Month Archives: October 2020

The Courage and Faith of Hong Kong Freedom Fighter Jimmy Lai

by Arielle Del Turco

October 12, 2020

What first drove Jimmy Lai—now an internationally-known media tycoon and a high-profile pro-democracy activist from Hong Kong—to seek answers in the Christian faith? Probably not what you might expect. In an interview with the Napa Institute last week, Lai’s answer to that question began with the story of the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997.

Before the handover, Hong Kong’s citizens enjoyed fundamental freedoms and ample opportunity under British rule that citizens of mainland China did not. When Lai was just 12 years old, he fled from mainland China to Hong Kong as a stowaway to seek the opportunities provided by the city’s freedoms. Starting as a child laborer, he worked his way up the corporate ladder and became a successful businessman in his own right.

By 1997, Lai had become a prominent critic of the Chinese Communist Party. He knew that with the Chinese government encroaching on Hong Kong, “if they had to arrest ten people, I would be one of them.” Lai said, “This fear prompted me to look for God.”

At midnight on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong formally came under the Chinese Communist Party’s jurisdiction. The following day, Lai joined the Catholic Church under the leadership of then-Bishop Joseph Zenz.

Now that the Chinese government is seeking even greater control over Hong Kong, Lai is once again facing the threat of imprisonment, due to his position as a pro-democracy advocate.

When China imposed a new national security law for Hong Kong in June, the Chinese government expanded its power to crack down on anyone it deems a national security threat. But in China, a threat to “national security” often means a threat to the Party. In August of this year, Lai was arrested under the new law for “collusion with foreign powers” due to his pro-democracy advocacy. His sons were also arrested at their homes. The same day, over 200 police officers raided Lai’s pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily.

Though Lai is currently released on bail, he could receive a minimum of 10 years in jail if he is convicted on that charge. But these developments were not altogether surprising for Lai. In an op-ed published in late May, he wrote, “I have feared that one day the Chinese Communist Party would grow tired not only of Hong Kong’s free press but also of its free people. That day has come.”

Lai has British citizenship, and he can easily escape the tense environment in Hong Kong and the new risks that come with living there. Yet, his conviction requires him to stay. He told the Napa Institute, “If I go away, I not only give up my destiny, I give up God, I give up my religion, I give up what I believe in.”

Religious freedom is a foremost consideration as Lai continues to advocate for democracy and the rule of law in Hong Kong. The Chinese government’s war on faith is ramping up, and Lai suggests this crackdown is part of the Party’s goal to further consolidate and secure its own power. He notes, “Once you don’t have a religion, you can easily be dictated by their order.”

Though the risks are higher than ever for this 71-year-old self-made entrepreneur, he continues to advocate for freedom and finds purpose in doing so. As he faces an uncertain future, his reflections are significant and ought to inspire us all: “When you lift yourself above your own self-interest, you find the meaning of life. You find you’re doing the right thing, which is so wonderful. It changed my life into a different thing.”

Christian Voting Myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?”

by Joseph Backholm

October 12, 2020

This is part 3 of a 4-part series debunking four common myths Christians use to not vote. Read myth #1: “One Vote Doesn’t Make a Difference”myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”; and myth #4 “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

In an ideal world, you would always have the option to vote for really great people that you agree with in every respect. In the real world, however, your ballot may give you choices that make you feel less like you’re choosing someone to represent your values and more like you are choosing a cancer treatment. In that situation, what you want most is a different option. But sometimes there is no different option. What should you do then?

For a lot of people, the answer is “nothing.” Instead of voting, they choose to be absent from the process, absolve themselves of responsibility, and blame God for allowing it to come to this.

One reason it’s sometimes difficult to vote is because we want to support someone without reservation. On social media, we “like” people that we care about, things that makes us laugh, or ideas that we agree with. Our “like” is our stamp of approval. If we only like it a little bit, we’re likely to move on to something else.

There’s a temptation to treat our ballot the same way. If we can’t give unqualified support, we are tempted to abstain and wait for something better. But voting is not like social media. It’s more like filling a job vacancy. The job has to be filled and the Constitution has dictated the timeline. The fact that you haven’t found the ideal candidate may be frustrating, but it is not relevant to the fact that the job is going to be filled.

Your desire to find someone you can give unqualified support to is noted but not especially helpful under the circumstances. In that situation, it may be more helpful to think less about good and bad and more about better or worse. Is that possible? Maybe.

Character always matters, but if a completely virtuous person is not one of your choices, maybe the policies represented by one candidate are more virtuous than the policies of the other candidates. Is one candidate working on behalf of the abortion industry while the other works to defend life? Does one candidate defend conscience rights while the other supports suing nuns and churches that live out their faith? Does one candidate want parents involved in their child’s education and health care decisions while the other wants the state to interfere with parental rights? In a situation where all the candidates are flawed, we might be able to find clarity if we allow ourselves to think less about people involved and more about policies that will be affected.

In addition, if there is no “best candidate,” it may be helpful to think about the “best team.” No politician works alone. Most candidates are part of a political party, and all candidates have donors and supporters. Executive offices, like mayors, governors, and presidents also appoint cabinet members, judges, ambassadors, and thousands of other positions that affect how government operates.

Which candidate, for political reasons, is going to be pressured more often to do things you like and which candidate is going to face pressure to do things you won’t like? If the two foremen are not people you especially care for, is there a reason to prefer one crew over another?

Though it sometimes seems the end is near, we do still live on earth and that means we will be consistently faced with imperfect choices. It would be nice if the choice was always clearly good or evil, but it’s not. Sometimes the choice is better or worse, and if you aren’t willing to choose better, you may find yourself stuck with worse.

Read myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of October 4)

by Family Research Council

October 9, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Biden Staffer on SCOTUS: Christians Need Not Apply

In a recent eye-opening exchange, one of the Biden campaign staffers seemed appalled that Amy Coney Barrett’s resume includes a stint as a trustee of an Indiana Catholic school. The scandal, at least to liberals, isn’t that the school is Catholic—but that it upholds Catholic beliefs.

2. Blog: Christian Voting Myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”

Anyone who has spent 15 minutes around a church during election season has heard someone say something to the likes of, “Don’t worry about the election. It doesn’t really matter what happens because God is in control.” In part 2 of our 4-part series dedicated to debunking common Christian voting myths we unpack the myth: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote.”

3. Publication: Why Amy Coney Barrett Should Be Confirmed to the Supreme Court

For the past 50 years, the Supreme Court has increasingly stepped outside of its limited role in our constitutional order and amassed great power for itself at the expense of the people. By now, the Court has almost become an unchallengeable, unreviewable super-legislature. For this reason, it is all the more important to appoint Supreme Court justices who believe in separation of powers.

4. Resource: Pray Vote Stand Voter Guides

In this important season for our nation, it is imperative as Christians that we seek the Lord first as we look to vote for biblical values and stand for truth. Make sure this election season you know where the candidates on your ballot stand on the issues that matter to you. Check out FRC Action’s voter guides to be “in the know.”

5. Washington Watch: Midland Mayor Patrick Payton believes Bob Fu’s effectiveness on China is what’s driving the protests

Patrick Payton, Mayor of Midland, Texas, joined Tony Perkins to discuss his efforts to stand up to those harassing Bob Fu, the president of China Aid and FRC’s Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom.

6. Washington WatchTyler O’Neil wonders when mainstream religious beliefs will become ‘disqualifiers’ for public office

Tyler O’Neil, Senior Editor of PJ Media, joined Tony Perkins to discuss a Joe Biden staffer saying traditional religious beliefs should be ‘taboo’ and ‘disqualifiers’ for public office.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Education

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Pastor Brad Jurkovich, Maria Keffler, Mary Rice Hasson, and Jonathan Cahn to take a look at the presidential candidates’ education plans and what they mean for the future of school choice, sex education, religious schools, privacy, American history, and even team sports.

For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.com, our Facebook pageTwitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad.

Family Research Council’s vision is a prevailing culture in which all human life is valued, families flourish, and religious liberty thrives. Join us to learn about FRC’s work and see how you can help advance faith, family, and freedom.

House Resolution Coerces Members to Support Abortion Rights

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Ruth Moreno

October 9, 2020

Earlier this month, a former employee at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Georgia filed a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that hysterectomies were being performed on detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center without appropriate informed consent. The U.S. House of Representatives has responded by passing a resolution condemning all perpetrators and calling for them to be held accountable.

House Resolution 1153, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), justly condemns the performance of “unwanted, unnecessary medical procedures on individuals without their full, informed consent.” Unfortunately, House Democrats couldn’t resist inserting partisan language into what ought to have been a straightforward and bipartisan resolution. The resolution’s second clause states that “everyone deserves to control their own reproductive choices and make informed choices about their bodies.” This begs the question: to what kinds of reproductive choices is the clause referring? The Democrat-controlled House most likely intends the so-called “right” to abortion, ignoring the rights of the unborn in the same breath as condemning ICE for violating the rights of women.

This resolution would not be the first time Democrats have embraced antithetical positions regarding human rights violations and abortion. Although Democrats insist human rights and abortion are one and the same, abortion is the very opposite of human rights, because every successful abortion ends a human life. It should also be noted that the abortion industry, which has long backed Democrat candidates, has a troubled history with eugenics. Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenicist who viewed abortion and birth control as a means of controlling the population of the “unfit.” While Planned Parenthood’s current leadership may publicly disavow eugenics, many of its abortion facilities are situated in minority communities, and women of color are statistically much more likely to obtain abortions in the U.S. than white women.

Democrats are also slow to condemn the atrocity of forced abortion, which happens in many nations around the world, including the most populous country, China. Even here in America, many women who obtain abortions report having felt coerced into that decision by friends, family members, or boyfriends.

In many parts of the world, unborn children are aborted due to unwanted physical or mental disabilities, or even for being female. Iceland prides itself on having nearly “eradicated” Down syndrome, but in reality, the only reason the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased in that country is because children diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are often killed prior to birth via abortion. In India, where sex-selective abortion is rampant, a new study has shown that there might be as many as 6.8 million fewer girls than boys born between 2017 and 2030.

House Democrats are right to condemn the practice of forcing hysterectomies on non-consenting women. The allegations raised against ICE at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia should be thoroughly investigated to ensure that all offenders are brought to justice. By dragging abortion into H.Res. 1153, however, Democrats have created a needless roadblock to bipartisanship while also highlighting their hypocrisy on the issue of human rights.

In response to the partisan H.Res. 1153, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) introduced the Informed Consent Act (H.R. 8498), which would prohibit any abortion or sterilization procedure performed without informed consent and impose a 10-year penalty on anyone who violates this provision. The issue of forced abortion and sterilization should not be co-opted as a means of promoting legal abortion. If Democrats truly had women’s best interests in mind, they would support H.R. 8498 and condemn any violence done to women and their unborn children.

Who Can We Look to as Examples of Christian Citizenship?

by Molly Carman

October 9, 2020

Most people are citizens of someplace, either by birth or by choice, and with citizenship comes certain responsibilities. But what does it mean to be a good citizen? And how should Christians balance their primary allegiance to the kingdom of heaven with their earthly obligations to their communities and countries? This six-part blog series, produced under the direction of David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, aims to explore how Christians can best steward these responsibilities from a biblical worldview. Learn more at FRC.org/worldview.

This is the final part of a 6-part series. Read part 1part 2part 3, part 4, and part 5.

Now that we have an understanding of what good Christian citizenship is, let’s consider the good examples set by individuals who lived for the glory of God and loved their neighbors well. Isaac Newton once attributed his scientific success to “standing on the shoulders of giants” who had gone before him. Likewise, we can press on toward being better citizens because others have already laid down a strong foundation for us to build upon.

In the first installment of this series on citizenship, the question was posed, “What does it mean to be a Christian citizen?” A biblical example of godly citizenship is Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives described in the book of Exodus. The pharaoh who had enslaved the children of Israel feared an uprising, so to reduce the male population, he commanded Shiphrah and Puah to kill any sons born to the Hebrews. Because “the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live” (Exodus 1:17), the Lord blessed them for their faithfulness. The women modeled good citizenship because they prioritized the kingdom of heaven over their citizenship of Egypt while seeking the well-being of their neighbors.

The second installment of this series talked about discerning the differences between good and bad citizenship, and explained why being a good citizen of heaven sometimes necessitates being a “bad” citizen of earth. In another biblical example, Esther risked her life to save her people from mass genocide. Esther was the queen of Persia, and her identity as a Jew was not public. Rather than seek her own safety, however, she chose to consider the well-being of others and went to the king uninvited to plead for the lives of her people, the Jews. Her selfless act made her a good citizen of heaven, despite temporarily making her a “bad” citizen of Persia.

The third installment of this series explained why good citizens are essential for any community to flourish and why good citizenship often requires courage and determination to uphold the truth. During World War II, the Nazis began an indoctrination program called Hitler’s Youth. However, some young people resisted Nazi indoctrination. One such young woman was Sophie Scholl (pictured above). She took a stand against the regime and gave her life at the age of 22 because she dared to open the eyes of her peers with her words. We need good citizens like Sophie, who are willing to risk everything for the truth.

The fourth installment of this series emphasized the importance of raising and discipling good citizens. Many Christians are familiar with the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. Their mother, Susanna Wesley, is an excellent model of faithful discipleship. Susanna had 19 children, half of whom did not live to adulthood, due to sickness, accidents, and a house fire. Her husband was often away traveling for the church, so most of the child-rearing responsibilities fell to Susanna. She was determined to disciple her children in the Lord and lead them in family worship, reading and memorizing Scripture, and daily prayer. Her dedication to her children impacted countless people and communities, as she successfully raised good Christian citizens who would grow up to change the world.

The fifth installment of this series discussed whether it is appropriate for Christians to have patriotic loyalties for their earthly nations. The apostle Paul wrestled with this when he said, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:4b-7). Paul was a proud Hebrew and Jew. There was nothing wrong with feeling an affection for and delight in his heritage, but Paul recognized that he must boast in what Christ has done first.

There are countless more historical examples of individuals who have balanced good citizenship to earthly kingdoms and the kingdom of heaven. May we look to their example and aspire to be good citizens ourselves. This world is not our permanent home; we are citizens of heaven. But we must steward our time on earth well and consider the work that God has for us to do. May we all be good citizens who are engaged in this fall’s elections and our communities year-round. Whatever we do, in word or deed, we should do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17).

Christian Voting Myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”

by Joseph Backholm

October 8, 2020

This is part 2 of a 4-part series debunking four common myths Christians use to not vote. Read myth #1: “One Vote Doesn’t Make a Difference”myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?” and myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

Anyone who has spent 15 minutes around a church during election season has heard someone say some version of the following: “Don’t worry about the election. It doesn’t really matter what happens because God is always in charge anyways.”

It’s true, of course, that God is always in charge. Neither human frailty nor human stupidity threaten God’s plan for the world. He will accomplish His plan despite us. But it isn’t logical to conclude that because God is sovereign, we don’t have to care about what happens in government. Here’s why. 

The freedom we enjoy in America is unusual. Even if you’re not a political activist, you’re probably thankful that life in the United States is different than life in places like Venezuela or North Korea. It’s not just different, it’s better. We can own property, say stupid things online about our government without fear of the police arresting us for it, and even help determine who our government is.  

These freedoms are so normal for Americans that we tend to take them for granted, but they were unimaginable for generations past. Billions of people have lived and died under a monarchy, oligarchy, or some form of dictatorship. That’s not only true of the past, it’s true of the present. Most people alive in the world right now are not free in the way Americans understand freedom.  

Those of us who have freedom and prosperity probably didn’t do anything to earn it. We inherited it. We’re political trust fund babies. Though we didn’t do anything to get it, we are responsible for what we do with it. To whom much is given, much is required. That’s why indifference isn’t an option. The American form of government is a gift, and we owe it to those who gave us that gift to treat it with appropriate respect and appreciation. One way we do that is by taking care of it.

A republican form of government, like everything in our lives, requires constant maintenance. If you decide to never mow your lawn again, never replace the breaks on your car, or never fix the leak in your roof, God will still be in charge and He will still accomplish His purpose. Nothing about neglecting adult responsibilities threatens God’s sovereignty. But we don’t decline to fix our roof because God is sovereign, nor is God’s sovereignty the reason we would fix it. We fix the roof as an act of stewardship for the good gift of a house that God has given us and as an act of service to the people in our family who live in the house. So it is with governments.

Educating ourselves, voting, and running for office are forms of civic maintenance. They feel like chores because in a real sense, they are chores. They’re civic chores and they’re a privilege. We shouldn’t complain about our civic duties any more than we should complain about the maintenance costs on our private fleet of jets. Some problems aren’t problems, they’re blessings. It is a privilege to be able to query which candidate is most tolerable. At least we get to have an opinion. Doing the work necessary to keep the luxury items God has given us in good condition does not show a lack of trust in God’s sovereignty, it shows good stewardship of what He has given to us and kindness to our neighbors.

After all, well maintained governments make life better for everyone. Ideas are not neutral. All ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. When we allow bad ideas to take root in government, people get hurt. Engagement in our government is not just a way to fulfill a civic duty, it’s a chance to make life tangibly better for other people. Babies who would otherwise die get to live. People who would otherwise be punished for speaking the truth get to speak. Businesses that would otherwise be shut down can flourish. Parents who would otherwise lose the right to direct the upbringing of their children get to have the final say. Communities that would otherwise be unsafe are able to thrive. Justice exists where it didn’t before. Some political choices are purely a matter of opinion—chocolate or vanilla? But sometimes they’re a matter of life and death.

It’s true that God is in charge and we can trust Him, even when things are hard. It is also comforting to know that God will restore all things in His time, even if something bad happens. But that’s no excuse for indifference. God has placed us on earth to be His hands and feet in a broken world. Our efforts to make the world better by living out our beliefs are not a sign of misplaced trust but a recognition of who He made us to be.

Read myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?”

What Does it Mean to be Both a Christian Citizen and a Patriot?

by Molly Carman

October 7, 2020

Most people are citizens of someplace, either by birth or by choice, and with citizenship comes certain responsibilities. But what does it mean to be a good citizen? And how should Christians balance their primary allegiance to the kingdom of heaven with their earthly obligations to their communities and countries? This six-part blog series, produced under the direction of David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, aims to explore how Christians can best steward these responsibilities from a biblical worldview. Learn more at FRC.org/worldview.

This is part 5. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

Patriotism is defined as devotion and support for one’s nation or homeland. This national loyalty can result from a variety of factors, such as a person’s ethnic, cultural, political, or historical background. While a love of country can be a positive trait, we must remember that Christians are ultimately citizens of heaven; our earthly nations are not eternal. Therefore, we must recognize the line between appropriate, God-honoring patriotism of our earthly nations and idolatry.

Both extreme Christian perspectives on citizenship, previously discussed in this series, have distinct attitudes on patriotism.

According to the first, which views loyalty to the state as a primary good, patriotism is vital to good citizenship because it strengthens national unity and encourages a positive form of nationalism. Therefore, according to this view, anyone who is not patriotic is not a good citizen.

The second extreme perspective views the integration of religion and political power as the ideal government and sees patriotism as only good if (and only if) the state is guided by Christians. Those who hold to this view see patriotism for a secular or pluralist country as not good.

The first extreme is correct that patriotism strengthens national unity. The second extreme is also correct that we should support Christian leaders, values, and ideals. However, as we have discussed previously, the basic premises these two perspectives are founded upon are flawed. Both regard earthly kingdoms more highly than they ought. We must remember that we are still living with the consequences of sin in a fallen world; no earthly nation is perfect or can save us. Nations are temporal, and we must be careful not to put our ultimate hope in our governing authorities.

We must be careful that our patriotism does not become overzealous and slide into a type of nationalism that willfully defends one’s country even when it is in the wrong. Extreme nationalism can also lead to more insidious beliefs, such as thinking one’s countrymen are genetically superior to all others. This perspective led numerous countries throughout history to seek the eradication of different people groups in an effort to “purify” their race or country. This happened within the past century in Turkey with the Armenian genocide and in Germany with the Holocaust. It is happening today with the Uyghurs in China.

Christians must keep two things in mind in regard to patriotism.

First, we are ambassadors of Christ before we are ambassadors of any other country. Christians have a duty to represent Christ and the kingdom of heaven while on earth. As Paul reminded the church in Corinth, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors of Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). Everywhere Christians go on earth, we represent the kingdom of God.

Second, we are called to be involved in our countries and communities. It might seem godly to completely reject earthly patriotism and only show affection and loyalty to the kingdom of heaven. But as we discussed in the part 3 of this series, we ought to seek the welfare of the place where God has situated us and pray on its behalf. Love of neighbor should stir up godly affection for one’s country that seeks its good rather than idolizing it. We are Christians before we are Americans, but that does not mean it is wrong to be proud of being American.

By engaging politically, contributing to the economy, upholding justice, raising a new generation that fears God, and appointing leaders who will uphold godly values and virtues, we represent Christ and promote the kingdom of heaven by being involved in our nation. As we go to the polls to vote this fall, may we vote for a patriot that does not place their ultimate hope in our nation, but loves our nation enough to defend its God-given constitutional freedoms.

Northeast Syria: A Rare Bloom of Religious Freedom in the Middle East

by Kelsey Bohlender

October 6, 2020

A fragile flower has bloomed in the Middle East. It’s a rare specimen, requiring significant help to ensure the roots go deep and the plant survives. Miraculously, religious freedom has found fertile ground in a nation torn by war on a narrow strip of land between two enemies. The time to protect this tender shoot is now, before it falls victim to the prevailing winds so common in the region. The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) has been a bastion of democratic success in the midst of chaos. It has proven a safe haven for Kurds, Yazidis, and Christians alike. Additionally, it has championed gender equality in a way rarely seen in the region.

Survival in this territory is a challenge. The World Food Program claims famine is on the horizon in Syria, as the very basics of life remain difficult to access because of sanctions, economic crisis, and regional turmoil. Citizens in AANES face forced removal from their homes, the destruction of sacred sites, and even the bombing of civilian areas. AANES needs assistance from the outside in order to stimulate democratic progress and keep people alive.

Although the AANES region remains a part of Syria, it should not be understood as synonymous with the Assad regime. With its own constitution upholding freedom of religious belief and expression, the protection of property rights, and social equality, the pop-up provincial democracy of the AANES remains the best soil in the region for religious freedom to flourish. Kurds, Arabs, Yazidis, and Christians have lived in affinity with representative government since 2013. The flag of religious liberty has been firmly planted in the AANES, where Christians can worship, spread the gospel, and even build churches. Other religious minorities enjoy the same liberties. Supporting the AANES is one of the best ways the U.S. can safeguard and nurture the seed of religious freedom in the Middle East. 

The United States’ actions in Syria matter. The Syrian Defense Force (SDF), the military arm of the AANES, allied with a U.S.-led collation to drive out ISIS in 2014, winning a victory for democracy and religious liberty. With the radical Islamic threat eliminated, democratic development prospered in the AANES. In 2018, Turkey and its Islamic-extremist allies began to plan their attack on the vulnerable AANES once again. An October 2019 call from Turkey’s President Erdogan to President Trump all but divulged Turkey’s intentions to engage militarily in the AANES. When President Trump agreed to pull troops from Syria, Erdogan moved in. Turkish troops invaded, raided, and plundered, leaving a swath of destruction and suffering in their wake. Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds were forced from their homes, their villages looted, women kidnapped into sex slavery, and citizens killed. Turkey has been accused of war crimes in the AANES, resulting in a massive humanitarian crisis.

Now, Northeast Syria is left to rebuild in the wake of this destruction. This region needs the opportunity to develop its economy, and that requires the U.S. taking one small step at no cost to itself. In a June hearing of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Commissioner Nadine Maenza recommended “an expansion of U.S. engagement with and assistance to the AANES, including lifting sanctions for only AANES-governed areas.” Maenza asserted, “It is also important that the new Caesar Act sanctions, passed by Congress to penalize the Assad Regime, are implemented in a way that does not negatively impact the AANES.”

U.S. sanctions against Syria should be lifted from the AANES for the sake of continued development, religious freedom, and the lives of vulnerable Kurds, Yazidis, and Christians in the area. The tender shoot of democratic development and religious liberty must be cultivated, and lifting the sanctions on the AANES is the best way to start. 

Kelsey Bohlender is an intern focusing on international religious freedom with the Center for Religious Liberty in FRC’s Policy & Government Affairs Department.

Christian Voting Myth #1: “One Vote Doesn’t Make a Difference”

by Joseph Backholm

October 6, 2020

This is part 1 of a 4-part series debunking four common myths Christians use to not vote. Read myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”; myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?” and myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

In an age where we’re constantly told to follow “the science,” everyone wants their decisions to be data driven. We study and research to ensure that what we are doing does not simply feel helpful, but actually is helpful.

At the same time, we’re all told we should vote because every vote makes a difference. We’re often told this by the same people who tell us that our decisions should be data driven. Sometimes the idea that every vote makes a difference isn’t actually supported by the data. For example, in the 2016 election, 139 million people voted in the presidential election. That’s a lot of people.

Those of us who followed the law only voted once. You don’t need to be a math major to realize that one vote out of 139 million isn’t going very far to determine who the president is. Let’s be honest, if you or I had decided not to vote, we would still have the same president. But our vote still matters. Here’s why.

While presidential elections are usually the first thing we think about when we think about elections, elections are about much more than a presidency. State and local elections not only have a big impact on your life, they are often decided by a small number of votes. In 2017, a Virginia House of Delegates race ended in a tie after more than 23,000 ballots were cast. The winner was decided by pulling a name out of a bowl, which also decided the majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.

In 2016, a New Mexico State House seat was decided by two votes out of 14,000 ballots cast. School board elections, which happen in every town in America and determine what kids will be taught at school, don’t have hundreds of millions of votes—in many cases they have hundreds of votes cast. Total. These are critical decisions that make a big difference in our lives that are decided not by millions of people, they’re decided by dozens of people. Each one of those votes matters a lot.

But that’s not all. In elections, as in all of life, many small decisions make a big difference. When one person decides not to vote, it’s easy to make the argument that it doesn’t really matter. But what happens if millions of people decide that voting doesn’t matter?

In 2016, there were 235 million eligible voters in the United States, but only 139 million of them actually voted. That means that almost 100 million people who could have voted chose not to. Many of them probably thought their vote wouldn’t make a difference. But it did.

For Christians, however, voting isn’t just a practical decision. It’s also about doing the right thing.   

Romans 13 tells us that government was created by God in order to punish evil and reward good. If any of us had been born into royalty and grown to be king or queen, our duty to God would require us to use the power God gave us to punish evil and reward good. Most of us weren’t born into a royal family and won’t be monarchs, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have political authority. Those of us privileged enough to vote have authority, and it, like everything, came from God. That means we have stewardship responsibility to use our authority in a way that recognizes where that authority came from and what it is for. Indifference is never good stewardship.

It’s true that we can’t always control what happens, but we can always control what we do with what we have, and that’s what we’ll ultimately be responsible for.

Read myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”

The Imperative of Raising Good Citizens

by Molly Carman

October 5, 2020

Most people are citizens of someplace, either by birth or by choice, and with citizenship comes certain responsibilities. But what does it mean to be a good citizen? And how should Christians balance their primary allegiance to the kingdom of heaven with their earthly obligations to their communities and countries? This six-part blog series, produced under the direction of David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, aims to explore how Christians can best steward these responsibilities from a biblical worldview. Learn more at FRC.org/worldview.

This is part 4. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Good citizens are vital to the health and growth of a community. If we want our communities to continue flourishing in the long term, we must raise the next generation to be good citizens. Christians have the added opportunity of discipling the next generation to be good citizens of not only their earthly communities but also of heaven. This can be done through bearing biological children, adopting or fostering children, or teaching and mentoring children.

Today, fewer and fewer couples are having children. This is due to various reasons, ranging from personal choice to circumstances beyond a person’s control, such as infertility. But fear is a major factor in why many otherwise healthy couples opt against having children. Indeed, bringing children into a fallen world and taking responsibility for them can be a scary thought for potential parents. But one of the most practical ways that Christians can seek the welfare of their earthly communities—and potentially expand the kingdom of heaven—is by bearing, raising, and teaching children to have biblical beliefs and godly values.

Scripture is clear that “children are a blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3), and every married couple should be open to any and every child that the Lord wants to bless them with, be it through natural means or adoption. This is not a posture readily embraced by our culture, but in this we must be counter-cultural. In an article from the Colson Center, John Stonestreet and Shane Morris said, “Ours is a culture that hinders children, instead of welcoming them. That we look at God’s blessings as mere lifestyle choices, even as punchlines for wisecracks and mockery, marks that we are a dying culture. And maybe a dying Church.”

Christians are ultimately citizens of heaven and called to be imitators of Christ. Therefore, we should welcome children as Christ did (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16) and seek to teach them the fear of the Lord. Christians have a unique opportunity and responsibility to raise good citizens of earth and heaven who will be good ambassadors for Christ, blessing the nations through their actions and inspiring gospel hope with their words.

Discerning how to teach children to be good citizens of both heaven and earth can be challenging. The Bible is our best guide. Throughout Scripture, parents are commanded and encouraged to disciple their children. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not part from it.”

An important part of discipling children in Christian faith and good citizenship is modeling said behavior with humility, integrity, and courage. Children are always watching, and we can demonstrate godly traits—like resolve in the face of evil, hard work and diligence without complaint, and contentment with all of God’s blessings—through our daily actions.

This fall, American Christians will have an opportunity to vote for leadership and policies that directly impact future generations. We have an obligation to vote for leaders at the local, state, and national levels who will defend and lead our children well. We must be wise in our decisions while modeling political engagement that is motivated by love of neighbor.

Whether married or single, parent or childless, every Christian has a role to play in raising the next generation to be good citizens of earth and heaven. It is important that we do not despise children for their youth (1 Timothy 4:12) but rather intentionally guide and counsel them. Christ said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Let us be good citizens for the glory of God and teach the next generation to do the same.

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