame will hit than where we will spend eternity, and we spent more time following people leading us in paths that we did not have any interest in going down than following the Word of God.”
Huff acknowledged that during His time on earth, Jesus Himself was a “famous” person, adding that there’s “nothing wrong with being known.”
“[But] we’re not actually meant to get the glory,” she contended. “Jesus should be famous. He deserves the glory. We’re not created for glory. We’re created to give glory to our Creator.”
The soon-to-be-mother cited Matthew 16:24, where Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
She urged listeners to “stop following the pattern of this world” and instead “follow Jesus Christ.”
“I just want to say to y’all as a generation … I want us to stop that search [for fame] and just start following God because if we need anything after this year, we need a Savior,” she declared.
“We can’t save ourselves. We can’t put our hope in ourselves. We can’t put our faith in ourselves. You don’t want to do that because you know at the end of the day, you need something greater to put your hope in, something greater to put your faith in, something greater who can actually save you, who can actually give you hope beyond this world.”
A 2018report from the Pew Research Center found that even teens think they have a social media problem. According to the study, 60% of teens between the ages of 13 to 17 say that spending too much time online is a “major” problem facing their age group. More than half of teens (54%) say they spend too much time on their cellphones, and 41% say they overdo it on social media.
During the conference, evangelistChristine Cainealso weighed in on the dangers of social media, warning that many teens are more concerned about receiving a “blue check” — referring to the “verified” symbol on Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms — than undergoing a “heart check.”
“Christianity is not about a font or filter,” she said. “We think all the issues of life flow out of our social media feed. No, it comes out of the heart. How about we stop yearning for the blue check and we start allowing the Holy Spirit to do a deep heart check from the inside out?”
The annual Passion Conference, held virtually this year, is geared toward young adults between the ages of 18–25. Founded by Louie Giglio, the event aims to “glorify God by uniting students in worship, prayer and justice for spiritual awakening in this generation.”
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 1of 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.
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.
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?”
Christmas is the most wondrous day of our calendar in any year of our lives.
The bright lights, smells, and smiles discernible even to an infant quickly grow into a sense of hope, awe, and mystery as young boys and girls crane their necks on the car ride back from papa’s house to look out the window for a sign of that bright red nose in the sky. As time moves on, our hopes turn to the company of friends and family, and our awe to the sacred mysteries of God made man for our sake.
Our experience of Christmas changes as we grow older. While the fortunate ones spent childhood ignorant of the troubles between men and maybe even their own families, over the years our broken world comes into focus, and hopefully we come to understand that Christ came among us not to sing carols, but because we have gone astray.
This year has been America’s worst in a long while. We’ve seen our churches boarded up by those who think God merely a hobby. Our elderly have died alone under the orders of those who think it’s better for their health this way. Our livelihoods have been shattered, and even that fleeting innocence of childhood has been taken from masked boys and girls not allowed to go to school or play on public swings.
But for those children whose innocence is injured too early, Christmastime still can bring wonder. The smell of the tree and of mom making cookies fills many houses. Even for those in broken homes or those who don’t celebrate, Main Street and the park downtown are filled with bright lights, there are candles in windows, and sometimes still carolers and Christmas concerts in the road.
This year was a hard one. Many of my friends suffered more hardship than I, although loneliness and anger stalked us all. And since the moment Halloween ended and All Saints Day dawned, I’ve been excited for Christmas with what feels like the hope of a young child. Christmas, and all the traditions it welcomes.
Our best celebrations of the coming of our Lord swirl like a Christmas globe around nostalgia. It calls up the music our parents and grandparents played to ring in the season, special ornaments and decorations passed down through family, familiar hymns sung by millions before us, and those candles our ancestors lit to let Mary and Joseph know there is room in this home for the heavenly child.
When we’re older, we have to make the cookies our mothers once made, but with some written instructions, a bit of a mess and maybe a call home, it can be done. Family might be more spread out now, but if they are our friends and neighbors can fill our tables. And even if it’s been a hard, hard year, we can remember what this life is about, surrounded by the artifacts and traditions of generations past.
On Monday night, an older Hindu friend who’s had to work two jobs making less than he did in 2019 in order to not have to leave his adopted home told me he’d set up his Christmas tree too. “My children are American,” he said. “They love all the holidays.” We spoke of the lights, smells, and music in the air in December and January, and how they fill us with a warmth and sense of comfort much needed at the end of this year. “Soon,” he said, “it will be a new year.”
This year, let us remember the good times we’ve had and the good times to come. Even while saying goodbye to some too soon, we’ve also welcomed new lives into our families and among our friends.
Although for many there might be less under the tree or fewer at our table, our faith in God remains strong. And the songs, traditions, and tales passed down from those who celebrated Christmases past in trenches, basement shelters, empty homes, and sometimes without even a home, just as the Holy Family, can keep us warm wherever we find ourselves.
“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn,” the Gospel of Luke tells us. The child was indeed holy, the Son of God, and he saved his people from their sins. Merry Christmas.
ABOUT THE COMMENTATOR:
Christopher Bedford is a senior editor at The Federalist, the vice chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, a board member at the National Journalism Center, and the author of The Art of the Donald. Follow him on Twitter.
When radical Islamists murder Christians in Nigeria, the government lists their deaths as having other causes, according to new report released by Nigeria’sInternational 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.”
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.
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.
God’s miraculous provision keeps Chicago’s City of Refuge ministry in business, but the most important part of the ministry is the way it draws community groups together, founder Stephanie Marquardt said.
City of Refuge started in 2018 after Marquardt, her husband, Kurt, and Chicago West Bible Church Pastors Jon Kelly and Kent Steiner experienced a calling to minister in Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods, she told The Christian Post.
Marquardt started sports leagues to teach youth valuable life skills through sports. Before COVID-19, the program had over 1,000 students who were learning archery, baseball and basketball. Each team receives coaching from a police officer, a faith leader and a local nonprofit leader, she said.
Marquardt is also a devoted sports fan, often using metaphors from sports to talk about her work.
“What’s distinctive is that we follow what we call the three-legged stool,” she said. “It’s getting civic, sacred and secular parts of society to work together. I think that’s very biblical.”
The combined approach allows each group to use their strengths most effectively, she said. It also lets community leaders form relationships and work together.
The ministry rapidly expanded to the Chicago neighborhoods of Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Englewood and Roseland. These neighborhoods have some of the city’s highest murder rates, worst schools and highest poverty rates.
Marquardt said she funds her work entirely by prayer. She takes her inspiration from Christian leader George Müller, a 19th century Christian who ran an orphanage without asking the public for donations. Her ministry’s first big challenge was to get baseball uniforms for her program’s participants before she even knew the number of kids who would enroll in the program. She estimated the uniforms would cost $150,000. On a plane trip to Florida with her husband, Marquardt prayed and read Müller’s writings, she said. One of his statements stood out to her.
“ … in leaning upon the living God alone, we are beyond disappointment, and beyond being forsaken because of death, or want of means, or want of love, or because of the claims of other work,” the passage reads.
Soon after she got off the plane, she received a phone call from a Chicago sports charity called Good Sports, Marquardt said. She had sent them an application for funds three weeks before. At first, she thought they wanted her to buy something.
“No, we’re going to give you everything,” she remembers the group saying over the phone. “The only thing we can’t give you is size youth medium pants and bats.”
Good Sports told Marquardt they had to know how many uniforms she needed quickly, but she did not know at the time how many kids would join the program, she said. She estimated the numbers during her devotions the next day.
“I needed to get an order for kids I didn’t have,” she said. “And it was absolutely right.”
Sergeant Jermaine Harris, an officer of Chicago’s 15th Precinct, said the programs provided by City of Refuge have resulted in lower crime in Chicago’s neighborhoods.When parks are deserted, drug dealers and gang members use them. But when children and families play in a park, criminals stay away because they don’t want to commit crimes in public, he told The Christian Post.
“We choose a location or a site that’s a hot spot. We declare and really make it a safe space. The gangs understand [that] these are kids playing. When there are kids out there playing, you can relate and understand,” he said.
Playing with youth and relating to the community also encourages police officers. Police often face emotionally grueling calls about murder, abuse and humanity at its worst, Harris said. Seeing good things happen in their communities encourages them to face the worst, he added.
“In the nature of policing day to day, we would never have an opportunity to engage with a family or do something positive like this. No one calls the police to tell them good news,” Harris explained.
He also said he appreciates how City of Refuge emphasizes the resources Chicago’s most desperate neighborhoods already have and helps residents use them. When people join the program, they make friends and create networks that allow them to help themselves. In some cases, people in need have met neighbors they can borrow from through the program, he said.
“We start to put people as outcasts and it further drives the division. What we start to do as a society is act as if they’re not there. Constant avoidance is one of the reasons young people join gangs. The more they feel avoided, the more they want that camaraderie,” Harris said. “These kids have bright futures. All it takes sometimes is that person to say, ‘I see you.’”
COVID-19 and the unrest after George Floyd’s death have made it difficult to care for Chicago’s communities, Marquardt said.
In response to the virus, City of Refuge adapted by focusing on baseball so children could remain far apart and still play. Consistent hand sanitizer use also protected participants. To further meet the needs of youth, City of Refuge opened safe locations where students could meet to access computers and the internet to attend school online.
“In COVID, you feel like a wide receiver because you get the ball and you have to spin and stop and dodge and do things you don’t think your body can do. It’s changed everything,” she said.
After riots following Floyd’s death destroyed local grocery stores, City of Refuge partnered with megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel to provide food for the families involved with the nonprofit, Marquardt said. Once again, the money and help came after she prayed.
“I wish everybody had the chance to know these people. My life is so much richer from the relationships I’ve made. It isn’t City of Refuge and it isn’t me; it’s all the people working together. There’s miracle after miracle after miracle,” she said.
The percentage of North Korean citizens who are exposed to the Bible is steadily increasing every year despite extreme persecution, according to a new report that investigates and analyzes the conditions of religious freedom in the Hermit Kingdom.
The annual White Paper on Religious Freedom in North Korea from The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights found that the number of North Koreans who responded that “they have an experience of seeing the Bible” increased by 4% each year since 2000.
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.
Despite limited data, NKDB began its survey on religious persecution in 2007. For this year’s survey, the group collected information from 1,234 people and 1,411 cases of religious persecution. The latest report found that the number of respondents who testified on the ban of religious activities remained the same between 2007 and 2020.
When asked about the level of punishment for religious activities in the country, 46.7% of the respondents answered they have to go to prison camps. About 38.6% of respondents said that they did not know about punishments since they knew nothing about religion.
According to the Center, religious persecution has increased after leader Kim Jong Un issued an order in April 2014 to “arrest people who had contacts with Christianity.” Since then, security forces have actively searched for religious adherents — even in inner China. Employees of the National Security Department, Reconnaissance General Bureau, and the Embassy in China are mobilized to arrest people who have contacted Christianity, the report says.
The report also shared testimonies of several North Korean defectors. One defector who lives in South Korea recounted the story of an unidentified acquaintance who was killed for her Christian faith.
“When we were living [in North Korea], we did not know she was practicing religion. However, when I came back home, I heard she was killed,” the defector recounted.
“When I asked why she died, I was told she was arrested alone whereas the whole family left the town as they were practicing religion. I heard she was suffering and prayed until the point she died. She believed in Christianity. I heard she believed in God. She was investigated in the provincial political security department, and I heard they hit her until she shed excrement. I heard they dried her out to death as not giving her a drop of water. I heard she died after suffering like a dog.”
The NKDB report corroborates previous accounts of the religious freedom restrictions in North Korea, which is ranked as the worst persecutor of Christians in the world on Open Door USA’s World Watch List.
A recent report from the London-based Korea Future Initiative identified more than 200 Christians punished for crimes, including religious practice, religious activities in China, possessing religious items, contact with religious persons, attending a place of worship, and sharing religious beliefs. In several cases, prisoners found with a Bible or religious pamphlets were executed by a firing squad, while others were locked in electrified cages and fed watery soup. Others were executed for smuggling Bible pages into the country from China for North Koreans to make prayer books. In one instance, a victim found in possession of a Bible was publicly executed in front of over 1,000 people. The victim was tied to a wooden stake and executed by an MPS firing squad. One witness told KFI, “I saw the flesh fall off. That is how close I was.”
Torture techniques in North Korea
Another man, who had converted to Christianity, was allegedly forced into a metal cage that was just 3 feet high and 4 feet wide.
“There were steel bars on all four-sides that were heated with electricity,” he told KFI. “Usually prisoners lasted only three or four hours in the cage, but I sat there for 12 hours and prayed. I kept praying to God to save me.”
The man eventually soiled himself and passed out before being beaten by guards, leaving him with severe injuries.
Pastor Eric Foley of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, who is awaiting charges for launching Bible balloons into North Korea, said that despite the crackdown on religion, “God is finding ways to get Bibles into North Korea.”
“We’re amazed at the avenues He’s opening,” he said. “Please pray that continues. Pray that God is glorified.”
Christian leader facing charges for launching Bibles into North Korea asks for prayers
Pastor Eric Foley of Voice of the Martyrs Korea has asked the international community of believers to pray as he awaits charges for launching Bible balloons into North Korea. Last week, South Korean police recommended that prosecutors charge Foley, who has launched balloons carrying Bibles into North Korea for the last 15 years, on three counts, Mission Network News reports.
“One [count] is related to the violation of an inter-Korean exchange law. [This] is a law that regulates commerce between North and South Korea; anything you might be trying to sell from South Korea to North Korea would need to be pre-approved by the government,” Foley explained.
The second charge relates to national security. “These are laws designed for natural disaster management,” Foley said, “but now they’re being related to balloon launching with a charge that our activity created a national threat to Korea.”
Finally, “the third charge that will come out is one related to the use of high-pressure gas,” Foley added.
In June, South Korean police began cracking down on balloon launches following threats from North Korea. The announcement came after Kim Yo Jong — sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — said balloon senders were “human scum” and threatened to scrap a no-hostility military pact and shut down the North-South liaison office, among other threats.
Since then, Foley, who has been sending the Gospel to North Korea as part of a promise he made to underground North Korean Christians in 2003, has faced increasing harassment for his work. World Magazine reports that in addition to investigating Foley for his work, they have blocked the pastor’s car from reaching the launch site and placed the Voice of the Martyrs Korea leaders’ homes and office under surveillance.
This summer, the Ministry of Unification began investigating 89 groups that address North Korean human rights issues or provide aid to defectors. Three groups, VOM Korea included, have received most of the authorities’ attention.
In July, the Ministry of Unification revoked the nongovernmental organization’s status of the other two groups — Fighters for a Free North Korea and Kuen Saem — claiming they are “seriously hindering the unification policy of the government.”
“We are the only ones that do Bibles,” Foley told MNN. “The other two launchers do flyers that are primarily focused on news events, and too often can be a political commentary on the situation in North Korea because North Korean defectors run both those organizations.”
While two of the groups mentioned above face additional charges related to embezzlement and mismanagement of donations, “we’re not charged with anything related to donations or fraud,” Foley said.
“We’re making a testimony that Christian organizations are different than political organizations. We act differently. We show respect for authority; we follow a higher standard in our current accounting practices.”
Foley explained that police recommending the charges “guarantees” that he will be charged, adding: “it’s just a question of when. Could be tomorrow, could be next week, could be next month; we don’t know.”
“Our case asks, ‘[Should] launching Bible balloons, which has been legal up until this point in time, be considered illegal not just going forward, but related to past launches?” Foley said.
“For 15 years, we’ve had a good relationship with the authorities. We’ve had police, military, even the intelligence services present at all of our launches. This year in a couple of launches, I asked the police, ‘is this illegal?’ And the police responded, ‘well, no, you just can’t do it here in this location,’” he continued.
VOM Korea has so far sent 600,000 Bibles into North Korea by balloon and other methods. World Magazine notes that the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights found that in 2000, nearly 0% of North Koreans said they’d seen a Bible. However, just 16 years later, the number had risen to 8%.
As he awaits charges, Foley has asked Christians to pray that despite the crackdown, the Gospel will continue to reach those in the hermit kingdom, which is ranked as the worst persecutor of Christians in the world on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.
“The prayer that God will bring glory to His name is already being met; people see that there’s something different about Christians,” he said. “The other prayer is that God would use each of the Bibles that we have for His purpose.’
“God is finding ways to get Bibles into North Korea. We’re amazed at the avenues He’s opening. Please pray that continues. Pray that God is glorified.”
BELOW ARE ACTUAL PICTURES OF NORTH KOREA TORTURE USED ON CHRISTIANS
The North Korean official is bending the fingers backwards until they break.
In the aftermath of a tight election outcome, it seems that while many matters are important to consider, one is more pressing: We are struggling to love our neighbors.
We are not any more or less fallible than human beings in past generations. Humans are humans, capable of profound works of love, compassion, and ingenuity as well as malice, destruction, and banality. Yet in our current milieu, it appears our political divisions are as rancorous as they have ever been.
The problem could be the particular messages themselves — Lower marginal tax rates! Higher marginal tax rates! The Iran deal was bad! The Iran deal was good! Build the wall! Don’t build the wall! — and sometimes it is. More often, though, the issue is that the medium has become the message.
Interacting digitally is as consequential as the messages we are sharing. Our social media and meme-based interactions generally do not promote understanding. Rather, they facilitate misunderstanding and division because they are disembodied.
We all know the poison of online comments sections and the Twitter trolls and random Facebookers who say outrageous things. I am not the first and will not be the last to lament our digital connectedness ripping the national fabric.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
What can repair this breach? The answer is simple: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” As recorded in the gospels, Jesus gave this commandment to love others second only to the greatest commandment: to love God.
You might ask, what does it mean to love my neighbor? Are my neighbors only the people who live geographically proximate to me? Certainly not. A lawyer in the first-century world asked the itinerant teacher Jesus of Nazareth, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with a story many of us know as the Good Samaritan.
In the story, robbers severely beat and rob a Jewish man and leave him half dead on the side of the road. Two different members of the clergy walk by, indifferent to the man’s suffering. They choose not to see him. Eventually, a Samaritan, a rival ethnic group from the Israelites, stops to help the man. The Samaritan goes above and beyond to alleviate the man’s suffering by nursing his wounds and paying for his stay at a local inn.
People often understand the Good Samaritan story as a one-off “help a stranger in need” parable, but this view completely misses the point. If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, we must be able to see them. Usually, our neighbors won’t be literally beaten, lying by the roadside, and they usually will not be complete strangers. They will instead be all around us, daily intruding into our lives with their needs. They also will often be quite different from us, perhaps even offensively different, as the Israelite man was to the Samaritan and vice versa.
The two men who passed by the beaten man chose willful blindness, pretending to be oblivious to his needs. The Samaritan saw the beaten man as an embodied, physical presence whom he had means and opportunity to help. He chose to see the victim’s need and have compassion on him, someone toward whom the Samaritan was supposed to be indifferent.
Many of us have not learned or have forgotten the muscle memory of loving our neighbor. We have chosen the disembodied, emotive frenzy of cable news, Facebook, and Twitter to try to connect with the world around us. We choose to ride the vagaries of tragedy and controversy concerning events that are happening 100, 1,000, or 10,000 miles away that in most cases will have no discernible effect on our daily lives.
In doing so, we choose to look away from the people around us: the obnoxious co-worker who is desperately lonely, the single mom who could use a night off, or the materially wealthy person who, although he “has it all,” is starved for real human connection. Human beings already have a prodigious capacity for self-deceit. The added layers of self-righteousness that arise from spending countless hours in the self-referential algorithmic vortex of social media positively blind us.
If we were to focus on the needs of those around us and eschew our devices and the news cycle more and more, the world would shift under our feet in the best way. At the risk of sounding like a facile high school graduation speech, we could “change the world.”
Part of the problem in news and media consumption is that we have, to borrow a phrase from Minneapolis-based writer James Lileks, “non-contiguous information streams.” We are essentially able to consume the news that fits our worldview to such a degree that, after a while, the broad political camps in the United States only talk past one another and not to each other.
To combat this, we should spend less time on our devices because we are so focused on those around us and their needs that the emotional and psychic vacuum of the news cycle simply cannot get traction in our lives. This will do two things. First, it will make us more pleasant and happy.
Second, it will have the salutary market effect of winnowing the least skilled and worst motivated actors in news and media, forcing them out. As a result, we will be pushed toward increased consolidation in media, making it more difficult to retain an audience when alarmism or salacious pandering to partisans is the modus operandi. It is hardly a perfect solution, but is it worse than our current setup? I think not.
Be a Friend
Elections have consequences, to be sure. The result of a Biden administration or a parallel universe where Donald Trump won a second term, however, pales in comparison with the would-be effect of tens of millions of Americans choosing to reduce substantially their engagement with their mobile devices, social media, and the news cycle more generally.
Tens of millions of Americans choosing instead to focus their attention on the needs of those around them, even those we find distasteful? That is a country of which I want to be a part.
If you feel the particular burden of public engagement, start first and foremost with your local municipality or town, your local councilman or alderwoman, or your local school board. The needs of so many people are all around us if we choose to open our eyes and embrace the discomfort of engaging real people with real problems, a discomfort that can lead to deep contentment as we see and love our neighbors. Let us choose this discomfort over the dopamine hit of social media, and over the false god of memes, the news cycle, and an outrage machine that exists to stoke our fears.
When my children get on the school bus every day, my wife says to them, “Find a friend who needs a friend.” Absolutely no election result, from now until forever, changes the fact that people around you need a friend. Find a friend who needs a friend, and choose to love that neighbor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
John lives in St. Louis, writes in his free time, and has almost four children.
Commentary written several days after the November 3rd election:
There is a heaviness within my spirit today on behalf of our beloved nation. I’m sure I share that sentiment with many of you. In a sense, Shirley and I are also grieving over the potential passing of an era, during which I believe God gave America a spiritual reprieve. President Donald Trump was partially responsible for this crucial change of trajectory.
He isn’t a perfect man, and his relationship with the Lord is a very private matter. But he attempted during the first four years of his presidency to get acquainted with, to honor, and to learn from Christian leaders. He is very close to Rev. Franklin Graham, Dr. Robert Jeffress, Rev. Paula White, Dr. Jack Graham, former Governor Mike Huckabee, and at least 30 others, including myself. He once said while greeting us at a formal dinner, “This is your house. Welcome to it.” He then led us on a tour upstairs in the private residence.
Donald Trump is the first president to celebrate the National Day of Prayer (NDP) in the Rose Garden, which he did all four years of his presidency. President George W. Bush also took the NDP very seriously and held formal services in the East Room of the White House during his eight years in office. Shirley served as chairperson of NDP, and spoke at each event. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush also celebrated the National Day of Prayer during their terms in office. Neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama held NDP ceremonies at the White House.
Back to Donald Trump, he is the most pro-life president in American history. He is the only Chief Executive to have spoken at the March for Life, which is an annual remembrance of the millions of babies aborted since Roe v. Wade in 1973. One of Trump’s most significant decisions has been the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to be an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. She never wavered on her pro-life beliefs even during her contentious confirmation hearings.
People who know the President best tell us he is one of the most hard-working and dedicated men ever to serve in the Oval Office. We saw that indefatigable nature during his final campaign, when he once held nine rallies in two days. He is also remarkably resilient. The media and his political opponents hammered him every day for four years. There was never a respite. President Trump arose every morning knowing he would be unfairly ridiculed and attacked from morning to night. This criticism began before he was elected and continued throughout his presidency. Nevertheless, he stood like a rock and his list of accomplishments could fill a book. Yes, I admire Donald Trump. He is sometimes brash and aggressive. But as a New York entrepreneur and as a president under siege, he has had to be tough to deal with his challenges. But there is no doubt that he loves America and its people. Speaking personally, I will miss his presence on the national stage when he is no longer our President.
But by the way, we’re told that 81 percent of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump this year, while only 14 percent voted for the Biden ticket. I think I know why.
I won’t speculate on the voting controversy. If, however, American citizens have handed over the reins of power to the Biden/Harris ticket, it is important that we examine the platform on which they ran. Elections have consequences, as we know. The promises made in writing and on the campaign trail should disturb every conservative Christian. Let’s look first at the sanctity of human life.
Mr. Biden has told us emphatically that he will bring an open season on the unborn child. This is what LifeNews wrote about him.
– he will force Americans to fund abortions during his first week in office
– he will implement abortion on demand nationwide without any limits
– he will force Americans to fund Planned Parenthood, the biggest abortion provider1
– he will force Christians such as the Little Sisters of the Poor to fund abortions in [their] health insurance plans2
– and he will stack the courts with pro-abortion judges who would keep abortions legal for decades to come3
That should break the heart of every lover of God’s children. We, as American citizens, will be complicit in the deaths of millions. How can Joe Biden say he wants to be president of ALL the American people? What does he have to say to the half of us who vigorously oppose abortion on demand, paid for by taxpayers through nine months of pregnancy and perhaps beyond, in America and, by inference, in nations around the world? If Donald Trump has been the pro-life President, Joe Biden will be the radical abortion president from his inauguration forward. If Biden does become president, I will do what I can to oppose his pro-death policies every day he is in office.
Biden’s regime will also usher in other forms of moral depravity. For example, he recently suggested that kids as young as eight or ten years old should be able to undergo irreversible transsexual transformation. That’s what the man said! Kamala Harris, who may be our next vice president, said she wants this country to legalize all prostitution.4 What other moral outrage will come from this godless administration? Heaven only knows! Joe Biden and the Democrats also support open borders. So much for the wall! That means that people around the world will be invited to enter this country legally and take up permanent residence within it. From the day of their arrival, they will be entitled to free welfare, free legal services, free medical care, free education, and who knows what else. Millions of people must be out there thinking, “How can I get to that promised land?”
We have also been told to expect trillions of dollars to be spent for the foolishness of the Green New Deal, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the helm. That could bankrupt the nation. And can you imagine how Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will deal with hostile governments, including those in China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea? That is an international nightmare in the making.
The institution of the family will find no friends in the White House or in the halls of Congress. Taxes are likely to skyrocket for middle-class parents and others. We can also expect unprecedented assaults on religious liberty and churches could be stripped of Constitutional protection. Also at risk are our Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment, and other provisions within the U.S. Constitution. Democrats are talking about defunding the police and even the military. Radical change is about to descend on the nation. America is about to be over-run by the most leftist regime in history.
If that sounds discouraging and hopeless, we have to remember Who is in charge here. I believe the Almighty has had His hand of protection on this land since the days of its founding fathers. Our ancestors cried out to Him at Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Midway, and Normandy. I don’t believe He has forsaken us now. So how do we explain the predicament that confronts us? I don’t know. Millions of people have been praying about the outcome of this election because we knew it would have such profound moral and spiritual implications. But who can discern the mind of God?
I grappled with such matters in my book, When God Doesn’t Make Sense. I wrote one morning after pacing back and forth in my study, “We must never forget that He is God. He is majestic and holy and sovereign. He is accountable to no one. He is not an errand boy who chases the assignments we dole out. He is not a genie who pops out of the bottle to satisfy our whims. He is not our servant—we are His. And our reason for existence is to glorify and honor Him . . . even when nothing makes sense. I then heard Him say, ‘Trust Me.'”
And trust we shall. Still, we ask, “Why did this election come tantalizingly close to a victory for life and morality, only to end tragically?” Could it be because America has abandoned its moral convictions? I wrote in my general letter several months ago that our popular culture has become utterly wicked. If that is accurate, how could a nation murder 62 million babies, fresh from the hand of the Creator, without expecting judgment to fall upon them? Clearly, we stand guilty before Him.
If this explains the disaster that has now befallen this great nation, there is only one biblical response. It is repentance. It is for us to kneel humbly before our righteous and all-seeing God and beg for forgiveness, both corporately and individually. That alone will save us.
We may have lost this election battle when it comes to the policies that matter most to us. Yet, the culture war rages on, and the gospel message of Jesus Christ is our banner and greatest hope. This is why we do what we do at the Dobson Family Institute. Faith and family remain the mission, and our conviction has never been more ardent. We are ambassadors for Christ, and we still have work to do. Are you with us?
Let us pray:
Lord, this is my prayer for my nation. Forgive us for our profound sinfulness, our arrogance, our pride, and our hands that have shed innocent blood. Restore our marriages and our churches. Bring a spirit of renewal and revival across this land. And Lord, in Thy wrath, remember mercy.
Amen and Amen.
P.S. To help remind us of the eternal hope that only comes from our Savior God, I want to share the text of a sermon aired nationally a few days before the election. It was delivered by my friend, Dr. Jack Graham. He is pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. He explains that America, like Israel, has forgotten God, and our only chance for survival is to cry out to the Lord. I couldn’t agree more, and I hope you will read the enclosed message carefully. Dr. Graham based it on Psalm 80, which was written after northern Israel had been defeated horribly by the Assyrians. We will find solace and direction therein.
This letter may be reproduced without change and in its entirety for non-commercial and non-political purposes without prior permission from Family Talk. Copyright, 2020 Family Talk. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Printed in the U.S. Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk is not affiliated with Focus on the Family.
Public health officials in Los Angeles have lifted all outbreak-related requirements and restrictions on Grace Community Church, which were put in place last month after three cases connected to the California church were confirmed.
“We are glad to announce that we received a notice from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health … saying that we have been cleared of COVID-19 outbreak,” the church says on its website.
L.A. County requires places of worship to report to the Public Health Department when there are at least three COVID-19 cases within a span of two weeks, after which the agency determines whether there is an outbreak.
“After a thorough investigation, Public Health officials have decided to rescind all outbreak-related requirements and restrictions on Grace Community Church,” the church, led by Pastor John MacArthur, said.
“Praise the Lord for His blessings and perfect provision. Thank you, Pastor John, for your example as you have walked this road,” a church member, Matt Mckinney, wrote on Grace Community’s Facebook page. “Your humble and unwavering strength, anchored in your trust of the Lord’s sovereignty to work this out to the counsel of His own will, for His own purposes and glory, are such an encouragement. Blessings my brother.”
Thousands of people have been attending the Sun Valley, California, church after it reopened in the summer despite restrictions on indoor worship services during the coronavirus pandemic. MacArthur and elders of the church said it was the church’s biblical duty to remain open and that they would not disobey “our Lord’s clear commands.”
The church has also argued that in the many months it’s been open, no one had been hospitalized with the disease.
In response to the three confirmed cases last month, Jenna Ellis, attorney for the church, said it was not an “outbreak,” given the more than 7,000 people who attend.
“It has never been the church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that LA County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion,”she said.
Indoor worship services are currently banned in Los Angeles County, which has a Tier 1 status (when COVID-19 is “widespread“). Congregations are only allowed to meet outdoors with certain restrictions.
Grace Community Church and Pastor MacArthur have been in a legal battle with the county over the restrictions.
“They don’t want us to meet, that’s obvious,”MacArthur said after the county secured a stay of the trial court ruling in August that would have allowed the congregation to meet indoors with masks and social distancing.
“They’re not willing to work with us. They just want to shut us down. But we’re here to bring honor to the Lord.”
MacArthur said he didn’t know “exactly what the city is trying to do with us and to us,” and clarified that the indoor service was not aimed at being “rebellious.” “We’re meeting because our Lord has commanded us to come together and worship Him.”
The church’s attorneys argued that the county’s demands to comply with COVID-19 restrictions were unreasonable. The church offered to have the congregation comply with mask-wearing and social distancing indoors until the matter could be fully heard.
At the start of the pandemic earlier this year, Grace Community Church initially moved to a livestream model and closed down in-person services. But within a few weeks, MacArthur said parishioners started showing up again. They decided to restart in-person worship services, with church leaders saying that the government did not have the authority to stop them from gathering.
While parents in general believe institutions serve their children well, many are worried the majority, like churches and schools, have been serving their daughters better than their sons under norms of gender equality, new research suggests. And the only institutions where at least white parents believe boys are served slightly better are sports and other clubs.
Data from the 2020 American Family Survey, released in September, show that a striking minority, just 36%, of parents believe churches are serving their sons well. This share is almost equal to the 33% who say the same about how the criminal justice system is serving their sons. A minority of parents also believe churches are serving their daughters well but that number is five percentage points higher at 41%.
Daughters were also shown as being better served by every other institution highlighted in the survey, including the education system and friend networks. The only exceptions were sports and other clubs, which some 42% of particularly white parents believe are serving their sons well compared to 37% who say the same about how they serve their daughters.
The latest American Family Survey, was conducted between July 3 and July 14 in a partnership between the Deseret News and Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. The study explored several areas of family life, including relationships, economics, politics, health and culture. Market research and data analytics firm YouGov interviewed 3,251 respondents who were then matched down to a sample of 3,000 to produce a final dataset reflective of a sampling frame based on gender, age, race and education.
Jeremy C. Pope, co-director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and one of the lead investigators on the survey, told The Christian Post that he was particularly surprised by how poorly parents rated the church in serving their children, especially their sons.
“My first reaction to that institutions data was I was surprised churches didn’t do so well. I didn’t really think about this deeply ahead of time but I thought that churches would do a little bit better than they did,” he said.
“I was not surprised that the criminal justice system was low but to be honest, churches are kind of in there with the criminal justice system and that surprised me. In future years, we want to follow up on that because it suggests a bit of dissatisfaction in how churches in particular are serving sons.”
Pope, who is a father of three daughters, said he was also struck by the data showing almost all of the institutions underserving boys and he believes the push for gender equality could be “blinding us to problems with boys.”
“It’s striking to me that daughters tend to be served better by virtually all the institutions except for sports or other clubs and it is also striking to me that friend networks, which you wouldn’t necessarily think is fantastic, dramatically outperforming churches in terms of satisfaction with how it’s serving their kids,” he noted.
“I think within the norm of gender equality, that may be blinding us to problems with boys and problems facing boys that the public knows are out there but is sometimes reluctant to talk about because nobody wants to favor boys over girls.”
Pope further argued that what the data reveals is an increasing concern about the well-being of boys and he doesn’t believe the concern is misplaced.
“I have three daughters. I don’t worry a ton about them. They are great young women,” he said.
“The thing that I think this survey highlights this year about gender is that increasingly I see signs that society is concerned about boys. I have a feeling that that concern is not misplaced. I think we should be concerned about how our sons are doing, what their prospects are in life. And it probably means that parents and maybe more as a society [need to think] about what it is we need to do to make the environment for sons hospitable to them, helpful, what sort of skills do they need to acquire? What sort of expectations should we be setting for them because it does look to me that there is some sort of dissatisfaction out there with how our sons as a society are growing up.”
The largest disparity between how parents believe institutions serve their sons and daughters was reflected in the education system where 63% of parents said it served their daughters well but only 55% said the same about their sons.
A small experiment
Pope and his colleagues noted in their report on the survey that to gauge the overall concern about boys and girls among respondents, they conducted an experiment where some were questioned only about their worries over girls, while others were asked about boys. Another group of respondents were asked about both boys and girls.
Parents who were only asked to think about their worries about girls responded with concern only 30% of the time. The group asked about both girls and boys responded with concern almost equally — 35% for girls and 36% for boys.
When respondents were asked only about boys, however, the level of concern shot up to 45%.
“This experiment highlights something key about society and it is a topic we plan to follow up on in future years. When the public is simply asked about boys and girls they tend to follow an ethic of equality. They will claim to have similar levels of worry about both genders. However, when only asked about girls the percentage of the public with concerns shrinks a bit and when only asked about boys the percentage of the public with concerns grows substantially,” the report on the survey said.
“What is the best way to characterize these results? Are people concealing concerns when asked about boys or girls? We doubt it. Our assumption would be that each of the responses is genuine it’s just that people do harbor some latent concerns about boys that come out when asked the question in a slightly different way. There is, probably, more concern about boys and young men in our current society but it can be masked by norms of gender equality,” the report added.
Michael Gurian, a social philosopher, family therapist and corporate consultant, called the AFS findings “absolutely accurate” in an interview with CP.
As a social philosopher, Gurian pioneered efforts to bring neurobiology and brain research into homes, schools, corporations and public policy. He has provided information on the educational needs of boys and girls to the White House and briefed members of the 114th Congress on the boy crisis in America.
“We’ve found this for more than 30 years. These findings are absolutely accurate and would corroborate what a number of us have been looking at for decades,” Gurian said.
He explained that systems in institutions like schools and churches reflect the overwhelming influence of women who populate them.
“These systems are set up more toward female brains in a number of ways. One is to a great extent they are populated by females. The women are great people but they think like women,” Gurian said, noting that training, which his institute has done successfully overtime, has helped address these disparities in both schools and churches.
“Without training, they (female teachers) walk into systems and their behavioral expectations for boys. When you add on boys of color, black and brown boys, then that’s a different data set; … the stats are even worse than for white boys. Even when you take race out of it and [look at] just boys, it’s kind of grim,” he explained.
“Not that they’re malicious, it’s just that they are women who think like women and teach to the behavioral academic and even spiritual expectations of females and so it’s kind of gradual, taking place over a period of decades. Of course, 100 years ago, churches and schools were much more male so we wouldn’t make this argument but in the last number of decades,” a transition has happened, he said.
While the AFS data reflect a frustration parents have with the way institutions have been underserving their sons, the Gurian Institute has successfully help hundreds of schools, churches and other institutions address the disparity with many success stories on their website.
“Since we began this program a year ago, Oak Hill School has seen positive improvements in academic achievement and school culture, and with increased teacher effectiveness and student engagement,” wrote Peter M. Schroeder, a principal at Oak Hill School in Missouri, 2019. “We believe that being designated a ‘Gurian Model School’ will help us maintain our competitive edge in the St. Louis marketplace as an independent, Catholic school. Our work with the Gurian Institute has helped us adapt our already powerful teaching model to provide excellence in our academic program-for both girls and boys.”
Gurian said, “For those people who say ‘well, we know there’s this problem but nothing is happening,’ what I always say is there are organizations that solve this problem. The schools that use the Gurian Institute’s research framework, they have solved this problem. They don’t have these issues anymore. So it’s really important to say to people that solutions exist. And if they are feeling paralyzed, they don’t have to feel paralyzed.”
David Murrow, who started Church for Men, an organization that helps congregations reconnect with men and boys, in 2005 around the same time he released his book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, believes the key to help churches better respond to the needs of boys and men could lie in the creation of more gender neutral churches.
“I hear stories all the time from churches that buy 10, 15 copies of the book for their elders and leaders and there are a lot of churches that are implementing more man-friendly programming, boy-friendly things for young men. I think one of the secrets to the growth of the megachurches has been their ability to gender neutralize their worship spaces and create an environment where men walk in and feel like this is something for them and not just something for their grandmother,” Murrow told CP.
“The typical church in America is about 80 to 90 people. It’s what I call a grandma church. There is a lot of older members and the ladies of the church decorate the sanctuary with quilts and flowers and ribbons and lace doilies and the Sunday school rooms look like something out of a kindergarten classroom,” he explained.
“They’ve got construction paper and yarn. It’s a very feminine space that they create and there’s a lot of talk of nurture and relationships. And then the ministry opportunities, the volunteer opportunities typically revolve around female roles — caring for the sick, preparing meals for potluck dinners.
“The whole enterprise is pitched towards a middle-aged or older woman with an empty nest who wants to spend time with kids. So men, particularly young men, come into those little family churches, they see the décor, they see the opportunities and they find nothing for themselves. One of the things the megachurches did is they intentionally focused on young men and particularly these would be men with young families,” Murrow said.
Warren reportedly designed his church based on his own door-to-door survey of 500 residents. He found that his target audience was “Saddleback Sam,” a prototypical yuppie who believes in God but has not attended church since childhood. The “Sams” told him they weren’t going to church because sermons were boring, people were aloof, childcare was a problem and pastors were too interested in money.
“They had a mythical parishioner named Saddleback Sam. I mean they went straight for this guy. He was a guy who represented all the values of Southern California — he’s overextended in time and credit. God is OK but he’s not interested in church or religion,” Murrow said.
Willow Creek’s target was a “mythical parishioner named Unchurched Harry,” Murrow noted.
“They were focusing on that guy because they realized something. When you attract the man of the family you tend to get the rest of the family on the deal. And so they made their churches not macho, they didn’t turn their church into a monster truck rally or anything like that. All they had to do was sort of take out the cues that were saying to men this is something for your wife and kids and really engage the men on a heart level,” he said. “And then growth took care of itself and that’s really been the secret of the megachurches. It’s their ability to attract and retain men and in the process retain the entire family.”
Of the estimated 344,894 churches in the United States, only about 1,750 of them are classified as megachurches with 2,000 or more members.
Murrow said about 15 years ago, his own church in Alaska got rid of the old model of Sunday School and rebranded it Adventure Land in an approach that involves more movement with male teachers leading boys and female teachers leading girls and they have seen a lot of success.
“This model has been very successful in reaching young men. The tragedy comes when we move into junior high and high school ministry,” he said, which involves a lot of singing to Jesus, which boys don’t like.
The power of fathers
Citing research such as The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland, which reviewed the results of a 1994 survey of Swiss religious practice, Murrow also argued that the most effective way for parents to lead the spiritual life of their children is through their own personal witness. The study also highlighted the outsized influence of a father in the transference of faith to the next generation.
In that study, for families where neither parent attended church, only 4% of their children ended up attending church regularly. Some 15% went on to become irregular attendees while more than 80% did not attend at all.
When the mother attended church in families but the father did not, some 2% went on to attend church regularly, 37% attended irregularly and 61% not at all. When both parents attended church regularly, 33% of their children when on to do the same regularly, 41% irregularly and 26% did not attend at all.
In homes where the father was a regular church attendee and the mother’s attendance was irregular, the study found that 38% of the children went on to regularly attend church, 44% attended irregularly and 18% did not attend at all. The results showed that fathers who attend church more faithfully influences more faithful church attendance in their children.
“There is really nothing to compare with it. We can have all the youth groups, the retreats, … the praise and worship extravaganzas and all those things help,” Murrow said. ”But the one thing that towers above all other factors in a child’s decision to follow Christ as a young adult is whether his father was following Christ. And so that would be the most effective thing a church could do is to equip fathers to be witnesses to their children.”
He urged believers who are concerned about the way their church is serving their sons to try to engage their leaders under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as conversations about these issues can be delicate.
“I read the book and I was so challenged by it that I invited David to Arizona to speak,” he told CP.
“He spoke for eight minutes and he was holding eggs in his hand. And his sermon was about boys and the disconnect of boys from the faith. And he kept dropping eggs and he said ‘now in the eight minutes I’ve been speaking, these eggs represent the number of boys who left the church.’ And so I did some quick research and found that the statistic is anywhere from 70 to 90% of all boys who leave the Christian church in their teens and 20s and most won’t come back and that really got my attention,” he said.
He eventually learned about Gurian and his use of brain science research to talk about boys and girls and how they learn.
“I hired him as a consultant and we became such good friends that we moved away from a consulting relationship and we became partners in creating different products for people,” he explained.
He argued that society needs to stop functioning as if girls are still behind educationally. While that may have been the case decades ago, Wright said, it is no longer true.
“Back in the 1960s we recognized educationally that our girls were behind our boys in part because of the feminist movement, in part because we were looking over all these different experiences with our daughters and seeing them fall behind. The whole country, metaphorically speaking, came together and said ‘we’ve gotta fight for our girls and get them caught up in school.’ The federal government at that time committed $100 million to helping our girls get caught up,” he explained.
“And here’s what happened. The great news — I raised a daughter, I’ve got two granddaughters; I’m all pro-girls and we want to make that clear and Michael had two daughters — in 1982, girls not only caught up to boys but they flew right by them. And now in 2020 our boys are behind and they are behind significantly our girls in every area of education from pre-school to graduate school,” except for perhaps STEM, Wright noted.
“The problem is that we still think culturally, we have so ingrained in us that our girls are behind … that when they caught up and passed boys we still live with the old story that our girls are behind, our boys are OK. And because of that, we tend not to see our boys. They become invisible,” he said.
“The challenge in terms of advocating for boys is we still sort of believe boys are doing OK when they are not. They are dramatically behind, not just in education but they are falling behind emotionally. They are falling behind economically. In almost every area of life, boys and men are doing worse,” Wright added.
Pointing to the disparities in how girls and boys are being served by institutions in the AFS research, Wright said he believes it’s this disconnect that, for example, is causing families to rank sports clubs as better institutions for boys over churches.
“We have gone far more to the female brain than the male brain in our churches, in our schools and that’s why sports are doing so well. And really, sports have become the new religion for men and for boys. I see that in my own family with my son and his kids. They are far more engaged with sports than they are with church because sports is movement, it’s teamwork oftentimes, but it’s also character building,” he said.
“It’s not always ‘aww, you’re just great because you’re great.’ It’s ‘hey, that was a great play, you missed that one; you let the team down’ and it starts to forge character,” he explained.
“We’re afraid of that for some reason. And what’s happening now is our boys tune out from things like school or church and if they don’t have good men or even good women who are both building up their character and calling them out when they’re not being boys of character, the boys sort of just check out or they make it up on their own.
“Most of our culture will never say this but increasingly in a world where feminine values have become the benchmark, boys and men are feeling left out. We can’t articulate our feelings the same way and if we want to articulate our feelings, they are not the right kinds of feelings.”
When asked what would happen if churches and schools were able to collectively make the cultural shift to better serve men and boys, Murrow said he believes it could be seismic.
“A lot of the dysfunction in our culture comes from poorly socialized men. There are more men in jails, men are more likely to commit suicide, more likely to commit crimes and this is not just the United States, this is the world over. And this goes back to thousands of years. The great question of every society is how do we socialize and harness the power of men to social good and not toward mayhem,” he told CP.
“My background is in anthropology so the first thing they teach you is the whole purpose of society is to socialize men. So if we had a church and we had schools that were more successful in engaging men, I think the result would be a kinder, more loving society. It would be a fairer society and it would be … a lot less family distress, way fewer men falling through the cracks,” he said, noting that women would also be able to find more suitable men to marry.
“Study after study shows that when men embrace religion in general, they tend to be more kind and considerate. They are less likely to gamble and drink to excess. A host of anti-social and negative behaviors fall away when they become engaged in the church and that’s the sociological reason for creating an environment where men and boys feel more welcome. And they feel like it’s something for them and not just something for women.”
On Election Night, I was crowded around the television with a dozen college friends in a tiny apartment above our government professor’s house. The Virginia night air seeping through the window was rescuing the feeble air conditioning unit and someone had propped up the three-legged TV with a handful of textbooks. Everyone watched the colorful maps on TV flip colors and we good-naturedly heckled CNN hosts who had been talking nonstop for the better part of two hours.
When Trump started gaining votes in Pennsylvania, everyone glanced at the three Pennsylvanians in the room. “All the Republicans just got off work,” said one, a pastor’s son from Pittsburgh. We all laughed.
But his joke stuck with me. I imagined that amorphous group of Pennsylvania Republicans going about their days, serving customers, trading smiles, clattering dinner plates in the kitchen. They would vote proudly and then they would move on with their daily responsibilities to the people around them.
I can’t say for sure if those Norman Rockwell-esque voters in rural Pennsylvania exist the way I imagined, but I have been inspired and convicted by their imaginary example following the election. They cheerfully did their civic duty, and they went about their day. They didn’t drop the responsibilities and joys around them to hang all hope of salvation on a presidential candidate.
As Christians, that’s how we should approach the electoral process — both before and after the results are announced. We should be educated and enthusiastically involved in our governing authority. We should surely fight to protect our families, our right to worship, and the rights of those who cannot defend themselves. But at the end of the day, we do all we can and then leave the results in eternal hands.
We preach that Christ alone is the hope of our salvation. But how graciously we handle the results of this election will show those around us whether we mean it.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be rightly concerned about protecting the electoral process where there is evidence of voter fraud. It also doesn’t mean we should give up being politically involved or holding our elected officials accountable for their words and actions. Advocating for liberty and justice in the civic process is a legitimate and necessary calling.
But it does mean we have an excellent opportunity to live out our faith by remembering that we trust in something greater than elections. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation,” the psalmist says. “Blessed is he whose hope in is the Lord his God.”
Because our hope is not in this world, we have no reason to be fearful. We may be disappointed and should be aware of policies that threaten our ability to live as we have been called. Yet we have no need to feel afraid, distraught, or betrayed. Any earthly idol would betray our trust.
It is because we hope in an eternal savior that we joyfully continue our daily lives. We don’t need a week off of classes or work to mourn an election. Our daily joys have suffered no loss of meaning. We continue to enjoy fellowship with other members of the body of Christ. We keep going to work and serving those around us. We go on cooking dinner and enjoying it around the family dinner table. And we remain completely fulfilled by the daily grace of God. Because of our faith, we know that politics isn’t everything (and thank God it isn’t). Our lives shouldn’t revolve around who sits in the Oval Office.
After all, the whole concept of government is merely a means to enable people to live well in community with each other. We cannot let the means become the end. Instead, we should continue to live full and fruitful lives with the people placed around us. Furthermore, watching other reactions to election results reminds us how dangerous and disappointing it is to place our trust in fallen human beings.
Avideo of a woman screaming uncontrollably at Trump’s inauguration in 2016 became a meme because it captured the disconsolate reaction to Trump’s victory by some of his opponents. “I’m so sorry to my world,” the woman sobbed. “There’s so much potential for beauty and for devastation in this one moment, it’s just almost incomprehensible that they can exist right now.”
Other Clinton supportersreminisced a full year after Trump’s election about how devastated they were by his victory. “It kind of just hit you,” said Trent Vanegas, explaining how he broke down in tears when the 2016 election results were announced. “One moment, there’s hope and the next moment it’s complete despair.” Another Clinton voter expressed fear that he and his wife would have to raise their newborn child under a Trump presidency.
Even the positive reactions to Biden’s apparent victory show an obsessive and unhealthy faith in political power. Members of the media literally wept on television when they called the race for Biden. “I don’t know why I’m crying so much,” MSNBC contributor and former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill said. “I keep crying, I’m going to cry now.”
“I’m very emotional,” CNN’s Don Lemon said. “So when you ask me how I’m feeling right now, I’m sorry, that’s all I can tell you.” CNN’s Van Jones repeatedly wiped his eyes with a tissue on camera.
And then therewas Stephen Colbert on Thursday night, in what was supposed to be a comedy routine. Because of Trump, “I’m not sitting down yet, I just don’t feel like it yet,” Colbert said. “I’m also dressed for a funeral, because Donald Trump tried really hard to kill something tonight.”
Two minutes into the show and without having told a single joke, Colbert hung his head and just stood awkwardly in silence. “What I didn’t know is that it would hurt so much,” he finally added. “I didn’t expect this to break my heart, for him to cast a dark shadow on our most sacred right.”
Comedian Marc Maron led off hispodcast on Monday — after about 30 seconds straight of profanity — by proclaiming “the weight has been lifted…I don’t know that people really fully understand the power, the symbolic power of the head of state that determines on some level how grounded people feel in the country.”
“We just barely f—ing avoided real fascism, people,” he added, before calling Trump supporters “brainf—ed, brainwashed people or just people who believe that fascism is the way to go.”
Watching these reactions, we should not make a mockery of their joy or sorrow. We should, however, be inspired to share the promise that we have. After all, we are blessed with the confidence that politics is not our final hope. And we are called to live accordingly.
Elle Reynolds is an intern at the Federalist, and a senior at Patrick Henry College studying government and journalism. You can follow her work on Twitter at @_etreynolds.
Legal Insurrection went live on October 12, 2008, originally at Google Blogger. We hit our one-millionth visit about 11.5 months later, our second million a few months after that, and since then readership and linkage from major websites have grown drama
American Family Association
American Family Association (AFA), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1977 by Donald E. Wildmon, who was the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, at the time. Since 1977, AFA has been on the frontlines of Ame
Legal Insurrection went live on October 12, 2008, originally at Google Blogger. We hit our one-millionth visit about 11.5 months later, our second million a few months after that, and since then readership and linkage from major websites have grown drama
Legal Insurrection went live on October 12, 2008, originally at Google Blogger. We hit our one-millionth visit about 11.5 months later, our second million a few months after that, and since then readership and linkage from major websites have grown drama
Legal Insurrection went live on October 12, 2008, originally at Google Blogger. We hit our one-millionth visit about 11.5 months later, our second million a few months after that, and since then readership and linkage from major websites have grown drama
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American Family Association
American Family Association (AFA), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1977 by Donald E. Wildmon, who was the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, at the time. Since 1977, AFA has been on the frontlines of Ame
Legal Insurrection went live on October 12, 2008, originally at Google Blogger. We hit our one-millionth visit about 11.5 months later, our second million a few months after that, and since then readership and linkage from major websites have grown drama
American Family Association
American Family Association (AFA), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1977 by Donald E. Wildmon, who was the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, at the time. Since 1977, AFA has been on the frontlines of Ame
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American Family Association
American Family Association (AFA), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1977 by Donald E. Wildmon, who was the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, at the time. Since 1977, AFA has been on the frontlines of Ame
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Legal Insurrection went live on October 12, 2008, originally at Google Blogger. We hit our one-millionth visit about 11.5 months later, our second million a few months after that, and since then readership and linkage from major websites have grown drama
American Family Association
American Family Association (AFA), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1977 by Donald E. Wildmon, who was the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, at the time. Since 1977, AFA has been on the frontlines of Ame
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