FRC Blog

Thinking Biblically About Politics in Church

by David Closson

October 22, 2021

In the lead-up to next month’s gubernatorial election in Virginia, more than 300 churches are planning to show a pre-recorded campaign video featuring Vice President Kamala Harris in their morning worship service. In the video—which will be shown in predominantly African American churches—Harris encourages congregants to vote for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s former governor, who is in a tight and closely-watched race with Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin.

In the video, Harris says, “In 2020, more Virginians voted than ever before. And because you did, you helped send President Joe Biden and me to the White House. This year, I know that you will send Terry McAuliffe back to Richmond.” The vice president concludes her message by outlining why she believes congregants should vote for McAuliffe and asking them to vote after church.

Although CNN reported on the campaign advertisement this past weekend, coverage of churches’ plans to show the video was relatively sparse. But besides some social media discussion that questioned the propriety of playing campaign videos during a church service, the story appears to have faded from the news. However, the incident raises some important questions regarding churches and campaigns that Christians and especially pastors should consider. 

First, Harris’ campaign video likely runs afoul of the Johnson Amendment to the IRS code. According to IRS regulations, churches are not allowed to engage in direct political campaign activity. Under the section “Charities, Churches and Politics” on their website, the IRS explains

Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

To be clear, FRC is on record opposing the Johnson Amendment’s application to a pastor’s sermons because no government entity has the right to censor speech, whether in or out of the pulpit. That is almost certainly a violation of the First Amendment, but the IRS has not brought an enforcement action against a church sufficient to produce a successful constitutional challenge in court. 

However, it is ironic that after months of issuing dire warnings about “Christian Nationalism” and the dangers of conflating religion and politics, the left is now actively engaging in the very campaign tactics they decry when practiced by those on the right. In fact, it is the height of hypocrisy to fuss about the “separation of church and state” and say conservative pastors should not engage the political process when they promote a campaign-style video designed to drum up support for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in churches.

But the controversy over the Harris video raises important questions: to what extent and in what ways is it appropriate for churches to engage in politics? How should pastors guide their congregations through elections? Before answering these questions, it is helpful to recall some truths about the church. 

Theologian Gregg Allison defines the church as the “people of God who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into his body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.” While the universal church consists of every Christian since Pentecost, local churches, led by elders and deacons, “possess and pursue purity and unity, exercise church disciple, develop strong connections with other churches, and celebrate the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” In other words, a local church is a congregation of believers who have covenanted together and are committed to the regular means of grace, including the regular preaching and teaching of Scripture, observance of the ordinances, and fellowship.

In terms of purpose, the church exists to fulfill several important spiritual purposes. Theologian Wayne Grudem breaks down these purposes in terms of ministry to God, ministry to believers, and ministry to the world. First, when it comes to God, the church’s purpose is to worship him. Second, the church has an obligation to nurture the faith of its members and build them up in maturity (Col. 1:28). This primarily occurs through the regular preaching and teaching of the Bible. Third, churches are called to evangelize the lost and engage in mercy ministry (such as helping the poor and needy).

Although most people (including many Christians) are not accustomed to thinking deeply about the church, it is crucial for Christians to think biblically about the church. To this end, Scripture employs several helpful metaphors and images to describe the church. The church is a “family” (1 Tim. 5:1-2, Eph. 3:14), branches on a vine (John 15:5), an olive tree (Rom. 11:17-24), and a building (1 Cor. 3:9). Paul refers to the church as the “bride of Christ” (Eph. 5:32, 2 Cor. 11:2). The “body of Christ” is another familiar metaphor that Paul uses to express the close relationship between believers in the church and their relationship with Christ (Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 2:19). Paul, while addressing the Ephesian elders, cautioned, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). For Paul, the church is the most significant reality on earth because Jesus purchased it with His own blood. Accordingly, those tasked with its leadership must recognize the weighty responsibility entrusted to them.

In short, because the church is the blood-bought bride of God tasked with the responsibility of bearing witness to the saving news of the gospel, I believe churches should carefully scrutinize how much time is spent on topics outside the worship of God and the equipping of the saints through the word of God. Of course, this does not mean that churches or church leaders should withdraw from politics. Far from it. While “politics” carries with it a certain image, the word, properly understood, actually gets at how groups of humans organize their affairs. In this sense, politics is intimately connected to community—how we relate to other people—and is inextricable from the concept of loving one’s neighbor, which Christians are called to do. Further, politics implicates issues of moral importance to all Christians.

As I’ve explained in “Biblical Principles for Political Engagement,” voting is a matter of stewardship, and Christians should seek to vote in a way that honors God and advances the wellbeing of their neighbor. For pastors, there is additional responsibility. I believe churches ought to actively ensure that their members are educated on the issues. Pastors should preach expositionally through books of the Bible, ensuring they preach the whole counsel of God’s Word. Preaching through Scripture will have the effect of informing the conscience of congregations and help church members think faithfully about a host of public policy issues. Moreover, I think it is appropriate for churches to encourage good voting stewardship by conducting voter registration drives and distributing voter guides among their members.  

Of course, wisdom and discernment are needed when it comes to how pastors think about politics and disciple their people. Conservative pastors should be aware of the potential for hypocrisy when liberals criticize them for engaging in politics while playing campaign-style videos in their own churches. Yet regardless of their individual judgments, pastors should be free to speak. The First Amendment protects speech, and the Johnson Amendment and IRS guidance have historically had a chilling and stifling effect on pastors’ speech. 

At the end of the day, even though churches should have greater freedom and flexibility constitutionally, they should carefully and prayerfully consider how to steward their freedom well. Christians should engage politically, but that engagement must be done biblically, which is why churches (and particularly pastors) need to be wise and discerning, especially during election season.

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Coerced Abortion in America

by Mary Szoch

October 22, 2021

This past week, two Washington, D.C. police officers—Assistant Police Chief Chanel Dickerson and 24-year veteran Karen Arikpo—revealed that early on in their careers they had been told to have an abortion or they would lose their jobs. Fearing for their careers, both women aborted their unborn babies.

They expressed the pain caused by the police department’s past actions. Officer Arikpo lamented, “It’s so unfair…. And now I’ve never been able to have a kid. All these years, I’ve tried, and I’ve never been able to have a baby…. I did this for a job….” Assistant Police Chief Chanel Dickerson shared, “My choice to have a baby was personal, and it should’ve been mine alone and not for an employer ultimatum.”  Like Arikpo, Dickerson has never had other children.

This shocking news—a city-sponsored police department issuing an ultimatum to two black women—abort your unborn child or see your career come to an end—has received little to no media attention. Perhaps because coerced abortion is a far from an abnormal occurrence for women in America. 

Just weeks ago, 500 female athletes filed a brief in the much-anticipated U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, arguing that an unborn child’s right to life is a serious threat to the hard-fought progress made in women’s sports. They argued that female athletes could not be as successful as they are without abortion making it possible.

The writers of the amicus brief referenced Sanya Richards-Ross, an Olympic track athlete who, after revealing she’d had an abortion prior to competing, stated, “Most of the women I knew in my sport have had at least one abortion.” They forgot to mention that Richards-Ross also said, “In that moment, it seemed like I had no choice at all,” and went on to say, “I made a decision [to get an abortion] that broke me.”  

Aside from their mischaracterization of Sanya Richards-Ross as a pro-abortion advocate, the 500 women who submitted the brief fail to see that the belief that women must kill their children in order to succeed is something to fight, not something to celebrate. 

All across America, countless women fear that choosing life for their child will condemn them to a lifetime of not being able to “succeed.”

Planned Parenthood’s Dobbs brief quoted an abortionist who said, “I remember one person who came back to our health center a couple of years after her abortion to tell me how her abortion had allowed her to graduate from college and fulfill her dreams for herself.”

A female track athlete at Clemson aborted her child after a Clemson administrator told her, “Just think about your options. You know Coach isn’t going to give you back your scholarship just like that. If she finds out and if you decide to keep it [the baby], that’s gone.”

A 2016 amicus brief from 113 female attorneys in the case Whole Women’s Health v. Cole begins, “To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion.” This statement is followed by a series of narratives detailing how these women credit their careers to their abortions.

These days, we see one celebrity after the next proclaiming, “My body, my choice,” while simultaneously stating—like the 113 female attorneys—that their career would have never been possible without abortion. Few, like Nicki Minaj, are honest enough to admit, “It’s haunted me all my life.”  

Certainly, the past ultimatums issued by the D.C. police department are in a league of their own, but our nation must come to terms with the reality that virtually every woman contemplating having an abortion feels as if she, too, has been given an ultimatum—one that pro-abortion messaging reinforces every single day.

It is pro-abortionists who constantly tell women, “You can’t. You can’t graduate from college and have a baby. You can’t be an athlete and have a baby. You can’t be an attorney and have a baby. You can’t be a celebrity and have a baby.”

As we approach the Supreme Court arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the pro-life movement must continue to be the movement of “Yes, you can! And we will be here to help you.” We must change our culture to one where instead of being told, “Abort your child or lose your job,” future police recruits are told, “Congratulations! Your baby is going to be so proud that her mommy is a police officer! Let’s talk about how we can work together to make that happen.”

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Why Taiwan Matters

by Arielle Del Turco , Bob Fu

October 19, 2021

The Financial Times reported last week that China tested a new nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, a development that surprised U.S. intelligence agencies. This comes as China also continues to develop its conventional military capabilities.

Nowhere will China’s military buildup be felt more keenly than in Taiwan.

Just days before Taiwan celebrated its 110th National Day at the beginning of October, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent almost 150 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone. This show of force marks the largest threat to Taiwanese airspace since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took control of mainland China 72 years ago.

These events make it clear that Beijing is seriously upping the ante, and it signals that a military invasion may now be more likely than ever before.

Taiwan is an island off the coast of mainland China with which the United States has long-standing commitments that are partially outlined in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. But for its part, the Biden administration met Beijing’s provocations toward Taiwan with lackluster and at times confusing statements urging Beijing to stop pressuring Taiwan.

So, why does the future of Taiwan matter to Americans, and specifically to American Christians?

Tensions between China and Taiwan point to a larger global struggle between authoritarianism and freedom. And for the 23 million people who currently live in Taiwan, the prospect of the CCP taking over would mean an abrupt end to many of the human rights they currently enjoy, including freedom of speech, political participation, and religious freedom.

Chinese President Xi views Taiwan as a breakaway province, but the reality is that the CCP has never ruled Taiwan. In a speech delivered on China’s national day, following days of military drills close to Taiwan, Xi struck a nationalist tone, declaring, “The historic mission of achieving the complete unification of our country must be realized, and can be realized.” While this narrative plays well for Xi on the mainland, most Taiwanese citizens would reject “unification” with China even if ideal conditions were guaranteed.

The day after Xi’s speech, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen responded in a speech of her own, saying, “[W]e will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us… as it offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people.”

And this is exactly what President Tsai says is at the heart of the issue—not only a dispute about territory or sovereignty but also a debate over which vision of government is better.

Do free countries want to see Taiwan succumb to the oppressive authoritarian leadership of the CCP as seen in mainland China? Or see it remain a democratic society, which while flawed, protects the most basic human rights for its people and gives its citizens a voice in the government?

For Christians, the answer is obvious. The concept of Imago Dei, found in Genesis 1:27, teaches that every human person is created in the image of God. Because of the worth and value that all people inherently possess, they have God-given rights that the American Founders called “unalienable rights” and international law identifies as “human rights.” These include core rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression, religious freedom, and others outlined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. We can treat people with human dignity by working to protect people against authoritarian regimes like China’s.

We want to see more people living under governments that respect human dignity, not the other way around. The world has already seen the consequences when China takes over a freedom-loving population. Over the past couple of years, President Xi’s government effectively eliminated political rights and freedom of expression in Hong Kong. We don’t want to see this happen to Taiwan, too.

President Tsai met China’s bullying with a principled reminder to the free world. In a recent op-ed in Foreign Affairs, she wrote, “[I]f Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system. It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy.”

The values that Taiwan shares with America should be the backbone of our friendship. Now more than ever, Taiwan needs and deserves American support.

The United States should offer robust support for Taiwan in practical ways. This includes supporting Taiwan’s defense weaponry system, especially its missile defense and air to surface capacities, in order to deter an invasion. In addition, the United States, along with other allies, should hold military exercises on the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating American support for Taiwan and a presence in the region. 

The Taiwanese people formerly spent four decades under martial law, then demanded—and successfully achieved—democracy. That shift has led to greater prosperity and human flourishing. Today, Taiwan is a shining example for people suffering under authoritarian regimes that change can happen. To stand with Taiwan is to stand for fundamental human rights, including religious freedom. The United States should do so without reservation.   

Bob Fu is Senior Fellow for the International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council. Arielle Del Turco is Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council.

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Your Heart Was Made For Love

by Mikayla Simpson

October 19, 2021

Deep down, we all want to love people well. We can’t help it. We are made to worship and made to love, but sometimes the way we choose to prioritize our loves isn’t how it was meant to be. Without realizing it, our well-intentioned affection for people or things can turn into idolatry. Idolatry is dangerous because as we worship and love someone or something that cannot fill the wholeness in our hearts, we are left unsatisfied. We feel this emptiness because we are made for more.

Since the Fall of Man, Things Are Not as They Should Be

G. K. Chesterton once said, “When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything.” Because we have a sinful nature, we do not worship God as we should. Instead, we seek after the things of the world, expecting them to satisfy us. We open our arms to broken things, expecting them to fill us. As we draw out of these broken wells that “can hold no water,” our thirst remains unquenched (Jer. 2:13). Sometimes, we choose to worship the creature we can touch rather than the Creator who is above. In doing so, we abandon our greatest love (Rom. 1:22-24, Rev. 2:4) and craft gods out of good gifts. At face value, these gifts are not necessarily bad things to love, but our affections become distorted and disordered when God is not our first love.

In Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols, Brad Bigney defines an idol as “anything or anyone that captures our hearts, minds, and affections more than God.” Loving isn’t wrong; in fact, God created us with a great capacity to love, but loving anything more than God is idolatrous. This disloyalty flies blatantly in the face of God, saddens Him, and is sin. For He has said, “have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:2). Idols are poor gods that too often take and use us. They don’t treat us well, and they promise pleasure that they can’t deliver on, leaving us guilty, alone, and always wanting more. Bigney puts it well when he says that “sin is what we do when we’re not satisfied in God.” When we become impatient or discontent, we turn to sin, worshiping idols mistakenly believing that they are more reliable than God.

Identifying Personal Idols

Idols are the hidden matters of the heart. To identify these matters of the heart, Bigney offers a few questions to help us identify our idols:

  1. Am I willing to sin to get this?
  2. Am I willing to sin if I think I’m going to lose this?
  3. Do I turn to this as a refuge and comfort instead of going to God?
  4. What are your goals, expectations, and intentions?
  5. What would make you happy?
  6. What do you see as your rights?
  7. What do you fear?
  8. When you are pressured or tense, where do you turn?

It can be tempting to rely on our own understanding because there is a way that seems right to us but is actually very wrong (Prov. 14:12). That’s why we need the Lord—who searches out the heart and tests the mind (Jer. 17:10)—to weigh our hearts and direct our steps (Prov. 16:9, 21:2).

Ask the Lord to show you your sin, then let His Word reveal the hidden matters of your heart. Inviting Him into this gutting process will expose and dethrone the idols in your life. Let this intimate surgery carve out the festering loves that keep you from drawing closer to God. Press His words into the hollow places that these idols leave behind. Let the words pierce you. Let them fill you. Allow God’s Word to dwell in you richly. He is the One who gives us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezk. 11:19). Bigney encourages his readers engaging in this soulful surgery to remember to “glance at your heart but gaze at Christ.” We should examine the chasms and crevices of our hearts but ultimately set our eyes on Christ to renew our hearts.

We Only Fulfill Our Purpose When We Worship God

Apart from God, we will never be satisfied. The fourth-century theologian Augustine correctly observed, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they can find their rest in you.” As God exposes our heart, His Spirit renews and transforms our heart by realigning our desires with His will so that we do not live by our natural desires but instead can walk in the newness of life. When we walk in step with the Spirit, we are transformed.

God wants the good life for His children, and apart from Him, we have no good thing (Ps. 16:2, 63:3-4). We were formed for God that we would praise Him and bring Him glory (Is. 43:21). In fact, we cannot do better than God’s best for us because His very presence quenches our soul with a fullness of joy and pleasure that never comes to an end (Ps. 16:11).

But in order to know that fullness of joy, we must come. We must seek. And we must worship Him. James says, “Draw near to the Lord and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). The extent of our surrender to God is the extent of our satisfaction. He is the greatest pleasure and highest treasure. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must search out our hearts to determine what we must surrender, then actively remove the idols that hinder us from worshiping Christ as our highest treasure.

No one else in all the earth is like God. As Isaiah notes, He “stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to dwell in” (Is. 40:22). The One who created the galaxies and stars and calls them by name knows our names and came to earth to die and redeem us so He could bring us closer to Himself. He is the One our hearts long to worship. But if He is not our first love, we will always be empty. So, love Him. Worship Him. Your heart was made for this.

Mikayla Simpson interned with the Center for Biblical Worldview.

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What To Believe About Issues Jesus Didn’t Discuss

by Joseph Backholm

October 15, 2021

A favorite argument of those trying to push the boundaries of Christian ethics is an argument from silence. It usually goes something like this: “Jesus never talked about [insert issue], so that means He doesn’t care.” 

However, arguments from silence are a type of logical fallacy. The lack of evidence for something does not mean the gaps in our knowledge should be filled with assumptions. Furthermore, every parent who has heard their child say, “You didn’t see me do it,” understands that those who depend most heavily on a lack of proof might not be prioritizing the truth.

When it comes to the Christian life, arguments from silence are more than just sloppy thinking. They might also be evidence of a heart that is more interested in getting its own way than trying to live God’s way.

Fundamental to the gospel is the idea of submission. Paul expressed this attitude when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20, ESV).

When we justify our morally questionable decisions with an argument from silence, we put the cart before the horse. Our goal should not be to do whatever we want until someone says, “No,” but to affirmatively look for ways to honor God with our lives. 

Instead of asking, “Is it okay if I do this?” we should be asking, “Does God want me to do this?”

The first instinct of a life surrendered to God is to find out what He wants, not to see if we can justify doing what we want. As Christians, everything we do should be viewed through the lens of honoring God. As Paul said, “[W]hatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

The instinct to see what we can get away with is evidence that we don’t always want God to be in charge. We want Him to supervise and provide help when needed, but mostly we want Him to help us have fun. In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis described that view of God in this way:  

We want, in fact, not so much a father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, “liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.”

The God of the Bible demands daily submission for His glory and our pleasure because He loves us and understands that our sinful desires promise joy and satisfaction but deliver neither. 

Even Jesus, who is fully God and an equal member of the Trinity, was primarily focused on what God the Father wanted Him to do. As Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19).

It is folly to build our moral view of the world around what Jesus did not talk explicitly about. After all, Jesus didn’t say anything specifically about sexual assault or flying planes into skyscrapers, yet we can still know what God thinks about them. As Christians, our desire should be to think biblically about everything. Even though the Bible doesn’t provide explicit instructions on every issue or question we may encounter in life, the answers are not difficult to find if we actually want to find them.  

When considering what Jesus said and thinks, our attitude makes all the difference. Any time we find ourselves saying, “Jesus didn’t say you can’t…” is a good time to take inventory of our motives and make sure that we are really wanting what God wants and not merely trying to justify doing what we want.

Image: Carl Heinrich Bloch, “Sermon on the Mount” (1877)

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At 18, Chloe Kondrich Is Leading the Fight for Disability Rights

by Mary Szoch

October 14, 2021

At Pray Vote Stand Summit last week, Chloe Kondrich joined me on a panel to discuss what the future of life in America could look like in a post-Dobbs world. Even though Chloe is only in high school, she has already accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime. At age 3, with the help of her brother Nolan, Chloe became an avid reader. It has only gone up from there. 

At age 11, Chloe successfully lobbied for the passage of “Chloe’s law,” which requires health care providers to notify women receiving a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis of the full range of resources available for their child. At age 13, Chloe spoke at the United Nations along with her father. The two were so well received, they were brought back for an encore the following year. During the pro-life Trump administration, Chloe met both the president and Vice President Pence, and (as she told the audience at Pray Vote Stand) President Trump gave her a kiss on the head. Chloe’s picture with Vice President Pence hung in the West Wing.

Now at age 18, Chloe, who has Down syndrome, travels all over the world with her dad advocating for the right to life of all people, but specifically people with Down syndrome. She is a woman of few words—and plenty of smiles. 

Chloe brings out the best in everyone, and when you are around her, it is impossible not to wish more people were as positive, joyful, and kind as Chloe. As her dad said, “Chloe will have a mansion in heaven, and I’ll sweep the driveway.” 

Sadly, not all of Chloe’s efforts to advocate for the unborn are successful. In the United States, 67 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Across the globe, the situation is even worse. In Iceland, people with Down syndrome are extremely rare, not because the disease has been eradicated but because the people prenatally diagnosed with it are so rarely allowed to be born. In the U.K, British judges upheld a law that permits babies with Down syndrome to be aborted—and they did this in response to a lawsuit brought by a British woman with Down syndrome.

As Chloe’s dad, Kurt Kondrich (a pro-life advocate who works to pass legislation protecting those with Down syndrome in the womb) said at Pray Vote Stand, “It’s a genocide… When people identify, target, and terminate a human being because they don’t meet the cultural mandates—this culture’s mandate of perfection—it’s the ultimate extreme form of prejudice [and] bigotry. It’s hate. It’s actually capital punishment without even a jury.” 

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. It is also Respect Life Month. These two things go hand-in-hand. Those of us in the pro-life movement must advocate for all unborn children in the womb—especially those who are being targeted for extinction. 

This month (and every month, for that matter), if there is someone in your community who has Down syndrome, I encourage you to get to know that person. Invite that person to go for a walk, play a sport, or just hang out. If there’s a local business that employs people with Down syndrome, make an effort to patronize that business. Coffee is always better if it comes with a smile. If the Christian school your son or daughter attends does not have any students with special needs, advocate for the school to have inclusive classrooms. Inclusive education benefits all students—not just those who have disabilities. Finally, prayerfully consider whether God might be calling your family to adopt a child with special needs. That child will quickly become the best part of your family

If everyone knew someone like Chloe, a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome would no longer be a death sentence. It would be an announcement that another person who has a unique ability to be joyful, loving, and kind—while simultaneously encouraging others to be more joyful, loving, and kind themselves—is entering the world. What a lucky world.

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Pew Finds High Rate of Global Restrictions on Religion

by Arielle Del Turco , Cristina Cevallos

October 12, 2021

Each year, the Pew Research Center publishes a report assessing the extent to which governments and societies around the world restrict religious beliefs and practices. This year’s report—which examines 198 countries and contains data up through 2019—shows how much more work needs to be done to protect religious freedom globally.

Social Hostility to Religion Declines Slightly

Let’s start with the good news. The report’s Social Hostilities Index measures acts of hostility to religion by private individuals, organizations, or groups in society. Examples of hostility include religion-related terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment, and other forms of intimidation or abuse. In 2018, 53 countries (27 percent) had “high” or “very high” levels of social hostility, but in 2019 this number was reduced to 43 (22 percent), the lowest it has been since 2009.

Religion-related terrorism incidents (such as deaths, physical abuse, displacement, detentions, destruction of property, and fundraising and recruitment by terrorist groups) are also in decline. According to the Global Terrorism Database, 49 countries experienced at least one of these actions. However, 2019 was the fifth consecutive year of declining global terrorism rates. This decline is largely due to ISIS having lost control in many parts of the world, even though it continued to commit attacks such as the one in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in 2019 that killed more than 250 people and injured approximately 500 others.

Afghanistan is the greatest exception to these statistics. In 2019, the number of terrorist incidents by the Taliban in Afghanistan increased. Now that the terrorist group has taken control of the entire country, this trend will likely continue to worsen.

Notably, Christians are still the group most likely to be on the receiving end of religious harassment. In 2019, countries harassing Christians increased from 145 to 153. 

Government Restrictions Remain High

The report’s Government Restrictions Index measures government laws, policies, and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices. In 2019, the number of government restrictions reached its highest level since 2007. Most of the countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions were located either in the Asia-Pacific region or in the Middle East-North Africa region.

Pew’s study reveals that government harassment and interference against religious groups were present in 163 countries (82 percent). All 20 countries in the Middle East-North Africa region and 91 percent of the European nations had this type of occurrence. These include governments prohibiting certain religious practices, withholding access to places of worship, or denying permits for religious activities or buildings.

High-Tech Threats to Religious Freedom

For the first time, Pew’s study measured governments’ use of online restrictions and advanced technologies (such as surveillance cameras, facial recognition technology, and biometric data) to target religious groups. Pew found that 28 countries (14 percent) have some type of online restriction of religious activity, and 10 countries use technology to surveil religious groups. Most of the countries were located in either the Asia-Pacific region or in the Middle East-North Africa region.

For example, in the United Arab Emirates, the government blocked websites with information on Judaism, Christianity, and atheism. Iran launched cyberattacks against religious minorities. China installed surveillance equipment in houses of worship, used facial recognition technology to monitor and collect biometric data on Uyghur Muslims, and installed software on their phones to monitor their calls and messages. 

Government Repression Is Brutally Enforced

Worst of all, Pew found that 48 percent of all nations used force against religious groups in 2019. China, Myanmar, Sudan, and Syria tallied over 10,000 use-of-force incidents each. These incidents include property damage, detention, arrests, ongoing displacement, physical abuse, and killings.

Among the 25 largest nations (which account for 75 percent of the world’s population), Egypt, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Russia recorded the highest overall levels of restrictions and hostilities against religious people.

Conclusion

Pew’s report demonstrates that many governments are attacking religious freedom rather than protecting it as a human right. Although much has changed since 2019, including a global pandemic, government attitudes seem to remain hostile to people of faith. For now, we can rejoice in the moderately good news that social hostility to religion declined slightly even as we take action to combat problematic global trends. Religious freedom for all people everywhere is worth fighting for.

Arielle Del Turco is Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. Cristina Cevallos is majoring in law at the University of Piura in Lima, Peru.

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What Does the Future Hold for the Pro-life Movement in Mexico?

by Arielle Del Turco , Cristina Cevallos

October 6, 2021

Culturally conservative Mexico made international news last month when its Supreme Court decriminalized abortion. Four Mexican states had already legalized abortion, but the Supreme Court’s decision marks a major shift for a country with one of the largest Catholic populations in the world.

Mexico has a fairly conservative and religious culture. Yet, the Mexican Supreme Court dictated from the top down a decision that likely wouldn’t have passed if put to the Mexican people for a vote. A strong majority (60 percent) of Mexicans oppose abortion.

On September 7, the Mexican Supreme Court unanimously declared some articles of the state of Coahuila’s Penal Code, which penalized those who had or assisted in an abortion, as unconstitutional. Two days later, the same judges invalidated an article of the Sinaloa state constitution, which established: “[t]he State protects the right to life from the moment an individual is conceived.”

But the assault on life in the womb did not stop there. On September 13, the Mexican Supreme Court began to hear arguments concerning a law that seeks to restrict medical professionals’ conscientious objections to participating in abortions. A final ruling has yet to be made. 

This attack on conscience protections is devastating for people of faith, those who believe life begins at conception, and for medical workers whose professional opinions make them reluctant to participate in abortions. In the few Mexican states where abortion is legal, many medical professionals have refused to participate in carrying out abortions. Conscience protections are essential to protecting their freedom to live in accordance with their deeply held beliefs.

The Mexican Supreme Court’s decriminalization ruling implies that there are Mexican women in prison for having abortions. But that’s not the case. According to the National Penitentiary Registry of Mexico, no woman is currently in jail for having an abortion. There are five female abortionists currently serving sentences for carrying out illegal abortions, but even these cases were only prosecuted because they resulted in the death of the mother.

Notably, the chief justice of the Mexican Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldívar, said, “From now on, a new path of freedom, clarity, dignity, and respect for all pregnant persons, but above all for women, begins.” By referring to “pregnant persons” as opposed to pregnant women, Zaldívar is adopting a dangerous gender ideology that denies the scientific reality of the biological distinctions between the sexes.

Pro-abortion activists hope Mexico’s Supreme Court rulings will put pressure on other countries to take steps in the same direction. Mexico’s decriminalization decision comes right after Argentina’s legalization of abortion and Ecuador’s decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape. Pressure from international organizations is also a factor in abortion’s increasing momentum in Latin America. In Mexico alone, the International Planned Parenthood Federation has invested more than $18 million in abortion advocacy between 2008 and 2016.

In a New York Times op-ed, Melissa Ayala wrote about the Mexican Supreme Court’s decriminalization decision, saying, “The justices said what has long been intuitive to feminist activists: that someone who is not yet born does not have the same protection as someone who already is alive.” This is a disturbing and revealing sentence—one that gets at the heart of the pro-abortion argument. It’s the dangerous assumption that a child in the womb is not already alive and that a woman’s comfort and convenience is worth more than the unborn child’s fundamental right to life.

Sadly, the Mexican legal system is moving towards embracing a culture of death. Yet, there is still reason for hope for the pro-life movement in Mexico. On October 3, thousands of women rallied across Mexico to protest the Supreme Court decision. The pro-life majority should not let radical Supreme Court justices decide the fate of the unborn. Now is the time for pro-lifers in Mexico and across Latin America to make their voices heard.

Arielle Del Turco is Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. Cristina Cevallos is majoring in law at the University of Piura in Lima, Peru.

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Worldview is Central to Determining Views on Abortion

by George Barna

October 6, 2021

The month of October kicks off “Respect Life Month” in the Catholic Church, and with the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled to hear the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case on December 1, Christians across the country have begun praying in earnest for the case that could overturn Roev. Wade. How will Americans react to the possibility of the Court altering the long-standing Roe ruling concerning abortion?

Many Americans wonder why abortion remains such a high-profile issue after all these years. The explanation is simple. Almost 50 years ago, seven appointed—not elected—justices decided that killing unborn babies should be a constitutionally-protected act. Since that time, more than 62 million unborn babies have been killed in our nation.

Rest assured, that fact has not gone unnoticed by the God who knitted together those babies in the wombs of their mothers.

Recent worldview research provides helpful insight into Americans’ views about abortion. The annual American Worldview Inventory undertaken by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University shows that after a half-century of energetic public debate about abortion, the abortion perspectives of millions of Americans remain surprisingly tenuous and pliable.

Keep in mind that very few adults are capable of applying a biblical worldview to this (or any other) issue. Although 51 percent of Americans think they have a biblical worldview (according to a Center for Biblical Worldview survey), the American Worldview Inventory reveals that only six percent of Americans actually have one. Since most Americans (88 percent) are driven by a Syncretistic worldview—an inconsistent, unpredictable combination of elements originating in various competing worldviews—the nation’s thinking about the morality and permissibility of abortion is more likely to be based on current emotions and popular thought, not on biblical principles related to life.

Indeed, the American Worldview Inventory underscores the morally wayward thinking of Americans. Not quite four out of 10 adults (39 percent) believe that life is sacred. An equal proportion of Americans argue that life is what we make it or that there is no absolute value associated with human life. The remaining two out of 10 adults possess a variety of other views about life, including outright uncertainty as to whether or not life has any intrinsic value.

Views about life are closely related to worldview and faith commitments. For instance, more than nine out of every 10 adults (93 percent) who have a biblical worldview believe that human life is sacred. Eight out of every 10 (81 percent) SAGE Cons (i.e., the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians) possess that view as well. Surprisingly, only six out of 10 theologically-determined born-again Christians (60 percent) say that human life is sacred. Those proportions dwarf those among people associated with non-Christian faiths (25 percent) or those who are spiritual skeptics (15 percent).

Many people are surprised to discover that Millennials are not a pro-life generation. Less than one-quarter of them (22 percent) believes that human life is sacred. Meanwhile, twice as many in Gen X and a slight majority of Boomers and their elders contend that human life is sacred.

Americans’ views about abortion continue to shock many observers. For instance, two out of three adults (64 percent) either say that the Bible is ambiguous in its views about abortion or that they don’t know what those views are. For a nation where roughly seven out of 10 adults call themselves “Christian,” that represents a mindboggling degree of biblical ignorance concerning one of the most high-profile social issues of the past half-century.

Not everyone falls into that vacuum of wisdom, though. More than nine out of 10 people who have a biblical worldview—a group known as Integrated Disciples—reject the notion that the Bible contains ambiguous ideas about abortion. Similarly, eight out of 10 SAGE Cons reject that position as well.

But the idea that the Bible is ambiguous about abortion is held by a variety of population segments. More than 70 percent of people who draw heavily from non-biblical worldviews—specifically, Marxism, Secular Humanism, Modern Mysticism, Postmodernism, and even Moralistic Therapeutic Deism—believe the Bible can be interpreted multiple ways regarding abortion. At least seven out of 10 adults aligned with a non-Christian faith or spiritual skeptics also embrace that point of view. And two-thirds of adults under the age of 50 harbor that misconception as well.

Given these perspectives, then, it should not shock us to find that nearly six out of 10 adults (57 percent) believe that a woman who chooses to have an abortion because her partner has left and she believes she cannot reasonably take care of the child is making a morally acceptable decision. Again, the survey shows that such a decision is a direct reflection of one’s worldview. Just two percent of the Integrated Disciples support abortion under such circumstances. In contrast, more than eight out of 10 who are adherents of other worldviews support that decision. That includes 89 percent of those who often draw their worldview from Postmodernism; 88 percent who often rely upon Secular Humanism; 82 percent who draw frequently from Modern Mysticism; and 81 percent who lean heavily upon Marxist philosophy.

Previous research by the Cultural Research Center also revealed that national opinion is roughly equally divided as to whether the Supreme Court should overturn its disastrous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. The subgroup numbers line up similarly to the segmentation patterns related to the responses to the other abortion-related questions described earlier. In general, those most desirous of the Court overturning the 1973 ruling are led by Integrated Disciples (67 percent consider a reversal of Roe to be a priority) and by SAGE Cons (74 percent). Those who want the Court to affirm Roe are led by groups that are not favorable to Christianity.

The Court’s ultimate decision, whatever it may be, will not satisfy everyone—or, perhaps, even a majority of Americans. But for biblically informed Christians, the abortion issue is not about pleasing a majority of the public or persuading a majority of jurists; it is a matter of understanding and obeying God’s principles and standing for His truth.

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The Best Month for the Unborn in Texas Since 1973

by Joy Zavalick

October 4, 2021

October 1 marks one month since the Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect, outlawing abortions past six weeks, which is when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Since its implementation, about 150 unborn lives have been spared from abortion each day, meaning an estimated 4,500 babies will have the opportunity to be born because of the Act. According to estimates from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the six-week ban could save upwards of 33,000 lives in the next year if it continues to remain in effect.

This law has withstood many challenges since its passing and has triumphantly continued to defend human life. Even as radical proponents of abortion desperately seek any avenue to block the democratically enacted legislation, the Texas Heartbeat Act is unapologetically preserving the lives and futures of babies in the womb with each passing day.

Like the obedient servants of God who were protected by the Angel of the Lord in the furnace, Texas’ Heartbeat Act has persevered through fiery attacks. The uproar from pro-abortion advocates was instantaneous following its passage by the state legislature and signing by Governor Abbott in the spring. Members of the abortion lobby, led by Planned Parenthood, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to block the law before it could go into effect. However, in a 5-4 decision, the Court upheld the law on a procedural technicality, allowing it to take effect.

In a reactionary strategy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced a vote on the deceptively-named Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755). It should really be called the Abortion on Demand Act, since it would effectively codify Roe v. Wade and eradicate the vast majority of state-level pro-life laws, including the Texas Heartbeat Act. The legislation passed in the House last Friday and has moved to the Senate for consideration in the near future. Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, who has the duty to instruct Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a baptized Catholic in his diocese, declared that H.R. 3755 equates to child sacrifice.

Fortunately, the radically sweeping nature of H.R. 3755 has ruffled the feathers of even some Democrats. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are discomforted by the bill’s mission to overturn democratically instituted laws in the states that are created to promote women’s informed consent and human rights, such as ultrasound requirements, parental notification requirements for minors, and bans on discriminatory sex-selective abortions.

Texas was well-prepared for the surge of mothers requiring assistance after the ban; Texas has about 230 pregnancy resource centers (PCRs) that have been meeting the needs of mothers—more than any other state in the nation. One report shows that 46 percent of Texans support the six-week ban, only 43 percent oppose it, and 11 percent are undecided. Although these statistics are hopeful, they also demonstrate the work that remains to be done to educate all Americans about the inherent dignity of human life from the point of conception. Texas also provides a model for preparedness in resources for mothers that other states implementing pro-life laws ought to pursue.

The Texas Heartbeat Act has opened the eyes of pro-life legislators around the nation, who are now seeking to produce similar bills in their own states. Action to mimic Texas’ law is happening in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has demonstrated his support for a six-week ban that was introduced in the legislature last Wednesday. In Pennsylvania, legislators are anxiously seeking the election of a Republican governor in 2022 who would allow for a six-week ban to be signed into law.

Through its month of life-saving action, the Texas Heartbeat Act has increased hopes that a greater national understanding of the humanity of the unborn will allow for a favorable ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center case, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear on December 1. As additional pro-life bills are considered around the nation, and the pro-life movement prays for Roe v. Wade to be overturned by the Dobbs case, it is clear that Americans are increasingly valuing life and will increasingly oppose those who seek to end the lives of the most vulnerable humans.

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