Month Archives: April 2021

Terrible News for Nigeria’s Christians as Violence Increases

by Lela Gilbert

April 16, 2021

On Friday, April 16, the Washington Post reported that tens of thousands of Nigerians have fled deadly attacks by armed groups, making the shocking statement that “the latest rebel attack on Wednesday drove out as many as 80% of the population of Damasak, according to the U.N. refugee agency, who said up to 65,000 people were on the move… . Assailants looted and burned down private homes, warehouses of humanitarian agencies, a police station, a clinic, and also a UNHCR facility… .”

Trying to verify this almost unbelievable story, I wrote to my Nigerian Christian friend Hassan John – who actively reports about the ongoing tragedy in his country. He replied, “Yes, the attack on Damasak and surrounding villages has been intense in the last two weeks. Most Christians have fled in the last four weeks as the intensity of the fight increased. Boko Haram has now taken over control of most of the region around Lake Chad up to the Cameroonian boarders. They are now moving in towards Mauduguri.”

Family Research Council continues to actively document the deteriorating security situation here, as explained in our full report on Nigeria updated earlier this year. The report explains, “1,202 Nigerian Christians were killed in the first six months of 2020. This is in addition to 11,000 Christians who have been killed since June 2015. Such violence has reached a point at which expert observers and analysts are warning of a progressive genocide—a ‘slow-motion war’ specifically targeting Christians across Africa’s largest and most economically powerful nation.”

The stories that emerge from Nigeria are always terrifying and similar: heavily armed jihadis suddenly appear in the dead of night. They attack house after house, breaking down doors, shouting “Allahu Akbar.” They shoot the elderly and able-bodied men. They rape, mutilate, and murder women. They kidnap young boys and girls, often using them as slaves and concubines. They torch houses, schools, and churches.

Some villagers manage to flee into the bush. Too many of them are never seen again, while in following days it’s difficult to say for sure who is still alive, who has fled, and who has been kidnapped. Photos of survivors’ faces reflect the agony of trying to remember just what happened, exactly when the screaming and shooting began, and how they managed to escape with their lives after seeing friends and loved ones murdered or mutilated.

Beyond a doubt, there is a surging bloodbath in Nigeria. Murderous incidents are acted out with accelerating frequency and have long been attributed to two terror groups—Boko Haram and Fulani jihadis. Unfortunately, that picture is changing and worsening. The terrorist groups in Africa that enjoy major funding and notoriety are successfully reaching further into the continent, unifying their forces, absorbing other groups, and gaining greater power.

Olivier Guitta, Managing Director of GlobalStrat, ominously predicts the dawning of a new Caliphate. He writes:

Islamic State’s historical strong franchises have included the spinoff of Boko Haram in Nigeria that is part of Islamic State in West Africa Province. More recently the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has made huge progress almost supplanting al-Qaeda as the top dog in the region … the future looks unfortunately bright for Islamic State in a continent with lots of fragile, corrupt quasi-failed states that could allow the birth of a Caliphate in mini territories in Mozambique, the Sahel and possibly Nigeria.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest state and its most prosperous. The population is 53 percent Christian. And the Christian community is often intentionally targeted because of its religious faith. In many rural areas, residents report that they never go to sleep at night assured that they will not be attacked and murdered before sunrise. Those who have survived attacks report that the perpetrators shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they killed and destroyed.

Meanwhile, while nearly daily reports of kidnappings, murders and massacres continue to appear, WSJ explains that Islamic State is transforming itself into a different kind of enemy by “embracing an array of militant groups as if they were local franchises. After its dreams of imposing draconian Islamist law in a self-declared state in Syria were crushed, Islamic State successfully injected itself into localized conflicts in Nigeria, Libya and across the Sahel, the semiarid belt running east-west along the southern edge of the Sahara.”

As American Christians, we often focus our attention solely on our own country and its increasingly anti-Christian leadership and legislation. However, as we watch, pray and respond to opportunities to push back against ungodly forces in our homeland, let’s also keep in mind that there never has been a more dangerous and deadly time for Christians all across the world.

Britain’s Guardian reports that “more than 340 million Christians—one in eight—face high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith, according to the 2021 World Watch List compiled by the Christian advocacy group Open Doors. It says there was a 60% increase over the previous year in the number of Christians killed for their faith. More than nine out of 10 of the global total of 4,761 deaths were in Africa.”

As we pray and lift up America’s present concerns, we ought also to remember to lift our eyes beyond our borders. Let’s pray for those who are endangered in faraway places—like long-suffering Nigeria—as if we were suffering with them.

FRC On the Hill (April 12-16): Standing Up Against Radical Abortion Policies

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Joseph Norris

April 16, 2021

Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring activity in Congress that affects life, family, and religious freedom and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the most important Hill items FRC worked on this week.

Discharge Petition Filed to Bring Born-Alive Bill to the Floor

Yesterday, one of the newly elected pro-life women in 117th Congress, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), filed a procedural motion known as a “discharge petition” in the U.S. House of Representatives to bring the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act up for a vote. If 218 members of Congress sign the petition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be required to hold a vote on the bill. In the previous Congress, Pelosi refused to bring this legislation up for a vote over 80 times.

So far, 205 members have signed the petition, with several more Republican members expected to sign in the coming days. By collecting over 200 signatures in a day, the petition broke the previous record of most signatures. You can track which House members have signed the petition here.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is an important bill that would require medical practitioners to provide the same level of care to an infant that survives an abortion as they would to any other infant born at the same gestational age. Currently, there are no federal protections or mandates to protect these young lives. FRC has worked hard to inform House members about this important issue. In the nine states that require reporting on abortion survivors, FRC found at least 203 cases in which an infant survived a failed abortion.

It is past time for Congress to pass a federal law that protects the lives of infants who have survived abortion. FRC has been monitoring the states that have passed protections and has found that federal law and 32 states do not adequately protect the lives of abortion survivors. We will continue to monitor this issue and push for full legal protection for abortion survivors.

See FRC’s resources for more information on the Born-Alive issue:

HHS Secretary Doubles Down on Abortion Policies in First Committee Hearing

The secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Xavier Becerra, appeared before the House Appropriations Committee to testify on the FY22 budget request. During this hearing, Democratic members raved about how excited they were to see their colleague of 24 years, known for his pro-abortion record, serving as HHS secretary. The FRC team monitored this hearing and applauded those members of the committee who took a stand for the unborn. This includes Congressman Ben Cline (R-Va.), who grilled Secretary Becerra on his abortion record.

Representative Cline urged Becerra to support the Trump administration’s policy banning the use of fetal tissue for federal research. Cline also set the stage for bipartisan support of the Hyde Amendment. After getting Becerra to admit his belief that Roe v. Wade is settled law, Cline reminded the secretary that Hyde, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion, was passed only three years after Roe, and should similarly be considered settled law. It is more important than ever to stand up in defense of life, especially considering the Biden administration’s pro-abortion actions just this week.

Just this past Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they would not be enforcing the safety requirement that chemical abortion pills only be distributed in person. These requirements were put into place to protect women from severe health complications that have been known to arise from the use of abortion pills. Now the Biden administration has taken action that prioritizes pro-abortion ideology over protecting women’s health. On Thursday, HHS followed up on the FDA’s announcement by proposing the removal of pro-life protections in the Title X Family Planning Program. Removing these protections would allow pro-abortion entities that refused to abide by them (entities like Planned Parenthood) to receive Title X funding.

The Biden administration’s intent to dismantle federal law that protects life was on full display this week, but do not be dismayed. The pro-life community has many opportunities to hold this administration accountable.

See FRC’s resources for more information on Becerra:

Paycheck Fairness Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7) by the slim margin of 217-210. This bill undermines its well-intentioned goal of creating fair wages for men and women by redefining sex in a way that is harmful to women and ignores the biological realities of men and women.

In the Equality Act and women’s sports debates, we are already seeing the harm gender identity ideology poses to women’s rights, privacy, and safety. If it were to become law, the Paycheck Fairness Act could mandate employers to fund hormones or surgeries as a “treatment” for gender dysphoria and abortions as a benefit to employees. The FRC team worked quickly to inform members about the negative implications of this bill before the vote this week.

Other Notable Items FRC Tracked This Week:

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held a nomination hearing on the nominations of Kristen Clarke to be the associate attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Clarke has perpetuated the left-wing narrative that Bible-believing Christians are bigoted and discriminatory. Her pro-LGBT efforts in law underscore her disregard for the First Amendment right to religious liberty.
  • The Senate Finance Committee held a confirmation hearing for Andrea Joan Palm to be a deputy secretary of HHS and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to be the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Both nominees have close ties to Planned Parenthood and have been endorsed by the abortion industry for their forceful support of abortion.
  • The House Oversight Committee held a markup of H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which seeks to make D.C. a state. This effort has a host of problems, primarily that it does not reflect our Founders’ intention for the federal seat of government to be independent of any one state in the Union. This markup sets up a likely vote on this bill next week.

The Chosen: A Fresh, Personal, and Faithful Presentation of the Gospel

by Dan Hart

April 15, 2021

If ever there was a time that needs fresh witness to the truth of the gospel, it is our current moment. As the uncertainties of government overreach and simmering social and political tensions continue, the human heart can’t help but yearn for stability and reassurance. It’s a time when Jesus’s beautiful words in Matthew’s Gospel have never been more desperately needed: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Depicting the fulfilment and peace that only Christ can bring to a post-Christian culture in a compelling and original way is no easy task, but one filmmaker has found a remarkable way to succeed. With The Chosen, a new drama series based on the life of Christ, writer/producer/director Dallas Jenkins has breathed new life into the biblical epic genre in a groundbreaking way.

The Chosen is the first ever episode-based series about the life of Christ. In order to produce the series, streaming video company VidAngel and Jenkins decided to use online crowdfunding. It became the biggest crowdfunded film project ever, with over $10.2 million raised by January 2019. In April and November of that year, the first series of eight episodes was released online, and they have been viewed almost 50 million times in 180 countries. The Chosen’s producers have already raised another $10 million for the production of the second season, with the first three episodes now released. The producers are planning to continue crowdsourcing for the foreseeable future, with the goal of producing seven seasons in all.

The great strength of The Chosen is its emphasis on relationship and relatability. The series starts by portraying the disciples and Christ’s other followers as honest, searching, flawed, and often humorous men and women who are trying to make their way as faithful Jews in a harsh Roman-occupied world. Peter and Andrew struggle to figure out how to pay their taxes as poor fishermen, Mary Magdalene grapples with demons and finding direction while trying to move past her former sinful lifestyle, and Matthew is a highly eccentric and reviled tax collector who wrestles with social stigmatization. With great emotional depth and feeling, The Chosen beautifully shows how Jesus breaks into the lives of these ordinary men and women and sets their hearts ablaze with a longing for truth and a burning desire to follow Him.

Much of the success of The Chosen can be attributed to the deeply human and pastorally empathetic portrayal of Jesus by actor Jonathan Roumie. With past film depictions of Jesus often emphasizing His stoic authority and divinity, the great strength of Roumie’s depiction is that he lets Jesus be approachable and sympathetic without sacrificing Christ’s sovereignty. In a scene drawn from Luke 5, Roumie’s Jesus laughs with joy and revels in the moment as He watches Simon and his brother whoop and holler as they struggle to drag in the miraculous catch of fish. In one poetic shot, Jesus is so moved that He glances up to the heavens, as if He Himself is in awe of the wonderful work of His Father. A few moments later, Simon cannot help but fall at Jesus’ feet and mumble about his unworthiness. Jesus’s face is seen from a low camera angled up, clearly establishing His divinity as He responds to Simon’s inquiry (“You are the lamb of God, yes?”) with a simple, “I Am.” But then Jesus crouches down to Simon’s level, and with a penetrating yet compassionate gaze, extends an invitation: “Follow Me.” The scene masterfully combines the human and the divine.   

Other scenes breathe new layers of meaning into familiar gospel stories. As Jesus stands in front of the stone jars of water at the wedding at Cana, the scene is intercut with a wedding guest describing the work of a sculptor: “Once you make that first cut into the stone, it can’t be undone. It sets in motion a series of choices. What used to be a shapeless block of limestone or granite begins its long journey of transformation, and it will never be the same.” The metaphor is a perfect one: by turning the water into wine, like a sculptor’s first cut, Jesus knows that his public ministry will begin, and there will be no turning back. “I am ready, Father,” Jesus murmurs, before dipping his hand into the water, and taking it out with wine dripping from it.

The most pivotal scene from the first season is the encounter at night between Jesus and Nicodemus from John 3. Actor Erick Avari perfectly captures how a member of the Sanhedrin would have been torn between his position in Jewish society as a scholar of the law and what his heart is telling him about who Jesus really is. As Nicodemus’s incredulity and questions turn into awe and trembling before the Messiah as He unveils the heart of God’s salvific plan, the viewer can’t help but empathize with the Pharisee’s predicament but also be spellbound all over again by Christ’s immortal words of John 3:16. 

The Chosen isn’t without its flaws. Scenes early in the first season, particularly ones with Roman characters and costumes, come off as a bit gimmicky, and at times, the tone of some scenes in the first two seasons feel a little too comic and unserious. 

Still, for believers, The Chosen will deepen the vision of the gospels in your mind’s eye, and in the process may even deepen your faith. And for unbelievers, The Chosen is a personal, welcoming invitation to explore the Truth of the gospel. As the Scriptures say, time is short (1 Corinthians 7:29; James 5:8; Revelation 22:12), and the need for cultural renewal in Christ is staggeringly great. A tech-savvy, revitalized, and imaginative yet faithful presentation of the gospel could not have come at a better moment.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of April 11)

by Family Research Council

April 15, 2021

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

1. Update: Candy Jarred: Nestle, Mars Join Woke Wars

Some companies just can’t resist touching the hot stove. Despite all of the grassroots pushback in Georgia—all of the boycotts and outrage and public opinion polls—two major U.S. brands have decided to wade into an even more controversial debate by launching a massive pro-transgender push for minors. Mars and Nestle recently announced they are coming for your kids.

2. Update: Arizona, Georgia Double-Team on Woke Sports

It’ll be months before Major League Baseball knows how much its decision to move Atlanta’s All-Star Game cost them financially. Fortunately, Americans won’t have to wait nearly that long to understand how much it hurt the MLB politically. Thanks to Governor Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.), they already know.

3. Blog: Why Is Religious Freedom So Uniquely Important?

At the heart of many recent contentious debates from the Equality Act to COVID-19 church restrictions is the issue of religious freedom. But what exactly is religious freedom, and what makes it so uniquely important?

4. Blog: 4 Tips for Praying for the Persecuted

Global persecution of religious believers is an immense and complex problem with diverse causes, legal factors, and cultural and historical dynamics. This can make the scriptural mandate to remember and pray for persecuted believers an intimidating task. But it doesn’t have to be.

5. Washington Watch: Sen. Tom Cotton Unpacks Biden’s Order to Establish a Commission for So-Called ‘Court Reform’

Tom Cotton, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court striking down California’s restrictions on in-home religious gatherings, President Biden’s commission on court packing, and his letter to the Department of Defense on its use of the Southern Poverty Law Center as a resource.

6. Washington Watch: Rep. Robert Aderholt Calls for Bipartisan Unity in Supporting the Hyde Amendment

Robert Aderholt, U.S. Representative for the 4th District of Alabama, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the letter signed by GOP members of the House appropriation committee urging support for the long-standing, bi-partisan Hyde Amendment.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Corporate Woke-ism in Election Reform

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.), former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and Michael Lancaster, the state director for the Frederick Douglass Foundation in Georgia to discuss and pray over the recent opposition from corporations on election security laws like the one Georgia just passed.

Thinking Biblically About Loyalty

by David Closson , Laura Grossberndt

April 14, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourageForgiveness, and the Resurrection and the Social Gospel.

In June of last year, news broke that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was releasing a state-approved “translation” of the Bible that would better fit the regime’s ideology. The message the CCP was sending to Christians in China was clear: your true loyalty must be first and foremost to the state. But what is a true biblical understanding of loyalty?

Loyalty can be defined as “a strong feeling of support or allegiance.” A close synonym is “faithful.” People typically think of loyalty as being an admirable quality and are liable to commend a person who exhibits loyalty to their family, country, friends, or authority figures. How should the biblically-minded Christian think about loyalty? Does God want us to be loyal?

A prerequisite to loyalty is the existence of relationships. Scripture leaves no doubt that God created us to be in relationship with Himself and others. First, we know that God is triune and the three Persons of the trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—have eternally existed in relationship with one other. Since human beings are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), we, too, are created for relationships, both with God (John 14:23, Rev. 21:3) and our fellow human beings (Gen. 2:18, John 13:34).

Scripture tells us that healthy, faithful relationships are one of the things that will make the broken road of life easier to navigate. As Solomon writes in Proverbs, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (17:17) and “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24, ESV). In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon also notes the advantages of living life with other people:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecc. 4: 9-11, ESV)

There are many examples in the Bible of people who demonstrated loyalty or faithfulness to each another. Ruth refused to leave her mother-in-law Naomi even after her husband had died: “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16, ESV). Jonathan was a loyal friend to David and protected him from his father, King Saul, who tried to kill David on multiple occasions. When David asked Jonathan for help, he replied, “Whatever you say, I will do for you” (1 Sam. 20:4, ESV).

God Himself is the greatest example of loyalty in His relationship with us. In 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul explains that being faithful is intrinsic to God’s character: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny himself.”

The Bible gives us wisdom and counsel on how, when, and to what degree to be loyal to different relationships. Children are told to honor their parents (Deut. 5:16, Eph. 6:1-3). Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Citizens are told to submit to the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1) and to seek the welfare of their city (Jer. 29:7). Christians are told to bear with one another in love (Eph. 4:2). It should be noted that one instance when our loyalty to people is not required, however, is when being loyal to them would be disloyal to God (Acts 5:24-32). Not only is God our ultimate example of faithfulness, but He is also the only one to whom our ultimate loyalty is due (Ex. 20:3).

Love and loyalty are related. The theologian Augustine said we must “Have rightly ordered loves.” Similarly, we must have rightly ordered loyalties. Strong loyalties to the wrong things will inevitably lead to disloyalty to the right thing. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Mt. 6:24, ESV). Where competing loyalties exist, one will eventually win out, revealing our deepest loyalty.

Friends, family, bosses, sports teams, political parties, and even trendy theories are competing for our affections daily. Our ultimate loyalty, as Christ-followers, must be to Christ, “the founder and perfector of our faith” (Heb. 12:2, ESV). We will be loyal to something; if not Christ, then things of this world will command our allegiance (1 John 2:15-17).

The issue of loyalty is immensely relevant for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. For example, the Chinese government recently launched a campaign to make Chinese Christians “more Chinese.” As noted previously, this campaign includes a “translation” of the New Testament that is friendly to communist ideology. The CCP leaders view Christianity as a threat to their regime because they understand believers’ loyalty is ultimately to God and not the state.

Although less explicit, the same thing is happening in the West as people “reimagine” Christianity and adjust long-standing Christian doctrines to make them seem more compatible with prevailing norms and ideologies. When people adjust their religion to fit their politics, it makes it clear where their ultimate loyalties lie.

It is important for Christians to recall 1 Peter 5:8, which says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (ESV). When our affections are misplaced, we lose the ability to be sober-minded. We must be mindful to love what is good in the proper manner and to the right degree lest our judgment becomes impaired, and we find ourselves at war with the truth. 

God wants us to be loyal to Him—to hate what is evil and love what is good. And it is only once we live in true and total loyalty to Him that we can have rightly ordered loyalty in our relationships with one another.

4 Tips for Praying for the Persecuted

by Arielle Del Turco

April 13, 2021

Global persecution of religious believers is an immense and complex problem with diverse causes, legal factors, and cultural and historical dynamics. This can make the scriptural mandate to remember and pray for persecuted believers an intimidating task. But it shouldn’t be.

Here are four tips to keep in mind when you pray for the persecuted.

1. Pray for specific people, countries, and situations. 

When you know of a specific person abused or imprisoned for their faith, pray for them by name. Consider the cases of Huma YounusWang Yi, and Leah Sharibu.

When you don’t know of individuals in need of prayer, pray for situations. Pray for Christians facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan, for young girls held hostage by Boko Haram in Nigeria, for Christians detained in labor camps in North Korea, or churches in China facing harassment from the government. Voice of the Martyrs has a convenient Global Prayer Guide with a summary of the challenges in every country with laws targeting Christians and countries where Christians experience dangerous social hostility.

There are hundreds of thousands of persecuted believers whose names the outside world may not know and may never know. Yet, God knows their names and the trials they have suffered for Him. It’s okay, and beneficial, to pray for the persecuted even when we are unaware of specific situations. These people need our prayers as well.

2. Consider what you might want prayer for if you lived in a persecuted context.

Many Christians live in a country where it can be dangerous to follow Christ. Open Doors estimates that 340 million Christians live in such places. Not all methods of persecution are life and death. Many are relatable. Christians may be facing discrimination in employment, as many do in Pakistan. Or, they may be attending a church service on a religious holiday with a gnawing fear of an attack, the likes of which are all too common in the Muslim world. Or, they may live in a restrictive country where they are afraid to share their faith.

Depending on the context, pray for persecuted believers the way you would want someone to pray for you if you were in the same situation. Pray that God would meet both their physical and spiritual needs.

3. Pray that religious freedom would become the universal standard across the globe.

In addition to praying for persecuted individuals and situations, pray for greater religious freedom around that world.

Further, pray for the leaders of other countries that persecute believers—that they would have a change of heart and that their plans to oppress religious groups would be thwarted. Also, pray for the leaders of free countries, including the United States—that they would be given effective policy ideas and solutions to advance international religious freedom.

4. Remember why we pray for the persecuted.

Scripture calls Christians to remember and pray for the persecuted.

In Ephesians 6:18-20, the Apostle Paul instructs believers to “keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

In this passage, Christians are asked both to pray for all other Christians as well as to pray for Paul, who was imprisoned for his ministry at the time he was writing. In prison, Paul was concerned for his Christian witness and requested prayer that he would have the right words to use. Similarly, we can pray that missionaries and believers in persecuted contexts would represent Christ well with their words and actions and be granted wisdom to operate in their contexts.

Praying is also a significant way to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31). Like Paul, many persecuted Christians express a desire to know that others are praying for them and remember them. American pastor Andrew Brunson felt this way while he was held in a Turkish prison for two years. Consistent prayer is a meaningful way to treat people the way we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).

If you are still unsure of how to pray for persecuted believers, feel free to draw from this sample prayer:

Father God,

I ask that You would comfort and protect Christians around the world today who are intimidated, detained, and attacked for their belief in You. Please give them the physical strength and spiritual endurance to withstand persecution. Be present with them in their hardship and remind them to find peace in You. I pray that You would use the situations that their persecutors intend for evil for good.

I thank You that You give us all the freedom to follow You and that You beckon us with love. I ask that there would be greater religious freedom around the world and protections for those who wish to live out their faith. Please show me how to better serve You and the precious members of Your church suffering for Your name. Amen.

Why Is Religious Freedom So Uniquely Important?

by Arielle Del Turco

April 12, 2021

At the heart of many recent contentious debates from the Equality Act to COVID-19 church restrictions is the issue of religious freedom. But what exactly is religious freedom, and what makes it so uniquely important?

At its core, religion is the search for truth about questions of ultimate meaning. Common to most religions is an organized collection of beliefs, behaviors, and practices that connect or relate humanity with the divine. Religious freedom, then, is the freedom to believe what you want in terms of doctrine and theology and the freedom to order your life according to your deepest convictions about ultimate things.

In other words, religious freedom protects the ability of individuals to choose and change their religious beliefs and align their lives in agreement with those beliefs.

Religious freedom is not relativistic, nor does it profess there is no truth about God. Rather, it affirms the deep importance of truth and upholds the right of individuals to come to their own conclusions about what is true of God, humanity, and the world.

Attacks on religious freedom target one’s conscience—the very core of their being. This makes religious freedom a unique and essential right. Tom Farr says, “Our nature impels us to seek answers to profound questions about ultimate things. If we are not free to pursue those answers, and to live according to the truths we discover, we cannot live a fully human life.”

Thus, religious freedom is not merely the right to attend church and practice your religion within the walls of a church, synagogue, or mosque. Rather, it is the ability to live out your faith, including in the public square.

This broad conception of religious freedom is enshrined in the United States Constitution. The First Amendment protects this basic right, often called our “first freedom.” The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Beyond this key constitutional protection, religious freedom is also a fundamental human right, one recognized by international resolutions and treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

Religious freedom is a widely recognized right around the globe. Yet, laws in many countries put qualifiers on the legal right to religious freedom, empowering governments to crack down when the beliefs of a community or an individual are perceived to oppose the government.

For Americans, these aggressive international violations remind us of the importance of protecting religious freedom at home. Yet, they also demonstrate the importance of promoting religious freedom in our foreign policy.

Societies that embrace religious freedom and pluralism tend to be more prosperous and secure. This makes sense. Societies that embrace individuals’ freedom to express their own viewpoints and live according to their beliefs are going to attract, rather than repel, talented people abroad as well as global economic engagement. Pluralistic societies that value human dignity and do not view religious groups or beliefs as a problem to be eliminated will not suffer from the violence that is fostered by religious discrimination.  

Religious freedom corresponds with and affirms other basic freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The right to openly express your most deeply held beliefs is essential to religious freedom, as is the right to peacefully assemble in houses of worship and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the concept of religious freedom is often misunderstood. This is seen with increasing frequency with activists who pit religious freedom against the demands of the moral revolution. For example, those whose beliefs about gender and sexuality are influenced by their faith are caricatured as intolerant and their beliefs are perceived as subversive. The resulting tension threatens to erode support for religious freedom as a freedom that benefits everyone—religious and non-religious.

Amid increasingly heated cultural debates, it is critical for those who value our first freedom to affirm its importance. Religious freedom will not endure by laws alone, although the law should include robust protections for religious freedom. Religious freedom also relies on cultural support.

By consistently living out our faith in the public square, we can foster a culture that respects religious freedom. So, pray in public, share your faith, and do not compromise your beliefs. Your constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion protects your ability to live according to your convictions. So, use it. Live according to your faith and defend the rights of others to do the same.

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

by Family Research Council

April 9, 2021

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

1. Update: Fans Intentionally Walk after Baseball’s Activism

The 2021 baseball season isn’t even a week old, and it’s already over for some fans. Why? Because, as Andrew McCarthy so efficiently put it: the Left ruins everything. Sports, entertainment, toys, snack cakes, you name it. Their wokeness is a cancer, and it’s taking every enjoyable, unifying, non-political piece of American life and destroying it.

2. Update: Coke Gets a Kick in the Can from Consumers

A week into the fiasco over Georgia’s election law, most Americans want to know: just who are these woke CEOs listening to? Not to their shareholders, who can’t make a profit when their companies alienate half of the country. Not to lawyers or legislators, who could set them straight on what the policy actually does. And certainly not to U.S. consumers.

3. Blog: Thinking Biblically About the Resurrection and the Social Gospel

Around the world, Christians celebrate Easter as the most important day in history because it is the day Jesus conquered sin and death on our behalf by rising from the dead. The resurrection is central to the gospel because without it, Christianity is nothing more than a social club. However, on the day when Jesus’ resurrection normally takes center stage, Raphael Warnock, the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and Georgia’s junior Senator, took to Twitter to share a very different message: “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

4. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Forgiveness

There is a tension, it seems, between justice and forgiveness. A world without justice devolves into lawlessness, but a world without forgiveness is cruel and harsh. Our culture’s on-going conversation about race, and the growing popularity of critical race theory, forces us to consider whether forgiveness for past wrongs is required by Christian charity.

5. Washington Watch: Mike Pompeo Talks About the Disbanding of His Key Commission & the Contrast of Biden’s Priorities

Mike Pompeo, Former Secretary of State, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Biden State Department disbanding the Commission on Unalienable Rights and reversing Trump policies protecting human life and religious freedom.

6. Washington Watch: Gov. Brian Kemp Insists the Entire Controversy Over GA’s Election Law Is Based On ‘Liberal Lies’

Brian Kemp, Governor of Georgia, joined Tony Perkins to discuss Major League Baseball caving to cancel culture and pulling its All-Star game out of Georgia.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: The Filibuster – What Is It and Why Does It Matter?¿

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Pastor Jim Garlow to discuss recent events in Georgia and the efforts of some lawmakers to remove the filibuster and how that would affect our nation.

Thinking Biblically About the Resurrection and the Social Gospel

by David Closson

April 7, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourage, and Forgiveness.

Around the world, Christians celebrate Easter as the most important day in history because it is the day Jesus conquered sin and death on our behalf by rising from the dead.

The resurrection is central to the gospel because without it, Christianity is nothing more than a social club. As the apostle Paul explained to the Corinthian church, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14).

However, on the day when Jesus’ resurrection normally takes center stage, Raphael Warnock, the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and Georgia’s junior Senator, took to Twitter to share a very different message. On Sunday, he tweeted: “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

It is well-known that Raphael Warnock is a liberal politician. He ran on a progressive platform, and in his short tenure in the U.S. Senate, he has voted to confirm President Biden’s most radical nominees and expressed support for policies that would expand abortion and restrict religious freedom. But more than a voting record, Warnock’s since-deleted Easter tweet provides insight into how the reverend’s faith informs his politics, i.e., his political theology.

To be clear, there is nothing “more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ” as Warnock believes. The message of Easter, the very center of Christianity, is that God took the initiative to save sinners because sinners cannot save themselves. As Paul explains in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” However, because of God’s love, verse four says, “when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ.” As Paul explains elsewhere, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). In other words, Christ died as a sacrifice for sin. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus reconciled us with God (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

Jesus is not simply the foundation of Christianity; He is the foundation of reality. Paul, in the book of Colossians, summarizes the centrality of Christ, writing: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Concerning salvation, Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Scripture is clear that we cannot save ourselves by helping others. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Of course, Christians are called to do good works. A verse later, Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” However, the suggestion that “through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves” is contrary to everything the Bible teaches about salvation and strips the empty tomb of its power.

As an American, Raphael Warnock is free to believe and teach whatever he wants. However, as someone who serves as a minister of the gospel, he is not free to say whatever he wants about Jesus, the resurrection, and salvation. Like all who profess to be Christian, he is bound by Scripture. His message of salvation through good works directly contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ which promises salvation on the basis of Christ’s completed work. Faith in Jesus, not works, is the only way to be saved (Acts 4:12).

While Senator Warnock’s assessment of Easter is not biblical, it is nevertheless consistent with competing belief systems like liberation theology and critical race theory. In fact, his tweet is an outworking of theological systems (liberation theology and the social gospel) which prioritize social justice over orthodox doctrine. These systems teach that the greatest problem in the world is injustice and that the solution is political revolution. For example, liberation theology, which reconstructs Christian theology through the lens of “oppressor and oppressed,” identifies different problems and different solutions than the gospel does. In that world, it is possible to “save ourselves” by “helping others” because once we have eliminated injustice we have been saved.

But Scripture has a very different understanding of what our greatest problem is and the solution to that problem. While God hates injustice, injustice is simply the fruit of a sinful, rebellious heart. The real solution is a changed heart, and that is something no political revolution can accomplish. Only Jesus can convert and change sinful hearts. As bad as Senator Warnock’s policy preferences may be, his theology is even worse and likely the source of his confused policies. Simply put, we cannot save ourselves. Therefore, for the sake of your eternal destiny, trust Scripture which says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

For more on this topic, don’t miss the author’s interview on Washington Watch.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of March 28)

by Family Research Council

April 1, 2021

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

1. Update: Biden Cracks under Presser

If Americans were concerned that Joe Biden hadn’t held a press conference, imagine how concerned they must be now that he has. Most people assumed that the 78-year-old president would be prepared to meet the press. What they got instead was a painful, hour-long confirmation that the man leading our country has none of our crises—the border, China, COVID, or fair and free elections—in hand.

2. Update: Protecting Girls: On a Need to Noem Basis

The people of South Dakota just recently had to watch everything that their legislature worked for on girls’ sports vanish with one wave of Governor Noem’s hand. Despite a week and a half of outcry from her constituents, Noem dug in and did not, as some people hoped, reconsider vetoing a bill that would protect girls’ sports.

3. Blog: You Can’t Twist Scripture to Force Women to Compete Against Men in Sports

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) recently vetoed House Bill 1217, legislation that would protect women from being forced to compete against biological men in sporting events. While most conservatives were frustrated by Noem’s capitulation on the bill, one faith group actually encouraged Noem to veto it.

4. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Courage

What is courage? C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” In other words, the courageous person has poise and the fortitude to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. Despite potential blowback, the courageous person stays the course and pursues what they know is right.

5. Washington Watch: Kristen Waggoner Debunks Gov. Noem’s Flimsy Legal Rationale for Vetoing the Girls’ Sports Bill

Kristen Waggoner serves as the General Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. She joined Washington Watch guest host Joseph Backholm to dissect the Conservative uproar over Governor Noem’s “style and form” veto.

6. Washington Watch: Gov. Brian Kemp Pushes Back Against the Left’s Absurd Objections to GA’s New Election Reform Law

Does Georgia’s new election law deny water to voters standing in line, as President Biden claims? Georgia Governor Brian Kemp joined Tony Perkins to set the record straight and discuss the Left’s objections to the state’s new election integrity law.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Join Franklin Graham in Prayer for our Children

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Rev. Franklin Graham and Arkansas State Rep. Robin Lundstrum to pray for Gov. Hutchinson to make the right decision and sign the common-sense bill, the SAFE Act, that would protect children from sterilization and harmful surgeries.

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