Category archives: Family

We’re Going to Succeed”: Kobe Bryant’s Inspiring Marital Steadfastness

by Daniel Hart

February 12, 2020

Following the tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant (along with eight others including his daughter) in a helicopter crash on January 26, many stirring tributes have been written about his tenacity, relentless drive to always improve, and ferocious competitiveness on the court as a player. One of his most inspiring character traits was how he applied his legendary competitiveness and refusal to give up to all aspects of his life, particularly when dealing with the potential end of his marriage to his wife Vanessa.

After an incident in 2003 in which he was accused of sexual assault (and was eventually acquitted in court), Kobe publicly admitted to committing adultery and apologized to his wife at a press conference. Eight years later, his wife filed for divorce due to “irreconcilable differences,” but in 2013 the couple announced that they had called off the divorce. Clearly, Kobe and Vanessa went through some extremely challenging periods in their marriage, but they persevered and remained committed to their vows. In an interview, Kobe described his drive to succeed in his marriage in the same terms he often used to describe his work ethic in basketball: “Commitment and [the] competitiveness of ‘We’re going to succeed.’” He went on to describe his marriage in this way: “That’s all the beauty of it: having the persistence and determination to work through things — very, very tough things — and we’ve been able to do that.”

Kobe and Vanessa’s perseverance and tenacity to fight for their marriage no matter what the circumstances is a stirring example for all married couples to have the resolve to never give up on their marriage, no matter how insurmountable difficulties may seem.

In honor of National Marriage Week, here are some tried and true ways that couples can work through challenges and maintain peaceful and happy marriages:

  • In general, be kind. As written about in The Atlantic, numerous studies have all concluded that “kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage.”
  • When you see something that needs to be done around the house, do it as quickly and quietly as you can without mentioning anything to your spouse, even if you feel that they should have done it. This builds trust between spouses and is a visible sign of how much you love and care for them, which most likely will be noticed and appreciated the more you do it.
  • Be “teachable.” In other words, be willing to compromise or do things differently than how you grew up doing them or used to do them before marriage.
  • Acknowledge that your own shortcomings may be a result of wounds that you received in your past, likely in childhood from those closest to you. It is imperative that you seek the root cause of these wounds in order to be authentically healed, which will in turn create tremendous healing in your own marriage.
  • A key outlook during difficult times in marriage is to see suffering as having redeeming value, just as Christ suffered for us in order to redeem us from our sins. If you don’t see the cross as something bad, this changes everything. In order to have true love for our spouse (to will the good for them), we must be willing to serve them by practicing sacrificial love, to sacrifice our own wishes and desires for the sake of our beloved. It may seem like a paradox, but it’s true—when we sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, we find true fulfilment.
  • Express gratitude to your spouse on a regular basis. When you thank them for even the small things they do—washing the dishes, cleaning up the spilled oatmeal off the floor—your spouse will feel loved and appreciated. This goes a long way toward maintaining marital harmony.
  • Never stop trying. Even when things are not going smoothly in your marriage, always be willing to keep trying to make things right by putting in the effort, even if you don’t feel like it. Your spouse will almost certainly notice this. There’s nothing more disheartening for a spouse then when they feel like their own efforts are not being noticed and, even worse, are not being reciprocated. If your spouse feels like you are not trying your best in the relationship, they will feel less motivated to keep trying themselves, which can create a larger mess than before.
  • Don’t let small annoyances about your spouse anger you. Let them be an opportunity to grow in the virtue of patience. If there is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed, bring it up as calmly and deliberately as you can so that you don’t hurt your spouse in the process.
  • When you feel hurt by the words or actions of your spouse, don’t swallow it and let it fester. Pick a good time to talk about how and why they hurt you as gently, honestly, and openly as possible. Depending on the severity of the issue, it may not be a good idea to immediately hash it out with your spouse just after the hurtful incident occurred, since this could lead to further insensitive words being said in the heat of the moment. It may be prudent to pick a time at least a day or two later after things have cooled down. You may even discover that your spouse had no idea that the incident in question hurt you, and will be glad to know about it so that they can be more thoughtful in the future.
  • Challenging times in marriage are opportunities to grow closer together. This can especially be achieved by praying together as a couple.

What’s Wrong With American Boys?

by Daniel Hart

January 14, 2020

Why are adolescent boys and college-aged young men in America still so boorish and misogynistic?

Peggy Orenstein, a writer for The Atlantic, wrestles with this question in a recent feature-length article entitled “The Miseducation of the American Boy.” To her credit, she compassionately attempts to understand what is really going on in the souls of typical boys and young men in the wasteland of contemporary American secular culture by personally interviewing them.

What she finds is both intriguing and disturbing, but not very surprising. Most of the boys she talked to struggled with leading a kind of double life—on the one hand, they “could talk to girls platonically,” as a high school senior named “Cole” said (she uses pseudonyms to protect their identities). But then he admitted that “being around guys was different. I needed to be a ‘bro…’” Most of the other boys Orenstein interviews had similar views about the expectations their peers placed on them and the crushing pressure to conform to a hypersexual, misogynistic “bro” subculture.

So how did we get here? Orenstein admits that there seems to be a “void” in parental guidance of boys: “Today many parents are unsure of how to raise a boy, what sort of masculinity to encourage in their sons. But as I learned from talking with boys themselves, the culture of adolescence, which fuses hyperrationality with domination, sexual conquest, and a glorification of male violence, fills the void.”

It’s clear that Orenstein wants to find solutions for this problem. She prefaces her article by stating that “we need to give [boys] new and better models of masculinity.”

What are these “new and better models”? Unfortunately, Orenstein never really proposes any kind of coherent standard to which boys should strive for. After spending almost 7,500 words extensively quoting their frustrations, fears, and longings and cataloguing dozens of misadventures of boys hooking up awkwardly with female students, bragging about sexual escapades, laughing at rape jokes, and so on, she musters two paragraphs at the end of her article that offer some kind of path forward. She says that we need “models of manhood that are neither ashamed nor regressive, and that emphasize emotional flexibility—a hallmark of mental health.” She also challenges authority figures to step up: “Real change will require a sustained, collective effort on the part of fathers, mothers, teachers, coaches.” Her last tidbit of advice is this: “We have to purposefully and repeatedly broaden the masculine repertoire for dealing with disappointment, anger, desire. We have to say not just what we don’t want from boys but what we do want from them.”

Belief Systems Create Gentlemen

This is certainly all good advice. But what is striking about Orenstein’s guidance is what she does not say. It begs the question: what exactly do we want from boys? It’s all well and good to promote emotional flexibility and mental health, but if the goal is for boys to unlearn misogyny and start respecting girls more, as Orenstein and all people of good faith so desperately want, isn’t it going to take more than “emotional flexibility”?

The answer is unquestionably “yes.” Having respect for girls and women is an essential aspect of moral conduct that all boys and men should have, but obviously do not. That’s because it has to be taught and learned, just as all moral behavior must be, through a system of values, which must ultimately be derived from faith in a revealed moral order. In our politically correct culture, writers like Peggy Orenstein can’t seem to state this obvious fact, probably because they don’t want to be accused of promoting “religion.” It’s notable that the words “religion” and “faith” never appear once in Orenstein’s entire article.

It’s a sad but telling reality that in a culture still fully in the throes of grappling with the #MeToo movement and one in which boys are still so clearly gripped by a culture of sexual conquest, so many secular writers still can’t bring themselves to admit that certain belief systems have the antidote for misogyny built into them. As I have written previously:

[W]hat if more boys were taught from an early age that the context for the full expression of human sexuality is within the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman, as Christianity and other religions do? If this teaching were to be taught consistently throughout childhood and young adulthood, it would substantially increase the amount of gentlemen in our culture. Gentlemen treat women with respect, the kind of respect that inherently knows how to avoid looking at women with lust (see Matthew 5:27-28), the kind of respect that would never even consider making unseemly sexual comments in their company, much less harassing or assaulting them.

Since Orenstein never proposes a belief system with moral principles as an answer to counter misogyny, it appears that she along with most secular commentators are merely hoping that boys will somehow magically absorb sexual morality and respect for women from… friends who happen to have good values? Their parents who happen to be good people? Orenstein never says. She does at one point ask her main interview subject, a high school senior named “Cole,” why he doesn’t assert his “values” more with his peers. But what she never bothers to ask him is where he got his values from.

The Crucial Mentorship of Fathers

Who is it that should be the primary instiller of values in children? This most basic of questions is unfortunately passed over by Orenstein. The vital importance of a father in a boy’s healthy development into a gentleman is the elephant in the room that seems to escape the notice of many secular writers like her.

But perhaps Orenstein can’t be entirely at fault for this. As her article illustrates, the boys that she interviews don’t seem to think much of their fathers. “Cole” briefly describes his father as “a nice guy,” but he went on to say that “I can’t be myself around him. I feel like I need to keep everything that’s in here [tapping his chest] behind a wall, where he can’t see it.” Another 18-year-old named “Rob” described how his father merely told him to “man up” when he was having problems in school. “That’s why I never talk to anybody about my problems,” he said. Another young man, a college sophomore, described how he never felt comfortable talking to his father: “[T]here’s a block there. There’s a hesitation, even though I don’t like to admit that. A hesitation to talk about … anything, really.”

This is heartbreaking stuff. Is it any wonder our boys and young men are so lost and adrift when their primary role model and mentor—their fathers—never make themselves available to their own sons to just talk about life, about growing up to be a man, about anything?

Orenstein’s “The Miseducation of the American Boy” is revealing in a number of ways. Yet again, it reveals that when a belief system based on eternal moral truth is not instilled in boys from a young age, the secular adolescent culture of hypersexual narcissism and misogyny will fill the void. It also reveals that when fathers abandon their fundamental role as the primary mentor and confidant of their sons, their boys will be left emotionally numbed, less empathetic, and more prone to becoming a part of this secular adolescent culture.

Here at Family Research Council, we are doing our part to renew authentic masculinity and to help instill a culture of biblical manhood to stand as a bulwark against the dark cultural forces that promote sexual objectification and conquest, gender confusion, and emasculation. Learn about and consider attending our Stand Courageous men’s conferences, which are making a difference through teaching the principles of authentic manhood as providers, mentors, instructors, defenders, and chaplains.

FRC’s Top 5 Blogs of the Year

by Family Research Council

December 31, 2019

In the Year of Our Lord 2019, FRC’s blog covered a wide range of topics that have impacted the sanctity of life, the family, religious freedom, and the culture here in America and across the globe. Listed below are the five blogs that received the biggest response from you, our readers, as well as some other honorable mentions. Thank you for reading our blog! We greatly appreciate your interest in and passion for these vital issues that are shaping the moral character of our nation. We hope that these articles inspire you to stand for biblical truth, whatever your walk of life may be.

1. 75 Years Ago Today: A D-Day Prayer by Chris Gacek

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.”

2. Should Christians Recognize “LGBT Pride?” by Peter Sprigg

The tendency of many straight ‘allies’ of ‘LGBT Pride’ is to avert their eyes from these actual behaviors. Instead, they define such individuals by their feelings, and then accept the argument that because these feelings are not a ‘choice,’ they must define the person’s innate identity. This is a mistake. Just because feelings are not chosen does not mean they are inborn—they may result from developmental forces in childhood and adolescence. And while feelings are not chosen, both behaviors and a self-identification are chosen.”

3. Basic Human Decency Starts with Protecting Babies on Their Birthday by Caleb Seals

When it comes to abortion, the political Left always trots out the same line: ‘It’s the woman’s right to choose whatever she wants with her own body.’ Pro-lifers respond to this by speaking up for the rights of the unborn baby’s body. But after the recent passage of New York’s extreme abortion law and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s pro-infanticide comments, we are no longer talking about defending the unborn, we are talking about defending the born. Let that sink in.”

4. How Game of Thrones Mainstreamed Sexual Exploitation by Laura Grossberndt

Movies and television shows such as Game of Thrones enjoy a patina of respectability due to their complex plots, extensive viewership, and numerous awards—making them more palatable to a wide audience than a pornographic film would be. However, by treating human sexuality as a commodity, Game of Thrones and its ilk are just another incarnation of the commercial sex trade.”

5. Boys Competing Against Girls Steal Another Win by Cathy Ruse

When men who identify as women compete against women, they’re not achieving a sports victory. They’re just lying, cheating, and stealing.”

 

Honorable Mentions

Last year, my brother Josh, a 37-year-old married father with five kids under the age of 9, announced he was becoming a woman …

Thus, my tall, handsome, muscular brother began taking strong female hormones that transformed him into a different person. His facial hair stopped growing. He grew breasts instead. As part of his ‘social transition’ he began wearing dresses, wigs, heels, and makeup in public. He will have to stay on female hormones until the day he dies. He refuses to answer to the name Josh now—the only name anyone’s known him as for almost four decades. He says Josh is dead. There was even some type of symbolic ‘burial ceremony’ to say goodbye to Josh once and for all. Unfortunately, I didn’t get invited to that. Nor did my parents. No one sent us flowers. No one dropped off a casserole.”

It’s common wisdom to teach kids to respond to a fire or active shooter. They need the same ‘fire drill’ for pornography. Thankfully, most children won’t deal with a fire or a shooter, but all of them will need to escape from pornography.

The ‘escape’ plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. is simply ‘Turn, Run and Tell!’ Turn away from the bad picture, hurry and get away, and go tell a trusted adult what you saw. The CAN DO Plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures helps kids not only turn away from it, but to label it by saying ‘That’s pornography!’ This allows kids to have more control over their thoughts by engaging their thinking brain.”

As trade talks between the U.S. and China continue, China’s human rights violations need to be at the forefront of the discussions. China’s organ trade isn’t a minor violation—it’s indicative of systematic harassment, abuse, and even murder of its religious minorities.”

What America needs today is citizens who strive for personal responsibility and service to others and leaders who are looking first to serve, to imbibe the spirit expressed in the faded, worn out words of the Washington Monument—Laus Deo. We need leaders who serve God (Joshua 22:5; 1 Samuel 12:24; Hebrews 9:14) and their fellow citizens (Luke 6:38; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10). Jesus himself said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). We as citizens need to renew our commitment to being responsible for ourselves but also to serve those in need, and our government officials need to rediscover their true vocation: to be public servants.”

The Birth Rate is Falling. But Why?

by Daniel Hart

December 16, 2019

Here in the United States, we are not having enough babies to replenish our population.

In the latest numbers from the CDC, there were just under 3.8 million births in 2018, down 2 percent from the previous year. This marks the fourth year in a row that births have declined in the U.S. The current rate of 1.7 births per 1,000 women is well below the 2.1 births needed to maintain a steady replacement level.

The decline in U.S. births mirrors a global decline since the 1950’s, which has seen the birth rate plummet from 4.7 to 2.4 over the last 70 years. Many secular commentators point to a handful of factors to explain why this remarkable decline is happening in America, including a lack of “suitable partners” for women and “economic instability.”

A Society’s Survival Depends on Its Values

But some secular writers are beginning to grow skeptical of these mainstream explanations that barely skim the surface of what’s really going on. In a fascinating recent piece in The New York Times titled “The End of Babies,” Anna Louie Sussman asks, “Something is stopping us from creating the families we claim to desire. But what?” She points to an intriguing study showing that in almost every European country as well as the U.S., the number of children that women want is well above the number of children they actually have. While Sussman does explore a bit of the standard excuses that many secular liberals give for not having kids, including climate change and economic inequality, she eventually hits on the root of what fertility hinges upon: the values that a society has.

For communities that do not hold to secular values, Sussman notes that low fertility is not a problem:

Where alternative value systems exist, however, babies can be plentiful. In the United States, for example, communities of Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, Mormons and Mennonites have birthrates higher than the national average.

Why is this? Sussman’s next paragraph is key:

Lyman Stone, an economist who studies population, points to two features of modern life that correlate with low fertility: rising “workism” — a term popularized by the Atlantic writer Derek Thompson — and declining religiosity. “There is a desire for meaning-making in humans,” Mr. Stone told me. Without religion, one way people seek external validation is through work, which, when it becomes a dominant cultural value, is “inherently fertility reducing.”

Perhaps unwittingly, Sussman has hit upon a transcendent truth: When we lose sight of God, we begin to lose our bearing on what it means to be human. When this happens, it becomes easier to overlook the essential building blocks that provide meaning, purpose, and continuity to our humanness: the institution of marriage (which is in steep decline) and the children that naturally result from this union.

Faith Casts Out Fear

After reading Sussman’s article, one can’t help but come away with a strong sense of the anxiety that so many in our culture carry with them when it comes to marriage and family. Her piece is peppered throughout with the worries and fears of those she interviews: “Young people say, ‘Having children is the end of my life’”; “If I become 50 or 60 and I don’t have kids, I know I’m going to hate myself the rest of my life”; “Everything is super expensive.” Sussman herself is not immune to this anxiety. She has convinced herself, rather sheepishly, that she must save $200,000 before she has a child. Why? Because she is single and plans to have a child via in vitro fertilization (IVF), and this figure is “an acknowledgment of the financial realities of single parenthood, but also the arithmetic crystallization of my anxieties around parenthood in our precarious era.”

Without getting into the troubling aspects of IVF, I’d love to be able to reassure Sussman and her fellow worriers, “It’ll be okay! God will provide!” One of the greatest benefits of faith is that it casts out fear of the unknown. For what does Christ himself tell his followers in the gospel? “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:26-27)

Even still, I must admit that I often forget Christ’s words. I struggle with many of the same fears that Sussman describes. As a husband and father myself, I often worry about finances and my ability to support and provide for my wife and our two young boys as they grow up, as well as any future children that God might bless us with. But guess what? God has provided for us. He always does. He is always faithful. I have found that the more I trust in God’s providence, the more my worries and fears fade away. For God, who is “Perfect love,” “casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

The Birth of a Child is the Rebirth of Hope

It is clear that the declining birth rate is intimately connected with anxieties about having kids that permeate our culture. When a society largely rejects religious values, it loses its ability to have hope in the future, most profoundly illustrated by the birth of new life. When God is forgotten, the world becomes a complicated, intimidating, and “precarious” place, as Sussman says, one which can seem inhospitable to rearing children.

But despite all this uncertainty and anxiousness, the desire for rebirth still lingers within us. In the candid and heartfelt conclusion to her article, Sussman can’t help but admit her own yearning to pass on the legacy of her father, with an implicit longing for motherhood:

But as I reflected on the immaterial gifts I like to think I inherited from him, it became clear I craved genetic continuity, however fictitious and tenuous it might be. I recognized then something precious and inexplicable in this yearning, and glimpsed how devastating it might be to be unable to realize it. For the first time, I felt justified in my impulse to preserve some little piece of me that, in some way, contained a little piece of him, which one day might live again.

Not even liberal New York Times columnists, it seems, can escape the primordial urge to pass on our humanity, to indeed “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

An important lesson can be drawn from all of this for believers. When we work to spread the gospel, we are working to dispel worldly fear and break open hearts toward openness to new life. For the birth of every child is the rebirth of hope, the hope bestowed by a Creator who gives us the gift of life, smiles upon us, and calls us “good.”

Trump’s Office of Civil Rights is Becoming a Beacon of Freedom for the American People

by Connor Semelsberger

December 5, 2019

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has once again taken action to protect Americans, this time from disability discrimination. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) initiated an investigation into the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) upon learning that two small children were removed from a mother and father simply because the mother and father had a disability. The children were removed shortly after their birth based on the assumption that the parents would not have the ability to care for the children because of their disability, stripping away their parental rights.

Since the Oregon policy assumed from the children’s birth that a disability prevented the parents from caring for their children, they had to undergo psychological evaluations and participate in parenting classes to prove that they were fit to be parents. Thanks to a local county circuit court dismissing the neglect petition, the parents were finally able to be reunified with their children. If the county court had not stepped in, the Oregon Health Department would not have reunited the family.

These actions prompted OCR to convey major concerns to ODHS with how policies to prevent discrimination against parents with disabilities were being implemented in Oregon. Fortunately, the Oregon health department agreed to comply with federal disability rights laws and update its policies and procedures to create a new disability rights training plan. It is very unfortunate that these parents in Oregon had to go four years without custody of their eldest child simply because state officials decided their disability prevented them from being proper parents without any evidence to prove so. Thankfully, the Office of Civil Rights at HHS investigated this case and worked with the state of Oregon to make systemic changes to their child custody policies so that future parents with disabilities will not have their parental rights taken away.

From enforcing conscience protections for nurses who object to performing abortions, to preventing further sexual abuse at Michigan State University, this is just another example of how President Trump’s HHS has followed through with enforcing all federal anti-discrimination laws, not just ones that fit into his political agenda. An administration should not get to pick and choose which civil rights laws to enforce, but unfortunately there are many federal civil rights laws that are not prioritized and are even forgotten due to political reasons. For example, in 2011, the Obama administration issued new regulations to limit the number of federal conscience protection laws that would be enforced by HHS to only three. This is in stark contrast with a new Trump administration regulation currently pending in the courts to enforce 25 existing conscience protection laws.

Protecting Americans from all types of discrimination has been a priority of the Trump administration from the beginning. Examples like this parental rights case demonstrate that if someone who believes they have been discriminated against files a complaint with OCR, the administration will follow the appropriate civil rights laws and take all complaints seriously.

Pornography: America’s Hidden Public Health Crisis

by Worth Loving

October 30, 2019

Many public health crises are clear and easy to detect, manifesting themselves in the form of disease, food contamination, or biological warfare. At one time or another, the United States has faced similar crises head on and overcome them with swift action. However, for several decades, there has been a growing health crisis that is far more subtle but with devastating effects. It begins within the privacy of one’s home, but its effects reach across the nation. 

Not too many years ago, pornography was often difficult and costly to obtain. In fact, pornography use was so frowned upon that people went to great lengths to conceal it. Laws strictly controlled the sale and display of pornography. People would have to go to XXX stores or order through the mail to obtain it. Today, however, we face a far different scenario. With the advent of the internet, pornography is available for free to anyone at the click of a button. Untold millions have been enslaved by addiction to pornography, and many others have been indirect victims of its effects. The negative effects of pornography have reached a point where legislative and prosecutorial action is needed. It’s time for Congress and the DOJ to step up, acknowledge the obvious effects of pornography, and enforce the obscenity laws that were put in place years ago to protect the American public.

The statistics are overwhelming. A recent study found that in the United States, approximately 98 percent of men and 73 percent of women between the ages of 18-35 have viewed pornography in the last six months, for a total of 85 percent. In 2018, porn videos were watched over 109 billion times on one porn site alone. These statistics are just a sampling of the growing pornography epidemic in the United States.

Proponents of pornography often argue that it should be protected on the grounds that it harms no one, but research proves otherwise. One study found that “when men consume violent pornography (i.e. depicting rape or torture), they are more likely to commit acts of sexual aggression.” And as FRC has written about previously, there is a strong link between porn, sex trafficking, and abortion. In addition, porn “fuels child sexual abuse, compulsive sexual behavior, sexual dysfunction,” and more.

There is more than enough evidence to warrant action. In fact, pornography and its destructive effects have become so widespread that many states are moving to declare it a public health crisis. In fact, 16 states have passed resolutions declaring pornography a public health crisis. While these resolutions are non-binding, they do serve to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers of pornography. Furthermore, the goal of such resolutions is to curb the pervasiveness of pornography and provide resources to those who are struggling.

Contrary to popular opinion, the First Amendment does not automatically protect all pornography. In fact, federal obscenity laws passed by Congress prohibit the distribution of hardcore pornography in print and digital form. However, since the Clinton administration, the Department of Justice has failed to enforce these laws and prosecute those guilty of distributing hardcore pornography.

With enough evidence now available to the public, it’s time for Congress and the DOJ to take action. Pornography is not a free speech issue. In fact, it takes away the voices of so many who are silently screaming for freedom. It is harming individuals by fueling addiction, destroying families by increasing sexual dysfunction and aggression, and ruining countless lives by exploiting victims of sex trafficking. It’s time that we demand President Trump direct Attorney General Barr to enforce existing obscenity laws and that Congress pass stricter penalties for those who illegally distribute or produce pornography.

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville brilliantly describes the secret to America’s greatness with this simple statement: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” There is nothing good or wholesome about pornography. Granting so-called “freedom” to one group, knowing that it could lead to the violation of other’s rights, isn’t freedom at all. Let’s work together to protect our homes, our local communities, and our great nation from this scourge. 

Joseph Nicolosi on the Deep Need for Fatherly Affirmation

by Peter Sprigg

July 16, 2019

I wrote yesterday about Amazon removing listings for a number of books about sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), sometimes referred to by critics as “conversion therapy.” A particular target for Rojo Alan (the British LGBT activist who claimed credit for the change) and for other critics were the works of the late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. He coined the term “reparative therapy” to describe his psychoanalytic approach to sexual orientation change. I have two of the books by Dr. Nicolosi that Amazon has banned in my library. While I have not read either cover to cover, I have read enough to know that they directly contradict some of what critics say about them. The two books are:

  • Joseph Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, Inc. 1997)
  • Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., & Linda Ames Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002)

One criticism of Nicolosi in particular stood out. Rojo Alan told the GayStarNews, “The books went into ways in which you can mentally and physically abuse your child.”

Really?

Here are some of the actual recommendations and observations in Nicolosi’s Parent’s Guide:

  • Use “positive and affirming strategies.” (p. 15)
  • The “at-risk boy needs (but does not get) particular affirmation from parents and peers.” (p. 22)
  • [To a father:] “Just be there for Stevie emotionally. Maintain a warm, loving relationship with him and don’t let him pull away.” (p. 29)
  •  “I told Bill that Stevie did not really need therapy. ‘He needs his dad.’” (p. 30)
  • (A father must) “do the little things—the everyday, caring, and loving things” (p. 31).
  • Boys “need from their dads what we reparative therapists call ‘the three A’s’: affection, attention, and approval.” (p. 50)
  •  [Quoting another expert:] “Anything that parents can do to make their kids feel proud of their identity—as young men, as young women—will help the [treatment] process” (p. 154).

Nicolosi’s own work focused primarily on men, but his Parent’s Guide included a chapter on girls as well. It includes these points:

  • For girls, “there should be a warm mother-daughter intimacy … . Indeed, a healthy relationship with Mom provides the most important foundation …” (p. 156)
  • The father of a daughter “provides love and positive regard so that the girl will feel worthy of another man’s love.” (p. 157)
  • When a girl has been found to be involved in a lesbian relationship, the parents will probably be focused on stopping their daughter’s sexual behavior. But the girl herself is primarily concerned about her own feelings of loneliness, alienation, rejection, and poor self-esteem. A skillful therapist can offer concern for the girl’s feelings… . The father will need to assess his involvement in his daughter’s life. This will probably require a more supportive, less intrusive role for him. The mother, at the same time, will need to share her emotional self and her vulnerabilities with her daughter, and build a relationship of greater mutuality.” (pp. 163-64)     

Stereotypes?

Some people suggest that SOCE tries to force boys into stereotypical masculinity. But it is actually pro-LGBT adults who often stereotype a child as “gay” (or even “transgender”) based on their personality traits. Here is what Nicolosi says:

  • The “child should not be forced into a predetermined mold that will cause him to deny his fundamental nature—his natural gifts of creativity, sensitivity, kindness, gentleness, sociability, intuitiveness, or high intellect.” (p. 38)
  • A “boy can be sensitive, kind, social, artistic, gentle—and heterosexual. He can be an artist, an actor, a dancer, a cook, a musician—and a heterosexual. These innate artistic skills are ‘who he is,’ part of the wonderful range of human abilities. No one should try to discourage those abilities and traits.” (p. 48)

 “Rejection”?

Critics of SOCE often argue that it results from a “rejection” of the LGBT child. Does Nicolosi urge parents to reject their children if they identify as gay? The answer is clearly no:

  • Of course, no intervention can guarantee that a child will grow up heterosexual… . I trusted that Margaret and Bill would still love their son if those efforts were not successful.” (p. 32)

Last month, USA Today ran an article about Scott Dittman, a man who attended Pittsburgh’s LGBT Pride parade wearing a t-shirt offering “Free Dad Hugs.” More than 700 people took him up on the offer, with some becoming quite emotional—“you can see how damaged deep down so many of them are,” Dittman reported.

Yet Nicolosi himself wrote something similar, saying:

  • Boys have a need “for a man’s attention, affection, and affirmation—a need to be hugged and held” (p. 30).

Maybe the distance between LGBT activists and the books they persuaded Amazon to ban is not as great as they think—if only they would take the time to read them.

The Heart of a Father

by Daniel Hart

June 14, 2019

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

When my firstborn son was a few months old, it was clear that he was not gaining weight like he should be from breastfeeding due to an undiagnosed condition. My wife and I felt helpless and were wracked with constant worry. As a father, I felt desperate, and longed to do anything in my power to help my suffering child. By God’s grace, we were eventually able to find the professional help we needed through lactation consultation, and our baby began a healthy weight gain.

I am reminded of this time when reading of desperate fathers in the Gospels who, at their wits end, lay their suffering children at Christ’s feet, begging Him to help them. Although my own experience pales in comparison to the severity of the problems these biblical fathers faced, I can still identify with a father like Jairus frantically elbowing his way through the crowd and throwing himself before Jesus, beseeching Him to help his dying daughter (Mark 5:23-43). Or the father with the demon-possessed son, who kneels before Jesus and implores Him, “Lord, have mercy on my son…” (Matthew 17:15-18).

I can picture the sweat on the brows of these fathers as they strenuously assert themselves for the sake of their children. With all their options exhausted, they make one last ditch attempt—some would have said foolhardy attempt—to save their offspring at the feet of Jesus. How does He respond?

Jesus, in full union with His Father, reveals the true nature of God the Father’s heart in His response: mercy, compassion, and healing. We read that at the moment He speaks the word of healing, the afflicted are indeed healed: “…the boy was cured instantly” (Matthew 17:18); “And immediately the girl got up and walked” (Mark 5:42). What’s more, physical healing is just the beginning of God’s tender care for the welfare of His children.

Caring for Our Children’s Spiritual Welfare

Christ does not stop at mere physical healing; His mercy extends to great concern for our spiritual health as well. When the father of the possessed child pleads with Jesus to heal his son, Christ’s first response is to teach him the power of belief: “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). And for those who ask for the Spirit, Christ assures us that God cannot help but give more than merely “good” gifts: “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

In the same way, fathers who have a full understanding of love are just as concerned about their children’s spiritual welfare as for their physical health. As I try to teach my 2 ½-year-old son his prayers and speak to him about the love of God, I often find myself wondering about what kind of faith he will have by the time he leaves the house. Becoming a father has given me an expanded appreciation for all those fathers out there who worry about their sons and daughters losing their faith after they have struck out on their own or are in college. While I know it’s second nature for a parent to worry about their children, I also know that all God needs is an open soul, not a wise or mature one—He will fill that openness with His grace.

Indeed, a father’s longing for his children’s physical and spiritual health is an image of the purest longing that God has for us.

We Need a Renewed Emphasis on Fatherly Compassion

Having a father who passed the love of God on to me, and knowing that I will strive to do all I can to pass this faith on to my own children, my heart aches for those who have not had a father in their lives who has shown love to them. I have personally known those who have been deprived of the love of their fathers and have seen the spiritual wounds that this profound absence can cause.

Tragically, there are many in our society who have difficulty relating to God as the merciful and healing Father that He is because of the lack of a loving earthly father in their own lives, whether from outright absence or from emotional/physical neglect or abuse that they experienced from their fathers.

This lamentable state of affairs gives Christian fathers all the more motivation to exemplify and live out the true heart of our heavenly Father. Much has been said and written about how fathers must be strong leaders and firm maintainers of discipline in their families. This is certainly true, but it only tells half the story of the true heart of God the Father, and therefore the heart that all fathers must strive for.

The tender care that Christ manifested through His merciful and healing touch and through beautiful parables like the prodigal son (Luke 15) are stirring examples of what a truly loving father must be: a clear reflection of God the Father’s tenderness, mercy, and compassion—guiding and nurturing his children towards discipleship in God’s kingdom. This requires what may seem on the surface to be a paradox: Fathers must have the manly courage to be vulnerably compassionate with their children in order to more fully exemplify the compassionate love of our heavenly Father.

A Full Heart

One of the first instincts of a father is to provide for the physical needs of his children. This is natural and good—it clearly fits our nature as men. Vulnerability and tender care for the spiritual needs of our children may not come as naturally to us, but it is just as important. In order to impart the full heart of God to our children, we must be willing to stretch ourselves and exemplify both physical and spiritual nourishment to our children, just as our Heavenly Father gives abundantly to all who ask Him (Luke 11:11-13).

This Father’s Day, may we all find true rest and comfort in the healing and merciful embrace of our true Father in heaven, who unreservedly pours out His fatherly mercy, healing power, and grace to all His children each day.

The Christ-like Sacrifice of Motherhood

by Daniel Hart

May 10, 2019

There are many things we can thank our mothers for this Mother’s Day, but there is one aspect of motherhood that is unique and unrivaled in the human experience that deserves special recognition: the bodily sacrifice that mothers make on behalf of us, their children.

This act of self-sacrifice is so profound in its generosity that it mirrors the ultimate sacrifice that any human being can offer: to lay down their lives for another. Therefore, motherhood can be seen as a beautiful imitation of Christ’s bodily sacrifice for us. In Luke 22:19, He stated the nature of this sacrifice plainly: “This is my body, which is given for you.”

We see this play out naturally of its own accord when a woman becomes pregnant. From the moment of conception, her body literally becomes the home of another human being. In accepting this role, a woman gives her body over to make a series of awe-inspiring sacrifices for her child.

During pregnancy, our mothers increase their blood volume by up to 50 percent. They increase their own lifeblood to give us life, reflecting Christ pouring out His own blood to give us eternal life (1 John 1:7).

Our mothers grow an entirely new organ within themselves—the placenta—to provide our developing bodies with oxygen and nutrients to sustain our own growth. This mirrors how God gives us a new heart when we give ourselves to him (Ezekiel 36:26) and how our hearts are reborn in the Spirit through Christ (John 3:3-5).

Most sacrificially of all, our mother’s bodies are permanently changed in a number of ways as a result of gestating and birthing our own bodies. This reflects the permanency of the wounds that Christ suffered during His passion and death when He appeared to Thomas after His resurrection: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).

In these physical ways during pregnancy and birth and in the countless ways that our mothers sacrifice themselves for our sake throughout our lives, motherhood truly is a divine and life-giving calling that reflects the very inner life and heart of God, made manifest through His Son Jesus.

On this Mother’s Day, let us reflect on and thank our mothers for the profound and generous sacrifices they have made for us and continue to make, from the moment of our conception to the present day.

Medieval” Times in Verona - A Report from the World Congress of Families

by Peter Sprigg

April 12, 2019

[Note: Quotations in the following piece from speakers at the World Congress of Families may be paraphrased. They are based upon my own notes taken at the time, and in the case of speeches not given in English, based on the simultaneous translations provided by the Congress.]

I was privileged to attend and speak at the most recent World Congress of Families (WCF), held in Verona, Italy from March 29-31. Only after hearing what the Italian speakers at the Congress had to say did I realize that this may have been the most controversial of these events—in its own country—held so far.

The most frequently cited (and refuted) criticism of the WCF was that its views are “medieval.” After two days of hearing references from the podium to the attacks upon the Verona Congress, I finally went online to find Italian news in English to document what had gone on.

The source of the “medieval” charge was an Italian politician named Luigi Di Maio. He is the leader of a relatively young political party in Italy known as the “Five Star Movement” (abbreviated M5S), and is a co-deputy prime minister. He also asserted that the WCF was for “right-wing losers.”

Some Americans may not realize the extent to which a parliamentary system creates strange bedfellows. The Five Star Movement—described by Wikipedia as a populist party taking a “big tent” political position—won the most seats in the Italian Parliament in the 2018 elections, but not a majority. Therefore, it had to form a coalition with The League, a more conservative party centered in Northern Italy (where Verona is). Several League politicians were stronger supporters of the World Congress of Families—meaning that Di Maio’s attack was directed at his own coalition partners. Di Maio had said, “The League in Verona celebrates the Middle Ages, we do not.”

When a criticism is repeatedly cited by those who were the target of it, it has probably backfired (think of Hillary Clinton and the “basket of deplorables”). That may well have been the case with the “medieval” charge, which speaker after speaker at the WCF seized upon.

This is an open community.”

For example, Luca Zaia, President of the Veneto Region where Verona is located (roughly the equivalent of a governor in the U.S.), told the opening session of the Congress, “You must thank those who attacked you—you have become well known!”

Part of the reason defenders of the World Congress were able to take the high ground from critics was because of the heavy-handed efforts not only to stigmatize the event, but to prevent it from taking place at all. This had the effect of turning defenders of free speech into defenders of the World Congress, and vice versa.

Zaia reported, “I’ve been attacked a lot—people said we should not have this event in Verona.” However, he declared, “This is an open community as long as I am here. There is freedom for everyone to talk. The fundamental rule is to have respect for everybody … I do not consider this the middle ages.”

Everyone has a right to express their own ideas.”

Federico Sboarina, the Mayor of Verona, struck a similar note. “In my city, everyone has a right to express their own ideas—no one has a right to intimidate them. Verona is being depicted as a ‘medieval’ city. It’s those who stop people from speaking freely who are ‘medieval.’”

The worst thing you can do is prohibit [an] idea.”

This theme of free speech even led to an unscheduled appearance by Italian radio host Giuseppe Cruciani. He said bluntly, “I’m not one of you,” as far as pro-family and pro-life policy is concerned. However, he noted that “for weeks now, there has been a campaign against this event.” He said he had learned from his experience in radical politics, “If you want to fight an idea, the worst thing you can do is prohibit that idea.” Therefore, Cruciani pledged, “Every time they want to stop you from expressing your opinion, I will be with you, even though I do not agree with you.”

The media … want to suppress freedom of expression.”

Writer Maria Giovanna Maglie said, “The controversy actually attracted me; but I didn’t think the attack would be so violent. If you read the papers, you would think we were here to create an outrageous scandal, to celebrate the funerals of freedom and liberty.”

Actually, she said, “Freedom is of fundamental importance—but much of the media is here to stop it. They want to suppress freedom of expression.”

Does the World Congress of Families promote hatred?” she asked. “No, it promotes the family” (and “so does the Italian constitution,” she noted. Article 29 of that document says, “The Republic recognizes the rights of the family as a natural society founded on marriage.”).

If you are pro-life, why should you be called ‘medieval?’” asked Maglie. She referred to political correctness as “a new authoritarianism,” and drew prolonged applause when she concluded by calling on all to resist its “tyranny.”

This event has become a symbol of freedom.”

Sandro Oliveri, President of the Federation of Italian Pentecostal Churches, praised the organizers of the Congress, saying that they “have been very brave in light of what you have faced in the last few days,” including “aggressiveness and violence.”

This event has become a symbol of freedom,” he declared—although not the kind promoted by those who “think that freedom is [only] to say what they agree with.”

Why should people be afraid of talking about family?” Oliveri wondered. “This is about protecting the weakest people, the children.”

Saying no” to practices that harm women and children “does not limit anyone’s freedom,” he insisted. “It does not mean to be ‘medieval.’”

So much hatred”—but toward the World Congress of Families, not from it

For Lorenzo Fontana, Italy’s Minister for the Family and Disabilities, the attacks on the WCF had a personal cost. “I saw so much hatred in the polemics of the last few days,” he said. “I had to be accompanied by twice as many police as usual in my own city. Many people suffered: my wife was ill-treated at work because of the polemics. My child has been discriminated against at kindergarten because she is the daughter of Minister Fontana.”

Fontana addressed another stereotype about the Congress. “I was told that those at that Congress are against women who work,” he said. “I was told I wanted to keep women at home.” In reality, he insisted the opposite is true—“All the women in my life work!” Instead, what he wants to do is to aid female employment by facilitating “work-life balance.”

Having a child is positive for business,” Fontana declared, citing research showing “an increase in productivity” with mothers in the workplace. “Unfortunately,” he lamented, “some people in Italy still have a ‘medieval’ view and don’t understand these things!”

The real “backward thinkers”

The fieriest speech at the Congress came from Giorgia Meloni, a member of the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of the Italian parliament) and president of a conservative political party known as the Brothers of Italy. One article describes Meloni as the “leading lady of Italy’s right.”

They said we are medieval, depressives, losers,” Meloni said. “I reject these [charges] and send them back to those who formulated them.” They are the real “backward thinkers,” she insisted. “A loser comes to insult us when we talk about families,” she declared. “Losers are those who accept abortion at the ninth month!”

The fascists are gone.”

The highest-ranking government official to address the Congress was Matteo Salvini, who serves as both Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the current Italian government, and who was described last year by Time magazine as “the most feared man in Europe.” Salvini said that the criticism of the World Congress of Families had been “surreal,” with people asking him, “Are you sure you want to go to Verona? It’s the middle ages, losers, right-wing people.”

Several of the officials who spoke at the Congress are referred to in the media as “far right” or even “neo-fascist”—but it is hard to know how seriously to take those characterizations, coming from outlets that unquestioningly accept the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of mainstream conservative organizations like the World Congress of Families and Family Research Council as “hate groups.” Responding to such attacks, Salvini said wearily, “The fascists are gone;” but then added wryly, “There are still communists, though.” Salvini also declared, “Racism and excessive religious beliefs are not here in this room—it is others who are [wrongly] judging us.”

Grazie, Italia!

Given the ferocity of the attacks, the organizers of the World Congress of Families (especially Chairman Antonio Brandi) deserve tremendous credit for persevering. And the speakers who braved the criticism to address and/or actively support the Congress deserve the thanks of all those of us who attended. Special kudos to those not even part of the pro-family movement who nevertheless stood for the principal of free speech. To all of these, I say—Grazie, Italia!

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