Author archives: Christopher Marlink

Millennials and the Future of Christian Political Engagement

by Christopher Marlink

September 25, 2012

photo credit: Joe SundeLast weekend I had the pleasure of playing something like the intellectual equivalent of John Stockton to a panel of young, evangelical Karl Malones. Our discussion on the millennial generation and the future of political engagement was wide ranging and included everything from the history of Church and state, to the offering mercy in the so called culture war.

Unfortunately, the audio recording of panel discussion isnt great, so in addition to the recording, youll find the panelists remarks transcribed below.

You can read more from Matt Anderson and Andrew Walker at MereOrthodoxy.com, Owen Strachan blogs at OwenStrachan.com , and Eric Teetsel is the man pulling the levers over at Manhattan Declaration.

Alley-oop.

[photo cred goes to the great Joe Sunde]

Listen to the panel audio here.

After reading or listening to the discussion, what question or topic would you like to see unpacked a bit more?

Where did you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with the panelists responses?

[Transcript below]

Chris Marlink: Glad youre all here. Hey everybody, my name is Chris Marlink, and I serve as the social media manager for the Family Research Council. Let me just welcome you on behalf of the panelists here and our organization. Its great to have you here for this discussion about millennials and the future of political engagement. If this is not the room or the lecture you were thinking you were going to attend, the door is now locked (laughter). Ok, like I said were here to discuss millennials wich is gen y, people approximately from the age of 18 to 30ish and the future of political engagement. Many of you are in that demographic, many more are not which is fantastic, I think its going to be a lively discussion. Were going to skip biographies for our speakers and our panelists as illustrious as they are were going to try to get right into some questions.

But on my extreme left theres Mr. Andrew Walker, Eric Teetsel, Dr. Owen Strachan, and Matt Anderson. Yes, I think thats fine. And then we got our student panelists, Anna Marie Hoffman, Gabby Hoffman, and Jase Sayre. Thank you all for being here.

Alright. So lets uh before we begin Im just going to provide a little bit of context for our discussion. As I see it millennials who are engaged or thinking about politics, um are caught in the middle of two disparate poles. On the one hand, you have what Ill call political triumphalism. So people who um, who think that politics is the answer. If only candidate X gets elected then were going to have a living wage, the oceans will stop rising, etc. On the other side you have candidate Y, and if only candidate Y gets elected, well have a conservative Supreme Court, and it will set the nation aright. So it cuts both ways, both liberal and conservative. On the other poll, you have what were gonna call the neo-pietists. These are the folks that you hear say well Dont politicize the faith this is not a partisan, you know, our faith is not partisan. Uh, they want to focus more on things like social justice, creation, care, uh, stewardship, those types of things. Now, uh, obviously, theres a lot of variance between these two polls. Thats why theyre poles, but most of us you know live kind of in the middle. To add one more kind of dynamic to this, I think that, theres a lot of increasingly prominent, and perhaps its a sort of collaboration effort, um, folks within the church, young people in particular, and media voices who are suggesting that millennials, young people, are leaving the church because the church is becoming too political or too partisan and only focusing on political hot button issues, abortion, homosexuality, marriage, etc. So thats the kind of the lay of the land and what were going to talk about in this panel discussion.

Jumping right in. Im gonna kick it over to Dr. Owen Strachan. Were going to talk a little bit about our mutual friend Jonathan Merritt and Rachel Held Evans, and those who are suggesting that this dynamic of the church being too political is a new phenomenon and thats why young people are leaving the church. So Owen why dont you provide, tell people in this room, you are a professor of church history, thats your background, talk a little bit about that dynamic of the church and state, and is it a new phenomenon or not?

Owen Strachan: Well thats a huge question, and a very good one. Basically, if youre looking at Christian history, I think you have abundant examples of Christians who have contributed to the faith, contributed to the culture in very meaningful ways, so the term political is obviously one that you have to define. What do you mean by political? Do you mean holding an office, advocating for change in that way, do you mean working as a citizen in some way and therefore seeing the passage of a law, you know, the term has to be defined. But none the less we have abundant examples of Christians in history who have achieved significant political victories. So things like in the 18th century, William Wilberforce, who works for 20 years, 20 plus years to see the first bill that would outlaw the slave trade in 1807. It is passed, right, in Great Britain. And then, in 1833, the final abolition of all slavery in the British Empire. So thats a major example of a Christian who accomplishes something huge. In the same century you have whats called the benevolent empire in America right, so Christians were not sitting on their hands simply thinking they were faithful if they never did anything except go to church or something like this. Christians were very much going to church, basically everybody was going to church, of one kind or another, but they were working for all kinds of causes, myriad causes: temperance, abolition, the spread of the gospels, hospitals, all kinds of things. So theres this rich abundant American tradition of being involved in the polis— in the American state in all kinds of ways. I think the crucial thing that we should keep in mind is that many of these Christians knew they were first citizens of the kingdom of God, playing off of Augustines language from the fourth and fifth centuries. They knew they were first citizens of the city of god, the Kingdom of God, but they knew that that didnt mean that they were to exempt themselves from any involvement in the city of man. So I think theres some really good illustrations of that. In the 20th century, how could we forget a figure like Martin Luther King, Jr. whose protestant convictions deeply inform everything he does. I was talking with the atheists presenting outside, uh protesting this very gathering outside, right, and I was running early today, and I thought Ill just talk to them and see what they say. They had the signs that said, Atheism is good, religion is bad, I said What do you think of Christopher Hitchins saying religion poisons everything? And the guy said, and I had a good conversation with him, and he seemed likeable enough, but he said, I agree completely. So he took the bait. (Laughter) So I said, What aboutMLK, Jr. like I just said, you know, ending, or working significantly to end racial injustice in America, And he said, and at that point things got a little trickier, and uh these two people basically tried to say thatMLK, Jr was a humanist who used Christian language, an atheist who used Christian language to accomplish his purpose. So in other words, you have to fundamentally heres my closing statement you have to fundamentally redefine American history—and so many of the gains we have made, gains that not just Christians would agree with, all of us would say are good gains, us if you want to take Christianity out of politics.

Chris: Excellent. Following up on that, down to the far left politically the far right. (Laughter) Andrew. You wrote a little while ago, for better or worse, our faith has political fallout. Pastor Doug Wilson recently wrote that our faith is inextricably political but explicitly non-partisan. So how do you think that Christians should respond to this charge of partisanship? How can young people in particular maintain their integrity in the political arena, as Owen said, as citizens of heaven but also citizens of the United States?

Andrew: Yea, theres several layers and dimensions to that. But first off, when I said that our Christian faith has political fallout, that stems from this idea that when you, when you see this in Acts, when the first Apostles were confessing Christ as lord, that confession disrupted and reordered their political allegiances, and so you have them saying we must obey God rather than man. And so to kind of bring that into the present it means that, you know, our faith, our politics should be shaped by our faith and not vice versa. And so again, if were professing Christ, if were holding the full counsel of Scripture, there are ethics that are externally imposed upon us as Christians that were required to hold. Im very scared, Im concerned about this moral equivalency with younger evangelicals that building a well and eradicating or ending abortion are on the same moral plane. And um, I want to build wells, absolutely, thats hugely important. But our faith requires us to hold certain things that god values, in the way that God holds them. And so um you know, if youre not entering the ballot box Christian-ly, what that means is youve compartmentalized a portion of your life thats not separate from your faith. Thats not, I think thats patently un-Biblical. Now in terms of partisanship, its interesting, Im probably the most partisan of the four up here in terms of snarkiness once in a while. And thats a, thats a problem sometimes we have to address. But on a whole nother level, partisanship is inevitable. Partisanship is having your Christian ethics confront the public square. And um, how do I say this. its inevitable. If you hold a position of such importance that you think marriage is a man and a woman, joined together, for the entirety of their lives, thats a position that youre willing to go to bat for. I had a job opportunity a while back, and I realized, that it was an issue, there was a job focused on, with a conservative emphasis, but I recognized as important as this one particular emphasis was, which was economics, for me, I had to view kind of what my calling is, and my calling is marriage religious liberty, and life. Because I think those are, those are the issues that Christians ought to be willing to express in the public square. Now, at the same time I dont think partisanship, automatically has to mean incivility. So you know, think of partisanship as the most basic level. Its just holding opinions about how you think the world ought to be governed. Thats really what partisanship is. This idea that, especially prevalent with young evangelicals, that you know were cultivating this ideal of bi-partisanship, and non-partisanship. I dont really think thats what democracy is built upon. Democracy is built upon… consensus. And consensus means theres persuasion, and to persuade someone you have to have an opinion that youre trying to move forward in the public square. And so, you know, I think, uh, Im probably, you know were all young members of the religious right up here, no doubt about it, thats how the media would definitely phrase us. And we can look back in the past and recognize that the old guard of the religious right said some things that were maybe perhaps uncivil, that hurt our cause, or hurt our image. But that doesnt mean that we should kind of reflexively step back and hold those positions, you know, lighter. You know, I think theres a phrase the Greg Forster used. Hes a political philosopher, good Christian man. He says, we need to begin kind of deinstitutionalizing enmity, and I think thats a tremendous step forward as Christians kind of engage the public square and the culture thats increasingly more post-Christian. I think we need to begin using, words less like culture war and adopting a paradigm or language like Witness. You know, if were trying to win something, you know, what were, its already been won, so to speak. The story has been written. Its our job as Christians in the public square to really testify and give witness to what has already, decisively been accomplished. So, I want to end by saying this, Rick Warren gave a sermon last Sunday that I, I think we would do well to take to heart.. He was encouraging his flock to vote their values, which is a very controversial idea especially in southern California. And he said, vote your values and be courageous about it. You know why? Because everyone else votes their values. We just need to remember that, that the public square is not neutral, everyone brings something to it, and you know, Paul says in Colossians 4 to let your speech be seasoned with salt and with grace, and that should be said of us as Christians in the public square, but at the same time, we have to recognize that were going to hold positions that if we say them kindly, with a smile, and gently to Pierce Morgan, it doesnt matter. Theyre not gonna be accepted or well received. And thats where the opportunity for witness really enjoins itself, and where we can have a conversation.

Chris: Ok Eric over to you. Executive director at the Manhattan Declaration. How many signatories do you have now?

Eric: Its 534, 000.

Chris: Ok so, 530, - has everyone here signed that by the way? Good, excellent. Yea little plugyou can pay me later. Talk a little bit—focus on something thats happening right now, the HHS mandate. Andrew talked a little of how he has a life calling intersected with the defense of religious liberty. When you think about the HHS mandate, the lawsuits that have come now against HHS and the administration over that by Catholic institutions, Christian colleges, etc. Two part question, is that antagonism that were seeing between church and state here in America today, is that a flash in the pan, or is that something here to stay in your view? And also, do you think that what the overreach by the government in this regard, is going to galvanize younger believers, or is it going to turn them off even more?

Eric: Thanks Chris, those are really good questions. Uh tough ones, um its very interesting to think about something like the HHS mandate in the context of the conversation about young evangelical political engagement, because my sense is that, with the exception of a lot the fine young voters you see running around the Values Voter Summit, there is almost no engagement on the part of young evangelicals—young people in general on this issue. Its seems like something thats happening in Washington. Theres a lot of phraseology thats hard to understand, very legislative sounding, wonky and boring. And people like me have not done a good job of communicating to um Americans in general and especially young people the significance of what has happened in the last couple of years, and the ramifications from what has happened for years to come. I guess its your first question of whether its a flash in the pan. Its absolutely not a flash in the pan, its only the beginning its probably not the beginning, but it is taking things to the next level when it comes to a certain understanding of how religion is going to be allowed to exist in American society. You dont need to look any further than the governments definition of a religious organization as it relates to the contraception mandate to see where the Obama administration is when it comes to that critical question.

If youre not a church, if your primary job is not to communicate religious values and you have building called a church and you only hire people that are part of your religious organization, you dont qualify. The principle here is that only churches qualify for religious exemptions. Faith can only exist in those buildings on the corners. And anything that happens outside of those buildings, any aspect of personal religious expression that occurs in the workplace, a place where you might volunteer your time, or a place that you might go just for fun doesnt count. Your religion doesnt play in that sphere. Thats where were headed. You can also look to Europe and see lots of examples of this. Theyre further along than we are. Theres all kinds of examples you could find. Places like the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Beckett Fund, that catalogues whats going on in Europe as it relates to these things. Children being taken from their parents because their parents desired them to be homeschooled and the state decides that the education he parents provide is not up to the standards that are required because it includes religious indoctrination and thats a violations of that childs basic human right. Its actually pretty scary where were headed. When I came on board the Manhattan Declaration, four or five months ago, I was struck by the reality that people in this room may very well end up in prison um within my lifetime, maybe even sooner than that. I mean that thats kind of an unfathomable point to make and yet the more that I read about his and look at it and read the text of the Manhattan Declaration that lays out in 4700 finely crafted words the moral imperative to draw a line in the sand saying we are not going to render unto Caesar what belongs to God. And ours is a government that is heading in the direction of saying, Oh yes you will. And if you dont there are gonna be ramifications for doing that.

Eric: Will this galvanize young voters? I think, I think right now they dont know anything about it. I think when we start to see more its actually going to galvanize. I think of Dr. King, and the movement that he started and the way young people were galvanized by that movement. There is born into young people a sense of activism and thats a really good thing, maybe a dangerous thing. But in general, I think its a good thing if pointed in the right direction and once young people start to see what are very basic clear violations of First amendment freedoms and the rights of conscience, theyre going to be galvanized. Chick-fil-a was a great example of that. I was encouraged not that people at the Values Voter Summit were standing up for chick-fil-a, but the people who wouldnt come here, people who arent necessarily believers, by a wide margin I think looked at that situation and said, Whats happening? Of course this chicken joint should be allowed to do what theyre doing. Thats ludicrous. I dont even agree with theyre position but they should be doing what theyre doing. So theres moral clarity here, because the issues are just so clearly a violation of a basic freedom that Im actually encouraged, once we get to the point where were able to communicate the direness of these things well see some activism on the part of young people. Unfortunately, that probably means that more bad things need happen.

Chris: Gets worse before it gets better. Ok. So this is going to be a little fish in the barrel here, but how many of you have heard somebody tell you Dont force your beliefs on me? Yeah everybody, ok. Or how about, Why do Christians only care about abortion? Why do Christians only care about homosexuality? These types of things. Right. So to answer the question of why they do, were going to turn to Matt, and Matt, maybe not just why they do or why they dont, but explain to us, how do we begin to break that stereotype? How can young people, how should they think and answer when posed with those questions?

Matt: Yea this is a very challenging question. I would say a few things about it. First, I think the perception that Christians only care about abortion and marriage, well pick those two, is simple. Those are the foundations of our political engagement in the world. Those stem from a particular understanding of humanity. We value life and we value, we have a certain anthropology, an understanding of what it means to be human that causes us to be committed to those conditions over and above other issues. Weve all heard about creation care, the care for the environment. Im all for creation care. In fact, Im so for creation care that I like the words of Jesus on creation care and what Jesus says about creation is that he loves every sparrow that falls, and he takes notice of it. And what he says is he loves every hair on the head of humans more. And its that position that commits us to as matters of fundamental importance the defense of human life and its the affirmation of Jesus words about marriage that commit us to as a matter of fundamental importance the position of traditional marriage. So theres a substantive reason why we prioritize those issues that the Manhattan Declaration clearly and ably lays out.

I think though at the same time thats the substantive word, the perception is there because on those issues we havent always been on our A game when it comes to messaging. So the task of Christians in the public square is to speak about controversial issues without changing the tone of our voice away from the Good news. And our message on marriage, on homosexuality, on gay rights, on abortion has not always sounded like good news. It hasnt sounded like good news for gay people, it hasnt sounded like good news for single mothers all the time, and I think we need to do a better job of making our presentation have a tone that is not just tolerable because there are certain positions we have that wont be palatable, but that we have a tone that makes it as winsome, as cheerful, and is presented with a smile on our face. Now on the ground weve done a great job of this. So groups like Stand to Reason who have done all sorts of pro-life training, the first thing they teach people is that regardless of what you do, you do it with a smile on your face, and you never come across as angry. Were doing a great job. The problem is we exist in an unfair media environment that is hostile to our positions. Now all that means is that if we make one error, its magnified exponentially, and the things we do that are perfect are ignored. But all that means is that we have no room for mistakes, and thats an unfair position, but its absolutely the way it is, and until we realize that and play within a world where we have to be perfect, then were going to continue to be caricatured in the media, and this perception that we are both bigoted and that we dont like women will continue to be the case regardless of how good our arguments are. So I think fixing the messaging problem is something that we could do.

I also think that expanding the context in which we talk about abortion and marriage, so the Heritage Foundation has done a great job of this theyve been over the last year, Im sure even before that, have been talking about traditional marriage in the context of poverty reduction. You know whats good for people, for their pocket books? Staying married. Not getting divorced, but its a poverty issue. Thats one of the reasons why we care about traditional marriage, why we care about healthy, stable homes. Well that changes the context in which we present those issues. So what I did earlier with respect to creation care. Hey lets talk a lot about creation care, lets own that language. Lets present our position on abortion within the context of creation care. Because youre not doing creation care unless youre prioritizing human life, and unless you care about what happens in the womb. So Im more creation care than those who have the label who want to minimize abortion and prioritize environmental issues. But by changing the context, and expanding the context in which we talk about some of these things will help shift the messaging, and help it seem sort of more interesting and we can come in through the back door.

How many of you have seen the movie about Wilberforce Amazing Grace, right? When youre faced with a hostile social situation, and you want to create change, what you do, you look for back doors and traps so that you can sneak around people and you can do things when they arent looking in ways that theyre not realizing. So a little bit more craftiness in terms of our presentation and a little more willingness to expand our context I think would be really good for us.

Deinstitutionalizing enmity is a great phrase. I totally agree with it. I think the question that we have to face is within a context where politics is dominated by a culture war, whether there can be mercy from one side to the other. And I think thats a question that both sides need to wrestle with. Its not a good social order for conservatives and liberals to be at war. Thats just not going to be healthy. Im not sure its avoidable right now, unless both sides are willing to reconsider whether or not they would extend mercy to each other for sins and for injustices that have been done in the past towards the other side. No one wants to do that. Because the stakes right now are so high. But I think its a question that we should ask and if we start asking some of those harder questions, we might be able to get to a point where were actually able to consider deinstitutionalizing the hostilities that we currently have. So those would be the few things I would say in terms of maybe, maybe how we can escape this. But theres a question as to whether any of that will actually work.

Chris: Ok. Um weve got some time for questions. So were going to start with our student leadership panel over here. Each gonna ask a question if they desire. And then if we have some time left, were gonna kick it over to you folks. Alright. So prepare your heat seekers. Alright. Go ahead guys.

Anna Maria Hoffman:: Alright, this is actually for the entire panel or whoever would like to answer the question. Ive noticed that people who are not religious, they, like a few friends of mine I guess, they, you know, they dont hold the same views as us. I think it would be, you know, we need to communicate to those people and convince them that these ideas that we have are our nations values, and are easy to comprehend and people do relate to them eventually. Whats, what some strategies that we can connect to these folks, especially at secular universities, and get them on board with our values and our ideas?

Matt Anderson: Thats a very good question. Its a very hard problem. As society fragments, and as we have people speaking different languages, translation gets harder and what we have to do is translate the things that we think into the language that people can understand. So one way to do that is to ask this question: are the things that we believe about the Bible true because they are in the Bible, or are they in the Bible because they are true? If they are in the Bible because they are true, then we can find links to those truths through other directions. So in one sense, we all affirm traditional marriage because its in the Bible, but we also affirm traditional marriage because human love is the sort of thing that, in order to be fulfilled, wants to be procreative. There is a generative element to human love. If you really love something, you either sort of want to make something in response to it, or you want to sort of extend that thing longer. So human lovea love between two peopleis necessarily generative. Its creative. Thats one reason why we care about traditional marriage. Because, fundamentally, human love makes babies. And babies need healthy homes and vibrant social institutions so that they can be protected. Thats one way that we can sort of start to approach these things. But even there, were reaching a point where the intuitions about our positions have been so forgotten and they are so deeply buried that you have to do a lot of work to dig up common ground and to get people to see the logic of our positions without scripture. Its just a lot of work.

Owen Strachan 2: Yeah, I would say something, a kind of device like-I didnt think of things like this- like a Hitchens kind of point of view. Where you take a widely respected atheist and quote them, Religion is poisoning everything, for example, I dont know, Nietzsche or something, and you play that out with someone. I went to a very secular college, in Maine, Bowdoin College, we had a gay/lesbian studies department, and I had these kinds of conversations all the time with students. You know, ask students where the resources for ethically ending lynching of African Americans came from. From whence did those come? Where did abolition originate as a movement? Those kinds of things are not going to win the whole argument, but they are going to show people that there is a huge place at the table for Christian thought. And then I think there is also this matter of bearing witness to the gospel. Youre sharing the gospel, the gospel is that which creates life in Jesus Christ. So we have good arguments, we make our arguments, we use historical and logical points and evidence, and then we trust that God will change hearts ultimately.

Eric Teetsel: Real quick, just to say, if youd like an example of how to make an argument without appeal to specifically theological reasoning: the article that Robbie George and Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis did on marriage is masterful. Its 40 pages, itll take you some time to work through it, but those arguments are the basis for what marriage programs are doing in the public square and its well worth your time to look at that. And its available for free online just Google their names. I think theres a book coming out soon that is a longer version of those same ones.

Andrew Walker: I was actually going to say the exact same thing here. (Laughter)

Chris: Ok. Next

Jase Sayre: Ok, I got a question, yall touched on it a little bit earlier, but how do we get churches more involved, youth groups, like simply like, on campus you form Christian clubs and stuff. What Ive found is meeting between the Christian groups and churches here, they do not want to be involved in anything political. Yall addressed that earlier, but what are some strategies or some things that yall have faced that maybe can inform others how to overcome that if they experience it?

Andrew Walker: Lets admit sometimes there have been some unhealthy alliances between Republican politics and evangelical Christianity. Thats just a fact. Now, at the same time, the media would say that the GOP is taking advantage of Evangelicals. In my opinion, Evangelicals are taking advantage of the GOP because thats the one political venue where we can have our voices heard. Now at the same time, on my current job, Im speaking in churches all the time and I have to go to great extent to kind of deflate any idea of there being a Republican or Democrat connotation to my message. And so this to me comes back down to a type of paradigm we enter the public square with, you know, less about war, less about political victory, and more to me, you know, I like the idea of Witness, I like the idea of James Davison Hunters faithful presence, even though I dont really conceptually like how he uses that phrase. I also use a lot of language, Jeremiah 29, about seeking the welfare of the city. Seeking the welfare of the city, is serving your community and we need to begin kind of inculcating this vision to our students that were not trying to take back America for God necessarily, but were trying to create environments where justice is understood, where the most basic institutions that cause human flourishing are prioritized and given priority in society.

Owen Strachan: And were at a zero hour moment with something like gay marriage. So Christians who dont like to be political, whether young or otherwise, the young often dont, have to realize that were at a point where not standing up on this issue for traditional marriage is effectively being already politically involved. Its just un-involvement. So if youre un-involved, you may not be a candidate, you may not be stumping, you may not be doing these kinds of things, but if youre not involved in some way, you are helping America choose gay marriage as a viable option. And you need to vote your convictions, you need to make sure that you do everything you can and we may not ultimately succeed, we may not, we may fail in this, America is not the new Israel. But you need to do everything you can to stand up for traditional marriage. And that means voting. And so having those kinds of conversations, talking to people at church along those lines, Sunday school classes, with the right perspective, keeping in mind that the Kingdom of God is foremost for us.

Eirc Teetsel: I question the premise that young people dont want to be political. I think thats not true. Um 2008 lots of young people were being political (laughs). The Kony campaign that happened earlier this year was specifically political. They identified certain policy makers, and they said were going to go after these guys and there were millions and millions of young evangelicals who were excited about that before that movement crashed and burned for other reasons (Laughs). So yea, they actually do want to be political. They just dont want to be political about the things that are going to cost them cultural cache. Thats the point. So I dont know how effective that is to point that out, to say let me take a look at your motives here. You say you dont want to be political, how do you feel about the work of the International Justice Commission? Because thats extremely political. Its using politics to end sex trafficking. Im gonna bet that theyre in favor of that. So theres inconsistency in the logic thats going on there, and like I said, I dont know how effective it is to point out those inconsistencies, and say why are you willing to be political when it comes to issues that dont cost you cultural cache, but are not willing to be political on issues that might make you less popular with some of your friends. I feel the need to point that out sometimes, like I said I dont how effective it actually is.

Andrew Walker: If I could add one last thing, we need to reclaim the term partisan and we need to reclaim the term being political. Weve kind of collapsed every cultural issue into politics which is a problem. And we have an impoverished view what being political means. We think its strictly being involved in a governmental process. Aristotle said that politics is about the ordering of our common l lives together. And so again, this comes back to the idea that, I would tell your youth group, you have a fundamental vision on how you think the world ought to be ordered. And if you do, if you think life ought to be protected, in the womb, then you automatically, by virtue of having an opinion, are being political, because youre saying that you want the world ordered and governed in a particular pattern. And that doesnt necessarily mean first through the government process. It means that youre sharing and inculcating this vision and youre using persuasion to gain consensus.

Matt Anderson: Thats all very well said.

Gabby Hoffman: So my question is, as we become more technologically savvy and inclined to social media, Im a big social media person, and I helped co-found a youth movement, called Resistance 44, you may have seen it, its on Twitter. But what weve done is use hashtag games and other things of that sort to kind of shape the debate and turn the debate. Would you think that kind of tailoring the message to the evangelical base by I guess easier means would kind of make them more motivated to be politically active, because you kind of, you dont have to take away from the message, its important to keep the substance in parts to any argument, whether its for marriage, or life, or any other cultural matter. But do you see a deficit in the way things are, in the way a message is tailored, and do you think social media can fill that void?

Matt Anderson: Yea, thats a great question, the case for life is hard to make in 140 characters. (Laughter) No I mean let a thousand flowers bloom right. Of course we should be very active in social media, Im active there myself, you know, all the kids are on Facebook these days, Twitters the new thing, I hear Foursquare is around or something. Im all for that and I do think that, the great thing about social media, what I love about it is it gets us as close to genuine relationships over distance as you can get these days. Because people have a certain sort of willingness to dialogue. And what I love to see is when social media is actually social, when people start talking in meaningful ways. And Ive made good friends, conservative and not conservative through Twitter and Facebook. And we have lengthy dialogues; Im that guy. (Laughs) So I do think that being really active there will help with the messaging, I think that where we really need to get a lot better at, our um, doing sort of broader narrative in terms of video and graphics and, um, the sort of branding work. A lot of our aesthetics are not really to the point where theyre going to resonate widely. I think a lot of the conservative movements aesthetics are just very limiting, the worry that we have is because conservatives have had critiques, strong critiques of Hollywood for a long time we dont get many young conservative film-makers who are coming out of Hollywood and going into Hollywood who are making just really really aesthetically beautiful films. And so I think we really need invest a lot more capital on our film-making than I think we have. That would be where Id want to see a lot more work done.

Speaker 2: I had a friend of mine, RJ, who would say that you dont see many evangelicals living in southern California. (Laughs) And he said you know, I recognize that the cultural epicenter of America right now is southern California and I want to be salt and light. He happens to be very conservative as well, devout evangelical Christian, but hes in California as we speak.

Chris: yea, I have the words social media in my job title. So let me offer a thought here, thanks. I met all these guys via social media which is kind of incredible in and of itself. So I, my own real quick answer, can it serve as a vehicle for conversation and for connecting our message to younger believers and conservatives—people who are ideologically, spiritually maybe predisposed to agree with us, I think short answer is yes, absolutely. Paul went to, spoke that the areopagis, weve got to go to Facebook and Twitter, thats where the conversation is happening. So, short answer is yes, I think its that first conversation that you have with people via social media. It cant be the only thing you have. If all someone knows about you is your hashtag, you havent sufficiently made your case for your position and for your faith. But its sort of the first conversation I think in that regard we simply have to be there.

Owen Strachan: Ok, so it would be wonderful if we were known, this has been kind of touched on, but it would be wonderful if we were known for a positive message. We have the ultimate message, Im speaking as an evangelical, we have this life-changing, transforming reality, that has gripped us, and that is the Gospel. And so working from a foundation of the Gospel created ethics, the gospel creates a hunger to save lives, the gospel creates a love for beauty. These kinds of things I think would be wonderful to share with younger Christians, millennials who are not Christian, who are far from it, to show people that were not just in this defensive posture as conservatives. We actually are pro- this world transforming force. Id love to see that be more part of our engagement as well.

Chris: Thats great. Ok so, weve got just a couple minutes, if somebody wants to ask a question, raise your hand. Ok were gonna go first to Mr. Deo over here.

Len Deo: Mr. Deo is my father. Cause when I first got here, I was looking around thinking geez, Im one of the oldest ones here. (Laughs) But um, just two, um very good, I forget who said about can there be mercy for a culture war, who was that, that was Matthew. That was very wise, but I mean, my thought on that in order for mercy to come there needs to be a victory first. And that was uh, as a person thats involved in these battles, its what I do for a living. Um and when we call marriage traditional marriage, we put a classification on it. And so for the other side, then its ok to have untraditional marriage, and I think it was Romney who started using the terminology of natural marriage. Because the opposite of natural marriage is, unnatural. But I just want to thank you all because were seeking how. I know Ive been in touch with Chris, on how to reach out to the younger generations and get them involved and just coming here is very encouraging for me as a public policy leader in the state of New Jersey, uh which is very blue. (laughs)

Chris: You dont say.

Mr. Deo: But um, I dont know if you want to respond to the can there be mercy for our culture war?

Speaker 1: Yea. There certainly does have to be victory. Theres already been victory within the gospel. And one of my worries about the context of our culture is, Im not sure that this thing gets solved without Jesus. Genuinely. Because mercy requires forgiveness, and thats got to go all the way down. So I realize in asking it, that Im asking a hard question. Im asking for something that is probably legitimately impossible. But I think in asking the question, it shows the sort of hostility that currently exists and it shows where the hostilities are coming from. And there is a sense in which, theres something attractive about asking for mercy. Right. If we can say look, you know, the story behind the advance of gay rights in America, their story, whats animating it is their felt repression, the injustices that they feel they have experienced, and in some cases they have actually experienced injustices. And I think as we acknowledge that, and we can acknowledge that, because thats true, and the truth is always on our side. But as we acknowledge that, the next question is, and will you have mercy toward us for that? And you know, Ive got a story wherein mercy makes sense. I believe in Jesus and he has forgiven us for all of this. But will they? I dont know. But Id rather ask them that question because it puts them in a position of having to wrestle with whether or not they want to be merciful and people generally value being merciful.

Chris: alright. Thanks. That is actually our time.

A Glorious Fourth: 10 Ideas for the Family

by Christopher Marlink

July 3, 2012

When historian and author Paul Rahe (19:10 mark) was asked where America ranks in the history of the worlds republics, he responded, It is the greatest of the republics.

As parents of three young children, my wife and I are often thinking of ways to make the great history of our republic come alive for our little ones. Believing that America is, as Lincoln said, the last best hope of earth, we want to impress on our children those values and traditions which make our country uniqueand yes, exceptionalin world history. Independence Day offers a multitude of ways to do just that.

Ive put together a short list of ideas and activities that can help you make the glorious fourth more meaningful for your family. Whether you apply one of these ideas or better them with your ownbe intentional. It falls primarily to parents to explain the great meaning ofAmerica, to cultivate in our children a love for this nation, and to light the fires of liberty in their hearts and minds.

Here are a few ideas and activities to get you on your way:

  1. Sign the Declaration of Independence.

    Ask the member of your family with the best handwriting (the felicity of pen as Adams said of Jefferson) to write out the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. Then have each member of your family sign their names, big enough for King George to read without his spectacles. Talk about what it meant for the signers to pledge their lives, treasure and sacred honor on behalf of their new nation.

  2. The Declaration of Independence is a spiritual and political document.

    As President Calvin Coolidge said, it is the product of the spiritual insight of the people.

    No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

  3. All men are created equal.

    Few nations in the world have acknowledged what our founders believed was self-evident. Namely, that all men bear the image of their Creator, and derive their rights from Godnot from the government.

    Discuss with your children the struggle to abolish institutionalized slavery in America, and the ongoing effort to protect the unborn. The Declaration of Independence continues to serve as a spur to our conscience, calling us to deeds in keeping with the truths we espouse.

  4. Fly Old Glory.

    Ask your children to help you raise the flag somewhere in your house, apartment or yard.

    On June 14, 1777, during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the new nation.

    Resolved, that the Flag of thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.

  5. Sing the National Anthem.

    Ask the most musical member of your family to lead the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Read aloud the less familiar verses.

    O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

    Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.

    Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land

    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  6. Take in a parade.

    This is always a favorite for our boys, especially if Opa is marching with the American Legion. Local papers usually have times and locations in your area. If theres no parade in your town, why not start one?

  7. Read aloud America.

    This song was one obf several unofficial national anthems used until the Star Spangled Banner was officially adopted in 1931.

    Our fathers’ God to Thee,

    Author of Liberty,

    To thee we sing,

    Long may our land be bright

    With Freedom’s holy light,

    Protect us by thy might

    Great God, our King.

  8. Religious liberty.

    In the First Amendment to our Constitution, Congress laid out the broad religious liberties that were guaranteed all Americans.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    The establishment and free exercise clauses were an assurance that the federal government would not compel or impose any sect on the American people, nor would it interfere with Americans as they lived out their faith as good citizens. It was also an acknowledgement that religious belief and expression were central to the character of the American peopleand central to the founding of the republic.

    No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those the United States. Every step by which [we] have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. - President George Washington, Inaugural Address, 1789

    Religious liberty remains the exception and not the rule in human history; that Americans may worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience is a rare and priceless gift. Its something we must not take for granted and a liberty all of us at FRC are dedicated to preserving.

    Take a few minutes to exercise your religious liberty and pray for those holding offices of authority at the national, state, and local level (1 Tim 2:1-4).

  9. Listen to For God and Country.

    If your children are old enough, they may enjoy listening to Adventures in Odysseys The Day Independence Came or The American Revelation. Complete sets and individual episodes are available online.

  10. Celebrate.

    Take time to enjoy your family this Independence Day; acknowledge the great liberties we share, and the cost at which they were purchased, and give thanks to God Almighty for his love, mercy and provision for our nation.

    [Independence Day] will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more. John Adams

What activities, traditions or values would you add to this list? How does your family plan to celebrate Independence Day? Wed love for you to leave your stories in the comment section.

Chuck Colson and the Valley of Humiliation

by Christopher Marlink

April 23, 2012

I met Chuck Colson just once. It was several years ago now atFRCs Values Voter Summit, and my charge was to assist the near 80 year old Colson with navigating the venue and getting to and from his vehicle. There were elected officials and plenty of dignitaries and luminaries about, but having read several of his books, I was most looking forward to meeting Colson. In a few private minutes spent with Chuck, I witnessed a man full of Christian charity and grace. This was the scene.

After sitting through nearly an hour worth of tributes from men like Bill Bennett, Robby George, and Tony Perkins, Colson took the stage to receive a vision and leadership award from FRC. He spoke for about thirty minutes, movingly, clearly, sharing his testimony and reminiscing about his family, the call of God on his life, and the challenges facing the Church.

When the event wrapped up, at an hour likely later than Colson was accustomed to, I walked Colson to his waiting car. While we slowly made our way through the hotel, Chuck and his wife Patty, exhausted but full of joy, were interrupted by a man seeking an autograph.

Chuck had signed thousands of autographs. In fact, he had already spent time signing scores of books after his speech. Fielding a fans autograph request wasnt uncommon, even if a bit tedious after the evenings events. Except that this guy wasnt a fan per se. No, he was a history buff, enamored with Watergate.

In his hand wasnt Born Again, or How Now Shall We Live? or The Faith, or any of the other great books Colson had penned over the years. He was holding out a copy of All the Presidents Men by Bernstein and Woodward.

How discordant. How profane.

On a night where Colson was honored for a lifetime of faithfulness to the Gospel, there was a reminder of the mans darkest days. There was Colson at his lowest. On this of all nights Colson could have justifiably responded, At this hour? On this night? Get lost, pal.

As Colsons car stood idling with Patty waiting patiently inside, I contemplated boxing the mans ears. Colson just looked the man in the eyes and gently took the book. He spent a few minutes in conversation, and then signed his name as he had so many times before. Colson bid the man good night and was off.

Standing curbside, I marveled at what had just transpired. Chuck Colson stood at the pinnacle of his career that night. The ministries he led touched thousands the world over. He was the patriarch of a large and loving family. Wise and honorable men loved and admired him publicly. And yet, Charles Colson was humble enough to acknowledge his moral failings. In his weakness, Christ was proven strong.

Chuck stood on the sunny uplands that night, but remembered well theValleyofHumiliation. He did so without guilt, without fear.

Chuck Colsons past had no hold on him. He was born again.

Think Again: Evangelicals in American Public Life

by Christopher Marlink

April 3, 2012

USA Today recently published an important opinion piece from Tom Krattenmaker called “Evangelicals seek positive change.” (The title does make one wonder what kind of change we’ve been seeking up until now, but I digress.) The article is important, I believe, not for its times are a changin conclusions, but for its presuppositions about the intersection of evangelicalism and politics.

The crux of the article consists of excerpts from an exchange Krattenmaker had with blogger and author Jonathan Merritt, one of the key expositors of “a new kind of thinking” as Krattenmaker describes it. Quoting Merritt:

Americans are tired of the incivility and the partisan divisiveness on both sides. Regardless of how much longer the culture wars are going to continue, Christians need to transcend the polemical, partisan, power-hungry battles that stymie the common good. If my intuition is wrong and the culture wars continue to rage on, my hope and prayer is that Christians will take a higher road as they seek to be faithful in the public square.”

Christians cannot join the ranks of the politically apathetic. But we aren’t forced to choose a human-formed party with a systemized divide-and-conquer agenda, either. We can stand in the gap and claim loyalty only to Jesus.”

First of all, there’s much to like in Merritt’s thinking. Christians must not be uncivil in private or public life, nor should our politics be strictly partisan. We cannot be politically apathetic and our loyalty is first to Christ. Amen and amen.

On Merritts power hungry battles, Id simply add the distinction that conservatives are not seeking to wrest power from one party and transfer it to another. Rather, youll most often find us trying to wrest power from the federal government and return it to the proper subsidiaries: the family, the church, the people, etc.

Gods Work in Americas Public Life

The context of the piece is about how a new generation of evangelicals are unshackling themselves from partisanship generally and the GOP specifically. Krattenmakers sights are trained on the “religious right” when he describes Merritts thinking as indicative of a challenge mounted against the notion that electoral politics is the way to do God’s work in American public life.” [Empahsis mine]

This is key. Krattenmaker (and Merritt?) presupposes that evangelicals who are politically conservative see politics as the way to do Gods work in Americans public life. Having worked for an organization that deals with evangelicals in public policy for nearly six years, I cant name one of my 75 colleagues who believes this.

Most of us who labor at organizations like FRC do so because weve been called vocationally into the realm of public policy. And for better or worse, the values derived from our faith have political fallout. (Thanks Andrew Walker for that gem.)

I and most of my colleagues are family focused and see raising our children as our most important contribution to American public life. And in addition to our day jobs at FRC, many of us are involved in ministries in our local communities that serve the church and the common good. This would include everything from building orphanages in Latin America, to mentoring at-risk students, to distributing food to the needy.

New Thinking vs Old Thinking

In order for a “new kind of thinking” on evangelical political engagement to emerge, the writers must presuppose that a pervasive “old kind of thinking” on evangelical political engagement exists. Well, does it?

Krattenmaker seems to think so:

Seeing many of Christianity’s most ardent and visible followers caught up in the mean-spirited, truth-demolishing aspects of this is one of the more discomforting features of today’s politics.

And yet, as David French has pointed out, you needn’t look farther than the cumulative budgets of evangelical poverty and disaster relief organizations (well over $2 billion) as compared to the budgets of “culture war” organizations (less than $200 million) to dispel the myth that evangelicals are only, or even primarily, fixated on the political as the way to do God’s work in America’s public life.

Over at Mere Orthodoxy, Andrew Walker cuts to the chase:

I would like to know with some degree of specificity who it is that serves as Mr. Merritts foil in the culture war. What pastors are advocating Republican politics? What churches are adopting policies and positions that mirror the Republican Party or the Heritage Foundation?

The questions remain outstanding.

Excess is the Exception, Not the Rule

If the new kind of thinking Krattenmaker and Merritt are describing really means that evangelicals should not be beholden to any particular political party—then we say, hear, hear. FRC president Tony Perkins has reiterated his conviction time and again that Christians should vote their values and not the party line.

Certainly there have been excesses on the right where evangelicals have taken a stand in the public square. Theres the inopportune rhetoric, the occasional majoring on the minors, and our tendency to be outraged at instead of brokenhearted with our culture generally. There is no effort without failure. If my own life is representative of the whole, then there is near constant need to own up to mistakes and make them right wherever we can.

But as Walker contends, these excesses are the exception rather than the rule, and they are certainly no more endemic to conservatism than to liberalism. So on this score, let’s proceed with sober judgment and caution:

Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left. C.S. Lewis, from The Worlds Last Night.

A Consistent, Redeeming Presence

In the end, I think what Merritt and other emerging voices are rejecting is a stereotype that no longer existsif in fact it ever did. And I share every bit in Merritts discomfort with it.

Ill wholeheartedly affirm with Merritt and Krattenmaker the idea that Christians have one foot in God’s kingdom and one in the world. Ours is a dual citizenship. But it is an entire foot in each. Not simply a toenail in the latter. Yes, Christians must not trust in princes. But neither should we flee the field.

We are after something deeper than partisanship to be sure; it is a consistent, redeeming presence in American public life. We seek to be the little yeast working through the dough, causing the whole batch to rise.

One builds, and one tears down: This Old House vs The Daily Show

by Christopher Marlink

December 9, 2011

There’s something interesting going on here. The Washington Post is reporting the top show for conservatives is the long running home improvement franchise, This Old House. Meanwhile, the tops for liberals is the irreverently humorous and oh so snarky, “The Daily Show” (The analysis does not include news, sports or music programming).

Now I don’t lean Jon Stewart’s way politically, but I’ve seen enough of his show to catch the appeal. If you like shooting fish in a barrel, and you already believe conservatives are those unfortunate fish, then Jon’s your guy. He’s in the tear-down business, and supplies a lot of Americans (young people in particular) with what passes for news. Not surprisingly, I’m not one of them.

On the other hand, after Saturday cartoons wrap up, my boys and I will often watch This Old House. Or as they like to call it, “The Man Show.” I’ll never forget the day we were watching the program and my oldest son asked me, “Dad, who are the bad guys?” He’s four, so I didn’t tell him, “Jon Stewart.” Only kidding, Jon.

As anecdotal as media choices may be, the contrast between these two shows is stark indeed. It reminds me of Proverbs 14:1: The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

I think it says something that out of all the programming choices available, conservatives favor a family-centric, home building show hosted by a genial group of working class dudes. It’s reflective of our values: we’re builders of families, homes and businesses. We’d much rather focus on our own hearths than those on K street, Wall street or Pennsylvania Avenue. We’re not looking for a fight except when one lands on our doorstep, and we’re really not that into politics. We tend to believe the family is the primary vehicle through which good culture is communicated, and have much lower expectations when it comes to government. Please don’t ask me to explain “The Bachelor.” Aside from its obvious nod to sexuality, there is no explanation for such a show.

It’s interesting, too, that of all the programming choices available, our liberal neighbors favor a biting political comedy-entary. (I don’t think that’s a word yet, but it probably should be.) What values is this reflecting? Perhaps: government is the center of public life and the highest of man’s achievements, or maybe, it’s good fun to tear down those who disagree. That’s all conjecture, of course, as I don’t really watch the Daily Show. I can think of plenty of counterexamples in my own life to these extrapolations, but itd be hard to argue that the growth of leviathan doesnt undermine the family. One neednt look further than family formation and fertility rates in Western Europe to see how this plays out.

In any case, I’ve got to go fix some electrical issues at our new old house. I’ll see if my boys want to help.

With Malice toward None, with Charity for All

by Christopher Marlink

November 22, 2011

Adding his voice to FRC’s own Rob Schwarzwalder, Joseph Sunde has a great response over at valuesandcapitalism.com to Rich Cizik’s recent take-down of conservative Christians. Where Cizik is contented to battle straw men, Sunde challenges him with actual ideas held by conservative evangelicals:

Its not that we think supply side economics create strong economies and benefit everyone across the economic spectrum (including, ahem, the poor). Its not that we think free exchange and accurate prices create opportunities for real, sustainable growth and economy recovery. Its not that we think the modern public education system hurts the poor and minimum wage laws lead to poverty traps. And its most certainly not that we think most progressive social programs lead to dehumanization, dependency and economic slavery.

No. Its because we have a fetish for fat cats and were brainwashed by clever marketing. Obviously

Then the money quote:

If Cizik is truly interested in a constructive conversation, he should recognize that it gets him nowhere to sideline our concerns about his pro-poor policies and elevate his progressive approach as the obvious fulfillment of the Sermon on the Mount. If he is really interested in persuading us toward his supposedly Christian outlook, he should start by explaining why and how these programs are, in fact, pro-poor, and how a proper Christian anthropology starts with coercion and manipulation. Instead of claiming our reasons to be purely political, he should explain how exactly his blatant desire to increase political power is somehow less so.

Lastly, because Cizik goes to great lengths to criticize FRC’s Values Voter Summit, I’ve got to add in this caveat from Sunde. It’s just golden:

(CAUTION: Having tuned in to many of the speeches at this years Values Voters summit, I myself am most certainly compromised by the events insincere, diabolical messaging. I am now nothing more than a pawn of big business and the Republican leadership, shamelessly cloaking my love for power and pet political causes in strategic Christian-y language. If you dare continue reading, do so with whatever discretion those wily conservative operatives have allowed you to keep.)

(Thank you Joseph for being part of our diabolical scheme. For those of you who want in, you’ll have to learn the secret handshake using the decoder ring in your box of breakfast cereal.)

What I find particularly troubling is the assumption, a priori, guiding Cizik’s critique. Specifically, that bad motives, political ambition or pure cynicism are guiding conservative Christians in the public square. In his own words:

The Family Research Council…and Christian conservative operatives advance a political agenda by suggesting that the priorities of corporations and the GOP fit snugly with the teachings of Jesus.”

Social conservative leaders have shrewdly recalibrated for an election in which the economy is the top concern for voters. ”

This might be good politics, but its bad theology.”

I don’t find Cizik’s criticism particularly helpful, because it doesn’t grapple with the real views of those with whom he’s at pains to disagree. But beyond that, I think it’s a represents the sad case of a man willing to besmirch his own legacy by assuming the worst of his brothers and sisters in Christ.

I disagree with Cizik, but I believe him sincere. Not evil. Not calculating. Just sincerely wrong. Would that he could extend to us the same charity. As Lincoln would say:

With malice toward none, with charity for all.”

Hold the phone…are we getting through to Chris Matthews?

by Christopher Marlink

November 21, 2011

You be the judge.

First, during Tony Perkins’ interview with Chris Matthews on the 11th, Matthews opens the segment with these words:

Tony, I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I do trust your conscience. You’re more conservative than me on cultural and moral issues, maybe, although I’m not sure. When it comes to actual morality, I think we may be closer than you believe.”

Matthews goes on, “I want to get to Tony here because I find him fascinating, because I do trust him.”

Then on Weekends with Alex Witt Matthews goes on a tear criticizing the President who gave him thrills just two years ago:

What are we trying to do in this administration? Why does he want a second term? Would he tell us? Whats he going to do in the second term? More of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets? Where are we going? Are we going to do something the second term? He has yet to tell us. He has not said one thing about what he would do in the second term. He never tells us what he is going to do with reforming our healthcare systems, Medicare, Medicaid, how is going to reform Social Security. Is he going to deal with long-term debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How? Just tell us. Why are we in this fight with him? Just tell us, Commander, give us our orders and tell us where were going, give us the mission. And he hasnt done it.”

A smoking gun? Maybe not. But our character, our views, and our thinking are shaped over time by the company we keep and the people we trust. Here’s hoping Tony continues to rub off on thought leaders (left and right) in the mainstream media.

Illinois Foster Care System: Leaving No Good Deed Unpunished

by Christopher Marlink

July 29, 2011

As someone whose extended family has been significantly impacted by the foster care system, this story out of Illinois was of interest to me personally—but the implications for the over 2,000 children involved and for Christians are profound.

The Chicago Tribune recently reported week that the state of Illinois has acted to sever its longstanding relationship with Catholic Charities. The state has found Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services to be in non-compliance with the states new law authorizing civil unions. The Trib reports:

In letters sent last week to Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Peoria, Joliet and Springfield and Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said the state could not accept their signed contracts for the 2012 fiscal year.

Each letter said funding was declined because your agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which the state says requires prospective parents in civil unions to be treated the same as married couples.

Illinois civil unions law contains exemptions for those religious bodies that do not want to perform or officiate civil unions. But as weve stated elsewhere, so called religious exemptions are usually just a way of greasing the skids to get controversial legislation passed. The exemptions could be challenged in court or be removed by future legislation. In a classic example of dont believe their talking points, Equality Illinois published this statement about the law on their website under a section titled Religious Freedom prior to its passage:

  • This Act would also not impact faith-based adoption agencies or adoption procedures. The Act does not amend the Adoption Act.

Thankfully the Catholic Charities is not taking this lying down. The three agencies in question have filed suit with the Thomas Moore Law Center against the Illinois attorney general and DCFS. Their request is altogether reasonable:

In the lawsuit, the agencies sought the courts permission to preserve their current policy of granting licenses to married couples and single, non-cohabiting individuals and referring couples in civil unions to other child welfare agencies.

Some readers may remember that in 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston ceased doing adoptions rather than violate their conscience and religious convictions by placing children with homosexual couples. We hope and pray that Catholic Charities in Illinois will receive a better legal outcome.

What is fascinating in this debate is that you have the state claiming that the law requires Catholic Charities give homosexual couples in civil unions equal consideration with married coupleseven though the social science data overwhelming demonstrates that children do best when raised by a married mother and father. A cursory reading of the social science makes it obvious that not all family situations are equal in the benefit they provide to children. (See Dr. Pat Fagans work on the MARRI project here, here and here for starters.). And yet the state demands that adoption and foster care agencies treat different family structures as if they were, in fact, the same.

While Catholic Charities works for the undeniable good of placing children in the best family situations available, the state of Illinois has embraced a social experiment wherein the best interests of children becomes subordinate to special interests of a vocal minority.

Finally, its important to remember why the state is involved in adoption and foster care services in the first place: to serve the best interest of the children under its care, not to bestow parenthood on individuals or couples desirous of the title or affirmation. Its about the children. Or at least it used to be in Illinois. Might one legitimately ask when the state will decide that Christians who disagree with normalizing homosexuality are unfit to serve as adoptive or foster parents?

Christians across our nation have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ by welcoming children in need into their families. Our friends at Focus on the Family have some great resources and a model in Colorado for making a difference through adoption and foster care.

Archives