Category archives: Religion & Culture

Remarks by Tony Perkins at the 2018 NRB Convention

by Tony Perkins

March 1, 2018

The following are prepared remarks by Tony Perkins at the National Religious Broadcasters 75th Annual Convention on March 1, 2018.

Winston Churchill once said, “During their lifetimes, every man and woman will stumble across a great opportunity. Sadly, most of them will simply pick themselves up, dust themselves down and carry on as if nothing ever happened.”

The apostle Paul spoke to the issue of opportunity in his letter to the Ephesians when he wrote in chapter 5: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.”

Now, if Paul had grown up in this country, he might have told the Ephesians “Make hay while the sun is shining.”

The sun is shining right now in American when it comes to our First Amendment freedoms. We need to be wise and act quickly, not only using these freedoms to spread the good news, but also to put in place policies that will protect and promote these essential freedoms, not just for ourselves but those yearning for freedom around the globe and generations yet unborn. 

Some of our brethren remain skeptical or indifferent about our engagement in the political process. Don’t be foolish. Elections have consequences, many far-reaching as we continue to see from the years of President Obama.

But we also see the consequences of the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. 

Let me put it in a format that many who track this administration are accustomed to – I’ll put it in the form of a tweet:

President Trump has:

  • Appointed Excellent Judges like Neil Gorsuch
  • Enacted Unparalleled pro-life policies;
  • Cut taxes & is Growing our economy

President Trump is:

  • Restoring religious freedom
  • Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
  • Rebuilding our military

This is happening because many of you in this room used your influence and your platforms to communicate what was at stake in the last election. I believe America dodged not a bullet in the 2016 election, but a political and cultural H-bomb.

Evangelicals, especially the subset that George Barna calls SAGE Cons—Spiritually Active Governmentally Engaged Conservatives (many of your listeners and viewers)—turned out in record-setting numbers and were unified. Ninety-one percent of SAGE Cons representing 20 million U.S. adults voted, and 94 percent of them voted for Donald Trump.

By the way, almost every time I see the president I don’t have to remind him that evangelicals were the margin for his victory—he reminds me that evangelicals voted for him and they love him!

And by the way, in post-election polling, 59 percent said they voted for the Trump/Pence ticket based on the GOP platform’s position on life and religious liberty. This is important. Despite what the media would say, evangelical voters are sophisticated.  They were able to separate personality from policy.

Evangelicals understood what was at stake and voted.

But the election was not the end of our responsibility, but rather the beginning of our opportunity.

First by acting upon it, but also preserving it.

We need to preserve it by communicating to those who look to and listen to us about what is really happening. We have to counter the narrative of the Fake News—which is real. I’ve been in conversations and meetings with this administration, which somehow got into the media based on their sources which were not only inaccurate but if I didn’t know better, I would think there were intentionally misleading.

Because of the importance of the evangelical voter, there is an intense effort on the Left to suppress their turnout in the upcoming elections, by dampening the enthusiasm of conservative voters. If they succeed and your listeners and viewers get discouraged and stay home in the midterm election, the reform is over. The restoration of religious freedom and the freedom of speech will end.

Nancy Pelosi needs just 24 seats to switch from Republican to Democrat to retake the gavel of the House. In every midterm election since the Civil War, the president’s party has lost, on average, 32 seats in the House and two in the Senate. There are more than 40 Republicans that have and will announce that they are retiring. 

If conservatives and in particular evangelical voters do not turn out, it will happen, and one of the first orders of business will be the impeachment of President Trump. They most likely will not succeed in removing him from office, but they will most likely succeed in stopping what this administration is doing.

What are they doing? The Trump administration is not just enacting conservative policies in line with the Constitution. President Trump is the first Republican President to not just stop the liberal policies of his predecessor; he is dismantling, slowly, but dismantling none-the-less parts of the framework of big, liberal government which has been expanded with the election of each Democratic administration since FDR

That is why the Left is unhinged. They won’t be able to jump back in the driver’s seat of big government and restart their programs, they will have to rebuild, and that will take time, especially if they don’t have the courts to help them in their activism. This is why every judicial confirmation is a fight.

We have to act upon the opportunity that we have, to fortify our freedoms, to ensure government does not again try to quarantine our Christian faith within the walls of our churches. A lot has been done, but there is still plenty to do:

  • The Johnson Amendment has to be totally eliminated.
  • The forced partnership between taxpayers and Planned Parenthood must be ended.
  • Patient-centered healthcare must be restored and,
  • God must be welcomed back into our public life.

The president ran and has governed by the theme “Making America Great Again.” But America will only be great again when it has become good again, and that is not government’s mission, but ours, followers of Jesus Christ.    

Benjamin Franklin said, “History will also afford frequent opportunities of showing the necessity of a public religion, from its usefulness to the public; the advantage of a religious character among private persons; the mischiefs of superstition, and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.” 

Let’s be wise and make the best use of this moment in time, this opportunity.

In the wake of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, there is a national discussion about how to protect our children in their classrooms. The focus has been on the instruments of destruction. We continue in a defensive posture with almost every school in America now having active shooter drills. 

In some ways, it is reminiscent of their grandparent’s generation that had duck and cover drills in their classrooms as Americans feared a nuclear attack from Russia in the 1950s.

While that threat was external, and today’s is internal, might we learn from how they responded?

In February of 1954, Reverend George M. Docherty, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., delivered a sermon on the subject of the pledge of allegiance, with President Eisenhower sitting in the front pew. The sermon was about the absence of the words “Under God” in our pledge. America was at the height of the Cold War with Russia, and a bold declaration was needed to show that there was a difference between America and the atheistic communists.

Three days after that sermon, a bill was introduced in Congress to add the words “under God.”

And on Flag Day, June 14, 1954, Eisenhower signed the bill into law, saying, “From this day forward, millions of school children will daily proclaim the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty.”

America will not be great again until it is good again, and that means America must once again not only acknowledge but live as one nation under God. 

Let us redeem the time.

Let us make the most of this moment.

Let us seize this opportunity!

Andrew Sullivan on Opioids: Pointing Us Toward God

by Travis Weber

February 23, 2018

Andrew Sullivan wrote a lengthy and illuminating piece recently digging deeper into the opioid crisis, in part by examining the attraction of the drug itself. One interesting aspect of the article was his observation about why opioids have been such a draw through the ages—they help us escape from pain, from reality. As Sullivan notes, if we simply attack the symptoms on the surface, we are missing a “deeper American story. It is a story of pain and the search for an end to it.”

For millennia, humans have searched for answers to life and the difficulty it brings. Some of these answers have involved God, and others have not. It is certainly clear that right now, America’s families have been hit hard by the opioid crisis.

Yet while we need to go to God, we often don’t, and we reject his advances. Like God trying to rescue us, the police officers trying to rescue the addict by administering antidotes “are hated,” for “[t]hey ruined the high.”

Marx’s claim that religion is the “opiate of the people” is old-hat. As Sullivan points out: “Opiates are now the religion of the people.”

We must go to God in our pain, not try to escape it by our own means—whether through opioids or otherwise. It must be said that prescription opioids (along with other pain management tools) can be used properly (like for the alleviation of chronic severe pain) alongside going to God in our pain.

Near the end of the piece, Sullivan again observes:

To see this epidemic as simply a pharmaceutical or chemically addictive problem is to miss something: the despair that currently makes so many want to fly away. Opioids are just one of the ways Americans are trying to cope with an inhuman new world where everything is flat, where communication is virtual, and where those core elements of human happiness — faith, family, community — seem to elude so many. Until we resolve these deeper social, cultural, and psychological problems, until we discover a new meaning or reimagine our old religion or reinvent our way of life, the poppy will flourish.

Indeed, in searching for “new meaning,” I believe Sullivan is yearning for God here, and I would point him toward the Good News: Though we have all strayed from and are separated from God (and part of this separation is pain), Jesus has paid the price for us to be restored to God. We just must accept him, choose to follow him, and submit our lives to him. This restoration then becomes our new eternal reality, even if we don’t see all its benefits immediately.

Sullivan continues:

We have seen this story before — in America and elsewhere. The allure of opiates’ joys are filling a hole in the human heart and soul today as they have since the dawn of civilization.

I would agree with this diagnosis, but only add that the medicine involves a spiritual element, most specifically the Good News discussed above. This is something Billy Graham, who recently passed away, would want us to remember. While the issue in all its facets is undoubtedly complex, it is clear that we must not neglect the spiritual aspect of the cure.

We as a nation need God, and need him publicly. Graham’s recent passing also reminds us of that. Let us remind ourselves again, and let us not forget it.

Thank you, Billy Graham

by Patrina Mosley

February 22, 2018

I was young in the faith when I first saw Billy Graham on TV during one of his Crusade gatherings. I could tell it was an older clip because the colors were fuzzy and it seemed like everyone was wearing costumes… because no one wore clothes like that anymore.  As a newly maturing believer, I marveled at the fact that this man seemed to dedicate his life to preaching one single message: “That Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Savior, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins.” 

You would think that would get old, right? How could one man preach the same message over and over again all over the country and continue to get people to actually respond? And in fact they did respond—in droves. You would think that if it were a big and charismatic personality out front with a trendy haircut, mellow on the sin, light on the scriptures, and heavy on the froth of entertainment, then maybe it would be easy to see how someone might get caught up in the moment and just want to maximize it to the fullest and think, “Nothing is stopping me from getting inches away from the coolest preacher I ever heard! Yeah!” But that wasn’t the case. It didn’t seem like there was anything particularly fancy about his message or appearance that would compel one to get out of their seat and inconvenience the many people in their row, then walk across a stadium before thousands to say a prayer.

I just didn’t get it. The picture of this looked so foolish that it convinced me it had to be the power of God at work—to pack stadiums across the country and the world full of people who were willing to hear a simple message, a message one could easily get at just about any Bible-teaching corner church in America, and yet hundreds of thousands of people came and gave their hearts to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

As I got older and matured in my faith, I realized for myself the power of the Gospel in a personal way. I knew what my life could’ve been had I not given it to him at such an early age, and I knew what my peers’ lives were like who had not made that eternal decision yet. My heart was burdened for them. I longed for my friends and classmates to know the Lord as I did and to go through life being able to start over and know that the God of all creation was with them.

As my senior year of high school approached, we had to do a project on our future career, suffice to say it was not on what I’m doing now (hint: don’t plan your whole life in high school—it’s guaranteed to change), but I knew in my heart that whatever I was going to do I would use it as a tool for evangelism. At the time, I did not know what role the Lord would have for me, but I knew that I better get acquainted with evangelism, and who best to teach someone about that than the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I heard they were coming to my hometown in 2006, and at the time it was Billy Graham’s son Franklin who was leading the efforts. I along with my mom decided to volunteer for the crusade coming to town, and I had the opportunity to participate in some pretty cool things and even got to share my testimony on video for their youth night.

Billy Graham’s life and ministry illustrated to me that it was truly the power of God that brings salvation and that he has no problem using people who we might consider the weak or the foolish of this world to confound the wise and do great and mighty things through them. Because of Billy Graham, I could see for myself that it was possible for God to take an ordinary existence mixed with humble faithfulness and cause supernatural results. I wasn’t sure where my life was going during that senior year, but I learned that I wanted it to be dedicated to the simple message “that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Savior, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins.” Thank you, Billy Graham.

How Billy Graham’s Invitation Forever Changed My Life

by Peter Sprigg

February 21, 2018

To honor the life of Billy Graham, here is a personal testimony from Peter Sprigg, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Policy Studies. This article originally appeared in The Washington Times on June 15, 2016.

Prayer—my own, and that of others—has played a crucial role in my spiritual development.

My parents were missionaries before I was born. My father served as a pastor and a denominational executive while I was growing up. I am sure that my parents prayed for me, including for my spiritual life. Ironically, those prayers did not bear their fullest fruit until I was in my mid-20’s—my mother had died, my father was again serving overseas, and I was living alone.

My passion growing up was not for my faith, but for politics. After getting my degree in political science and economics, I got a job with my Congressman. When that job ended because he did not seek re-election, I decided to take the plunge and run for office myself. At 24, I ran for the School Committee in my home town in Massachusetts.

My dreams were dashed, however, by a decisive defeat. That loss started me on a period of soul-searching—first in terms of my career goals, but eventually in a more literal, spiritual sense. Over a period of several months, a number of key events led me to a turning point in my life.

One of those events took place at my church, where I remained a regular attender. One Sunday, two men did a dramatic reading about the Lord’s Prayer—the one taught by Jesus to his disciples. One repeated the memorized words—while the other, off-stage with a microphone, played the voice of God, actually answering. The man would say, “Our father, who art in heaven …”—and the voice answered, “Yes, what can I do for you?” Startled, the man continues, “Hallowed be thy name.” The voice asks, “What do you mean by that?”

Continuing in the same vein, this short, humorous reading made me realize how easy it is to go through the motions of religion without thinking about it. I went home from church that day and began to pray and read my Bible daily—disciplines I had never before adopted.

Another event came when my pastor invited me to a special gathering. The Billy Graham Crusade was coming to Boston, and his team was working to mobilize pastors and churches to support it. The pastor knew of my interest in politics, and invited me to an event where the guest speaker was someone with political experience—Charles Colson, the former aide to President Richard Nixon who had spent time in prison, had come to Christ, wrote his story in the book Born Again, and then founded the ministry Prison Fellowship after his release. At the time, I found his politics distasteful, but his testimony compelling.

At the same event, we were urged to pray, and were given something to help us. It was a small round sticker to place on your watch. The challenge was to “pray on the spot when you see the dot”—in other words, every time you look at your watch.

Thus, my relatively new habit of daily prayer became one of nearly constant prayer throughout the day. Sometimes I would pray for Billy Graham, sometimes for loved ones, and sometimes just, “Lord, be with me.” And He was—as I became increasingly aware.

All of this climaxed for me when I attended the Billy Graham Crusade with others from my church in June of 1982. Although I was hesitant about going forward—having already attended church all my life!—those doubts were eliminated by Rev. Graham’s invitation, which directly addressed people like me. I went forward, giving my life to Jesus Christ in a decision that has shaped the remainder of my life.

A year or two later, I got to visit an aunt and uncle who lived far across the country from me, and shared with them my testimony. It turned out that my aunt was a long-time supporter of Billy Graham’s ministry and subscriber to his Decision magazine. When she saw that a Crusade was scheduled for Boston, knowing my location (but not my spiritual state), she began praying for me.

I will always be grateful that her prayers—and mine—were answered. 

Generation Z – Seeking Answers to Good and Evil

by Travis Weber

February 13, 2018

Generation X and Millennials are old news; we are now turning our attention to Generation Z, the youngest generation of all. One research outfit recently conducted a groundbreaking study of the way this group sees the world, including ultimate matters of life—faith, meaning, and the existence of God. (Though Gen Z is defined as those born between 1999 to 2015, for the purpose of this study only those between ages of 13 and 18 were included.)

When looking at differences between Christian and non-Christian members of Gen Z, the study’s authors report one of their major findings to be that “the problem of evil is a major barrier to faith” for 29 percent of non-Christian members of Gen Z.

While this finding is in a new study, the objection raised by Gen Z has been around much longer. Decades ago, British author and scholar C.S. Lewis, who was a non-believer for years during his youth, dealt with the problem of evil in his book The Problem of Pain. In its introduction, Lewis writes: “I never noticed that the very strength and facility of the pessimists’ case at once poses us a problem. If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator?”

Indeed, the reality that human beings are able to recognize evil at all shows us that we are comparing it to something else—that which is good. And if we acknowledge that we recognize we have a moral compass, we should ask where its reference point is.

By appealing to God (or against God) to correct those things which our moral compass tells us are off course, don’t we already recognize him as the source? And if he is the source, he exists indeed.

This may seem counterintuitive, but the fact that members of Gen Z are struggling over the problem of evil is actually a hopeful sign. In raising this objection, as Lewis once did, they show they are at least on the road to faith—as Lewis was as a young man. Let us pray and seek out opportunities to help them arrive at their destination.

The Amish: America’s Fastest Growing Church?

by Peter Witkowski

March 17, 2017

When we think of happening Christian groups, we typically imagine big church conferences, exciting worship concerts, and authentic community groups meeting in local coffee shops. Given this mindset, the following information will probably blow your mind and the minds of most people in your church. In fact, you may need to sit down for this.

The fastest growing sector of the evangelical world right now is the Amish. That is correct—our beard sporting, bonnet wearing, and buggy driving brothers and sisters are expanding at a record pace. Over the past five years, the Amish have grown by 18 percent. Between 2015-2016, they started 66 new congregations. They have even reached out to South America, planting communities in both Bolivia and Argentina. During that same time, the number of people that attend Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches declined by 11 percent.

Despite our well-trained SBC clergy, our smooth programming, and our billion dollar budgets, SBC churches are losing out to their brothers and sisters who churn their own butter. What’s more, the Amish have no major outreach campaigns. They typically struggle to reach out to people outside their villages, making their growth even more perplexing to SBC and other evangelical denominations. Yet since 1992, the Amish have been beating our church growth percentages left and right.

When researchers began studying this phenomenon, they discovered that the growth of the Amish movement had little to do with cold calling evangelism and everything to do with birthrate and education.

The latest birthrate statistics for the SBC estimate that each SBC couple has around 2.1 kids, a number that sits below the replacement level. Once death and other things are factored in, SBC churches would slowly die even if every kid born to SBC parents stayed in the church. And unfortunately, they do not. Almost 51 percent of all evangelical kids (including our SBC’ers) will leave the church. Most of those children will not return. For a church to maintain its size, every member (including the single ones) in the church must bring about 1.2 people into the church via birth or evangelism.

The Amish do not have this problem. The average Amish couple has 6.8 kids per family. And 85 percent of their children will choose to remain in the Amish community. When given the chance to freely choose between the modern world and the Amish lifestyle, more than 8 out of 10 Amish children choose to stay. Every Amish couple will add about 5 kids to their local church’s congregation, while the average Baptist couple will add about 1. And when the couples die off, the Amish church will have grown by 150 percent, while the SBC church will have decreased by 50 percent if birthrate is the only factor.

These numbers show that evangelism is not the major failing of our local SBC and evangelical churches. Our problem has everything to do with our view of children and the family. Churches that do not have members having children will not succeed.

Now, every Christian does not have to embrace the “19 Kids and Counting” lifestyle. Christ is still our ultimate goal and not family size. But, we must begin to revive pro-family values in our churches. Being pro-family goes well past having a catchy kids’ program. We need to celebrate birth. We need to praise parents for having big families instead of chastising them with snide comments. We need to come to the point where we value kids more than traveling, nice homes, and our own tranquility. We need to live as if children are a blessing.

And then, we need to commit to training our kids. We need to organize our families around the Gospel. We need to have intentional times of family worship. We must realize that going to church twice a week or twice a month will not provide our kids with an adequate religious framework. We must realize that the world evangelizes our kids 7 days a week. We must do the same. And we must intentionally find ways to protect our kids from the dangerous doctrines of the world and find ways to train them in righteousness. Commenting on Psalm 1, the pastor Voddie Bauchman says,

We must not allow our children to stand, sit and walk with those who deny biblical truth and morality … We can no longer coast along and ignore biblical truth when deciding where and how to educate our children … Do everything in your power to place your child in an educational environment that supplements and facilitates their discipleship.

The Amish have understood this truth and have applied it. As a result of their faithfulness, most of their children remain in their communities and churches. The Baptists and other evangelicals have not grasped this principles. And now, we are losing over half of our kids to the world around us. The realities cannot be denied.

Now admittedly, the Amish have not gotten everything right. I do not think electricity leads to sin. I also think our churches should be more evangelistic than the typical Amish farmer. But the Amish have realized that family is key. They have functionally realized that children under the age of 18 are the population most open to being evangelized and have literally devoted a large portion of their life to reaching this next generation. If we want our SBC and evangelical Bible-believing churches to once again flourish, we too must be pro-family and do a better job of training our children in the faith. Are we willing to make the hard choices and to become a little more Amish?

Peter Witkowski is the Associate Pastor of Preschool and Children at First Baptist Church in Eastman, Ga.

Why True Feminism Means Skipping the Women’s March on Washington

by Brynne Krispin

January 3, 2017

On January 21, women from around the country will come together in our nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington. Hundreds of thousands of women will fill the streets near the U. S. Capitol with their Rosie the Riveter arms flexed and their “woman power” signs bouncing in the air. They’ll stand tall and confident, filled with determination for their voices to be heard during the next four years of a Trump presidency.

A march like this has great potential for admirable goals, but its mission is a bit vague – standing in solidarity together for the protection of women’s rights and sending a bold message to the new administration that “women’s rights are human rights.” The mission statement ends in all caps, “HEAR OUR VOICE.”

But while this information alone has prompted thousands to register for the event already, it’s purpose has left many of us confused and disappointed. It’s upsetting to read the three paragraph mission statement and not be able to answer the most basic question: What rights are we fighting for? And to take it a step further, are we even speaking in unison?

Nowhere on the website does it list plans for what they hope to accomplish by marching in Washington, nor do they discuss goals for the next four years.

Motivating hundreds of thousands of women to come together and fight for a cause is compelling, but if you’re organizing a women’s movement, it needs to be for a specific cause that affects many women in our country and around the world – the gender wage gap, equal rights to education, the list could go on and on. We need to know what we’re fighting for and have a clear strategy to get things done. 

Feminism encourages women to think for themselves – get the facts, use our brains, and make smart decisions. So why should we show up to march? According to the logic of the organizers for the Women’s March, simply because we’re women. They expect us to say, “Oh cool, I’m going to go to this awesome event with hundreds of thousands of women because… I’m a woman!” This dumbs us down to one-dimensional human beings; it is the exact opposite of feminism.

Feminism celebrates the diversity of all women and appreciates them for who they are. Our unique minds, personalities, race, culture, etc. cannot be easily lumped into one category or even one cause.

If women are being asked to take a stand, we should be certain we know exactly what we’re standing for. 

I know it’s tempting to still attend – you want to make Susan B. Anthony proud with a selfie at the Supreme Court surrounded by hundreds of your new best friends to prove to the world that you are a true feminist. But it’s time to move past the “I am woman, hear me roar” approach. Roaring is not the agent to affect change – strong, articulate ideas are. Being the loudest person in the room is not leadership. We need less women with noise makers and no agenda and more women with a vision and a strategy to move us forward.

To anyone who is attending the Women’s March and completely disagrees with this argument, gather your thoughts and comment below. Your opinion has value, and we want to hear it. We must work together in order to advance the desperate need for women’s equality and respect for women and girls in our nation and around the world. But we must be smart about how we do it, otherwise our cause will fall on deaf ears and no progress will be made.

The problem isn’t with our volume, it’s with our message.

As we stand on the shoulders of the great female leaders before us – Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others – let’s make sure it isn’t merely our voices that are heard and our message itself actually sinks in.

Note: Already made your pro-woman sign and still want to march in January? Consider the March for Life, which stands for the most basic human right – the right to live. After all, this is the cause Susan B. Anthony would have marched for if she were alive today.

Ending the Secular Witch Hunt

by Peter Sprigg

August 26, 2016

Review of:

It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, by Mary Eberstadt (New York: Harper, 2016).

Mary Eberstadt offers a concise diagnosis of the growing problem of hostility to religious freedom in the Western world, in her new book, It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies.

Her historical analysis notes that, contrary to progressivist myths about Christians exercising “theocratic” power, the influence of religion has been generally in decline ever since the French Revolution. However, she cites two recent historical events as triggering a more virulent hostility to religion—the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which raised concern about the dangers of religious fanaticism; and the Catholic priest sex abuse scandals revealed in 2002, which solidified cynicism about institutional religion.

Eberstadt also cites two key legal battles in which the secular left discounted the importance of protecting religious liberty—the HHS contraceptive mandate in Obamacare; and the Supreme Court’s 2015 redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The Obama administration’s insistence on forcing an order of Catholic nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, to pay for abortifacient contraceptives is cited as an example of how the poor—supposedly the subjects of progressive concern—are subordinated to other ideological goals. She points out the abundances of charitable works and social services provided by religious believers, and notes that these agencies simply cannot be replaced by their secular or government-run counterparts. Yet secular progressives prefer to shut such agencies down (like they have Catholic adoption agencies that dare give preference to mother-father households) rather than allow dissent from the progressive worldview. Another chapter highlights how Christian education—whether in the form of student groups, distinctively Christian institutions, or homeschooling—has also been in the crosshairs of the Left.

Eberstadt argues, however, that the secular progressivism is not merely anti-faith, but actually represents a competing faith, explaining that “the sexual revolution has given rise to a new secularist faith of its own whose founding principles are the primacy of pleasure and self-will.” This faith actually mirrors Christianity in some ways, with its own “secular saints” (Sanger, Kinsey), “foreign missionaries,” “quasi-demonology,” and “canon of texts and doctrine.”

They believe they are in possession of a higher truth,” Eberstadt explains, “and they fight to universalize it.” This helps explain the ferocity of their attacks upon those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian morality—“the only remaining minority that can be mocked and denigrated … [n]ot to mention fired, fined, or otherwise punished for their beliefs.”

Eberstadt does not hesitate to describe the attacks on believers as a “witch hunt”—and to compare them directly and in detail with similar “moral panics” in the past, including the day-care sexual abuse hysteria of the 1980’s, the McCarthyism of the 1950’s, and the granddaddy of them all, the Salem witch trials of 1692. “‘Bigot’ and ‘hater’ are the new ‘wizard’ and ‘witch,’” she explains; “epithets that intentionally demean and dehumanize.” Yet even serious consequences—like the armed assault upon the Family Research Council offices in Washington in 2012—has not deterred activists like those at the Southern Poverty Law Center from employing such inflammatory language.

Progressives claim that conservative Christians are on “the wrong side of history”—but Eberstadt flips that argument on its head, declaring that “today’s ideological stalking and punishing of Christians is going to look contemptible in history’s rearview mirror.”

This leads to the most distinctive aspect of Eberstadt’s argument. Unlike others who have written on similar topics, Eberstadt does not say the solution is for Christians to mobilize and defend themselves. Other witch hunts were not ended by their victims, and she warns that this one will not be, either. Instead, she calls on liberals themselves to return to liberal values—such as tolerance, freedom of speech and association, and respect for true diversity. We must, she says, “agree to disagree”—affirming “the right to be wrong,” as author Seamus Hasson has put it.

American history already gives us the model for this resolution of the culture war, Eberstadt argues—Thomas Jefferson, whose misunderstood “wall of separation between Church & State” was intended to protect religious liberty, not to stifle it.

Empirical and philosophical critiques of the sexual revolution are legitimate subjects for debate,” Eberstadt asserts, and those who disagree with them should nonetheless “do the right thing by listening to what [critics] have to say, and acknowledging their American right to say it.”

People on both sides of the culture wars would gain by reading and heeding Eberstadt’s thoughtful analysis.

(Note: Chris Gacek and I interviewed Mary Eberstadt about her book on the FRC daily radio program, “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” on August 18. That interview can be heard here.)

How to respond to the “After School Satan Clubs”

by Travis Weber

August 10, 2016

As has been widely reported the last several weeks, a group called the “Satanic Temple” is looking to set up “After School Satan Clubs” (ASSC) in public schools around the country. What should we think of this, and how should we respond?

From the group’s name, one would presume these clubs are teaching about demonic activity. But a glance at their website shows them prominently proclaiming that they seek to teach “based upon a uniform syllabus that emphasizes a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious world view,” and explaining their view that “Satanism is a religion that endorses scientific rationalism as our best model for understanding the natural world.” They don’t actually believe in Satan.

So why not name the clubs “humanist” or “atheist” clubs? Perhaps these activists realized this would not draw the public attention like the name “Satan” would (the actual Church of Satan rejects the ASSC’s methods). The Satanic Temple has already agitated in the name of its “religion” by “creating a gigantic bronze statue of Baphomet for the lawn of the Oklahoma State House, opening city council meetings with Satanic incantations, [and] distributing coloring books featuring the dark lord to schools across the country.” So why do they want to draw public attention and provoke?

These atheist and humanist activists simply don’t like the fact that children could be exposed to the message of Christianity, and appear to want to pick a fight with Christians. They say they want religion totally eliminated from schools, and the group’s homepage prominently displays: “DONATE TO HELP US COUNTER EVANGELISM IN SCHOOLS.” Their main purpose appears to be to try to shut down Christian clubs in schools. How would they accomplish that?

In Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the Supreme Court held that when a school opens up a limited public forum to a certain type of speech, it cannot discriminate against groups looking to use that forum based on the viewpoint of their speech. The ASSC organization seeks to use these forums for its clubs. If the ASSC merely wanted the same opportunity as everyone else to speak their viewpoint, that would be understandable. But their whole purpose seems to be driven by an animosity toward Christian clubs; hence the provocative name.

They are aiming to do that by provoking school administrators into shutting down the limited public forum entirely. As the group’s website states: “Our goal, ultimately, is to place an ASSC in every school where the Good News Clubs, or other proselytizing religious groups, have established a presence.” Group members have said: “We would like to thank the Liberty Counsel specifically for opening the doors to the After School Satan Clubs through their dedication to religious liberty… So, ‘the Satanic Temple leverages religious freedom laws that put after-school clubs in elementary schools nationwide.’ That’s going to be the message.”

The ASSC organization appears to be trying to upset enough parents that school officials would close the forum to all groups (the fact that the group is based in Salem, Massachusetts, seems designed to aid its publicity stunt). If the forum is not open at all, then no clubs get to speak.

Though this would include the ASSC clubs, these activists appear to be fine with this as long as that puts an end to the Christian clubs too. As the ASSC founder reportedly told PEOPLE magazine, “[i]f they would get rid of the Good News clubs, there wouldn’t be a need for the After School Satan program.” In other words, the very purpose of the ASSC is to shut down the Good News Clubs. The ASSC organization, presuming parental outrage, is hoping school administrators take the bait and close the forum rather than allow the “Satan clubs” to operate.

What should we think about all this?

First, school administrators should not be deterred. The ASSC organization would love nothing more than for the school forum be shut down to all groups, including Christian groups. The forum should not be shut down out of concern for this group’s presence (its name does not even line up with what it is teaching anyway). It can be given a place among other student groups, and we can let the battle in the marketplace of ideas play out. Ultimately, neither rationalism nor demon worship can provide the hope and healing offered by Jesus.

Second, we should not look at this as a set-back, but as an opportunity, in at least two areas:

  • The ASSC organization is using a forum which is open to all under the Good News Club case. Why not use this opportunity to make sure that children are aware of their right to start Christian clubs if they don’t exist? As one Family Research Council event recently highlighted, let us also make sure school officials, administrators, and teachers are aware of the legal protections for religion in the public school. The forum is open—make sure we are using it!
  • If the ASSC organization wants to start a spiritual discussion, whether on the national stage or local school, let’s welcome such a discussion. The group’s use of the term “Satan” gives everyone an opportunity to discuss…Satan. Let’s explain his role in the Bible, his power to tempt humans away from God to our own detriment, and the good news that Jesus provides a way out of that temptation. Even if the ASSC organization wants to fall back on rationalism, let’s welcome an invitation to open up the Bible and rationally examine its claims: that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. He’s either Lord, liar, or lunatic. But nothing else. All must make a choice.

Both humanism (the worship of human progress) and actual devil worship will fail to offer humans a solution to our dilemma of the sense that something is broken, that something is just not right in the world. Only a restored relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ can do that. Every day, we are already seeking opportunities to tell the world this good news before it’s too late. This is just another opportunity, planted right in our lap! Let us go forth and proclaim the Gospel!

Christians and Public Life: Politics, Culture, and Bearing the Light of the Gospel

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 23, 2016

Since our first parents fell from a pristine garden head-long into the morass of sin so long ago, the inability of their heirs to extricate themselves from the moral swamp that is our nature has been the salient characteristic of human history.

Yet redeemed in Christ, His followers are called by Him to live in a manner worthy of His Name, of His character and His commission. Among the ways we’re called to do so:

  • Demonstrating in our own lives that His way is good, and that those who know and follow Jesus have found grace and truth;
  • Defending the weak, healing the broken, welcoming those fractured by the dissolution of their families, and upholding our God-given right and mandate to live-out, without repression, the implications of our faith in His Son;
  • Proclaiming that His standards are here for both individual and social well-being, and that when followed, we gain “a culture in which human life is valued, families flourish, and religious liberty thrives.”
  • Affirming that His self-revelation in creation, our consciences, and our reason is sufficiently clear for us all, Christians and non-, to understand what’s morally right and wrong for us personally, in families, in civic life, and in the professions;
  • Creating and celebrating “the good, the true, and the beautiful” such that all aspects of our lives reflect the loveliness of our Creator; and
  • Sharing the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, rose from the grave, and is Lord of all, and that He offers new and eternal life to all who will trust in Him alone for forgiveness.

To the second bullet, no one is weaker than an unborn child, and no one more vulnerable to predation than her mother at a time of crisis. No one is broken like the person who has departed from God’s plan for human sexuality. No one is needier than a child needing a father or a woman deserted by her husband. And no one can fully realize the nature of his humanity, that of being an image-bearer of God, without the freedom not only to worship Him privately but also to obey Him publically.

Yet we know that complete victory is impossible: As long as sin remains man’s inherent lot, God’s Kingdom, something Jesus warned us is “not of this world” (John 18:36), can never be built on earth. If we say we can usher-in Revelation’s promised “new earth” (Revelation 21:1) without Jesus, we would do well to reflect on a place called Babel.

On the other hand, if all we want is a place of political ease, one in which cultural comfort is the norm, we follow a false god. While the broad affirmation of Judeo-Christian values is, in any culture, welcome, it is insufficient. Social serenity in a world whose prince is darkness itself should never be the disciple’s chief end. We deceive ourselves if we think that those who disagree with us will just slink away if Christian values become more well-received in our culture and reflected more closely in our laws.

What, then, do Christians want? We cannot achieve comprehensive transformation. We are obligated to do justice and stand for righteousness. We will never be without opposition, at least if we’re living as God wants. And as the foundations of American cultural and political life crumble, that opposition will become increasingly savage and uncompromising.

We need to seek to do good to all men, in matters private and public. We need to take into our homes the abused and discarded. We need to advance legislation that affirms human dignity, opportunity, and hope. Private acts, public law. Both.

We need to be obedient to God. This means being winsome and gracious, bold and truthful. These qualities are not mutually exclusive, especially since Jesus embodied them (Matthew 21:12, Mark 10:13-16, John 1:14).

Toward some, we must be respectfully but firmly confrontational (Proverbs 28:1). Toward others, we must be gentle and aim to persuade (Proverbs 15:1). In doing both, depending on the people involved and the needs of the moment, we uphold the truth and proclaim grace.

Truth without grace is only severity. Grace without truth is mere sentiment.

Some argue that if only Evangelical believers were “nicer,” society would be less disposed to stereotype and dislike us. There is never any justification for being obnoxious or dehumanizing others. Yet however warm we are in the presentation of truth, there will be those who hate us; Jesus promised this (John 15:8). Christians are to be patient and persuasive, but we do well to remember that the most gracious Man Who ever lived was nailed to a cross. It’s not all about grace or all about truth. Both/and, now and forever.

We also need to focus on the things that matter most to God in the moment in which we live. Here in the United States, what are those things? I submit that the most salient issues are the destruction of 2,700 unborn children daily and the victimization of their mothers; the hydra of radical sexual autonomy as the highest good; the pending abolition of the family as grounded in one man and one woman in covenantal union, for life; and the pre-governmental duty of man to God and the consequent necessity of the state to safeguard our ability to live-out this duty as individuals conceive it (as long as such a conception does no violence to others).

This is not to suggest that a number of other issues, whether related to race, economic injustice, crime, and so forth are not important.

Yet nothing is more final than death, and death’s most cherished handmaiden in our time is unrestricted access to abortion on demand.

Nothing is more beautiful than sexual expression as intended by the One Who designed it, and nothing more debasing than sexual expression that deviates from that design.

Nothing is more foundational to human well-being and societal flourishing than the family, and as the family as we have known it starts fading like Alice’s Cheshire cat, children suffer and adults are wounded.

Nothing is more fundamental to our very beings than the fact that we bear the image and likeness of God. Thus, when Christians’ capacity to relate to Him as we believe He desires is curtailed by the state, the fullness of what it means to bear that image is diminished.

Prudence in judgment and persuasion in appeal must be the guardians of our witness. Principled compromise is sometimes achievable. As we exercise sound political and cultural judgment and seek to convince our fellow citizens of the goodness of our agenda, we can do much good and dissuade at least some of our countrymen from courses that will only hurt them and all of us.

However, some compromises are inherently unprincipled and must never be made. Whether that relegates believers to minority status or not is immaterial. We serve an eternal King, not temporal cultural approval.

Whatever the outcome of our endeavors, American Christians engaged in the public life of our nation (and to one degree or another, that should be all of us) must imitate their Savior in character and wisdom, courage and faithfulness, now and until He returns, regardless of political outcomes.

This is why we serve and contend as we do, for by so doing we herald the Gospel to a sin-besotted world, whether overtly or more subtly. Jesus is Lord, is real, and is the one true Light Who offers forgiveness and everlasting hope to all men.