Category archives: Religion & Culture

Praying for Our Leaders

by Peyton Holliday

March 12, 2019

Here at Family Research Council, we have been reading through Carter Conlon’s book It’s Time to Pray. Prayer has been a focus at FRC since the beginning, but we are renewing that focus this year. In Conlon’s book, he highlights stories of how people’s lives have been changed by prayer. He shows us how people live out the verse in James: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (5:16).

We as Christians in the United States should be praying for our leaders in authority over us. In the book of 1 Timothy, we are told to pray for our leaders: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” We need to pray that our leaders will have wisdom (Proverbs 3:13) and will surround themselves with counsellors (Proverbs 15:22). Here are some great scripture passages to pray over our leaders from the book of Proverbs:

  1. Lord, may our leaders guide our nation in what is right, just, and fair (1:3).
  2. May they understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (2:5).
  3. Above all, may our leaders trust in God with all their heart and not lean on their own understanding (3:5).
  4. As they interact with those around them, may they avoid all perverse talk and a deceitful mouth (4:24).
  5. Lord, may our leaders not be afraid of sudden disaster (3:25) and make wise decisions in the face of a disaster.
  6. As our leaders make both life and political decisions, may they ponder the path of their feet (4:26).
  7. I pray that our leaders will not be wise in their own eyes, but fear the Lord and turn away from evil (3:7).
  8. Lord, may they find favor and understanding in the sight of God and man (3:4).
  9. As our leaders make national and local decisions, may they listen to wisdom and be secure without fear of evil (1:33).
  10. May our leaders do their work pure and right (20:11).
  11. Thank you, Father for those that you have placed in authority over us. May you remind us to pray for them and never give up remembering that our leader’s hearts are turned by you and you turn them however you please (21:1). Amen.

It is our duty as Christians to respect the authority over us (Romans 13:1-7). I think we would have an easier time respecting those in authority if we prayed for our leaders on a daily basis. Prayer, as small of a task and as insignificant as many think it to be, can change the world. If more Christians would daily, hourly, and without ceasing pray for our leaders, our nation and the world would be a different place.

Peyton Holliday is an intern at Family Research Council.

What the Rise of the “Anti-Hero” in Entertainment Says About Our Culture

by Kim Lilienthal

March 11, 2019

A new hallmark of this generation is the elevation of the “anti-hero” in our entertainment. The anti-hero is an archetypal character used in storytelling who lacks conventional heroic attributes and ethics. Because they do not ascribe to the upstanding values and morals of traditional heroes, they often cross into the realm of the villainous. They are driven by classically negative inspirations: selfishness, loss, jealousy, pride, and hate, to name a few.

The anti-hero has been featured in popular films and stories before (think Han Solo or Watchmen’s Rorschach), but in more recent years, we have seen a massive influx of these characters into our entertainment. Just look at any highly rated show or film that has been released in the past ten years, and it will most likely feature an anti-hero as the main character: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, House, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and several Marvel favorites, such as Jessica Jones, Deadpool, Venom, Daredevil, Wolverine, and the Punisher. These are just a few examples from the growing list.

But what is so fascinating about this type of character that they are now taking over our TVs and movie theaters?

Simply put, the anti-hero appeals to the dark realities of human experience far more than the classic upstanding hero ever could. He is more complex and has motivations that are more relatable to the human experience. Walter White, for all his terrible deeds throughout Breaking Bad, remains a sympathetic character to many fans of the show, even to the very end, because we were able to witness, step by step, his descension from a relatively normal family man into a violent and prideful criminal. He makes awful, morally bankrupt choices, and yet there is still something inside us that wants to see him succeed. 

It is interesting that we, as a culture, have decided to embrace this kind of chaotic neutral character over the lawful good. Why is this shift occurring?

Moral Ambiguity

As religious belief in the west continues to decline, questions of ethics become more and more difficult to answer, and the lines between right and wrong become blurred. We find ourselves in an age when we can’t decide whether men are men or women are women, or whether an infant is a person, and this overall lack of cultural moral discernment is reflected in our anti-heroes. The anti-hero does not operate under a code of ethics; he simply does whatever is most useful to his goals at the time, whether it helps someone or hurts them.

This introduces the concept that any action can be rationalized when seen from the right perspective. Our popular stories no longer draw stark lines between good and evil; they instead push the concept that people’s lives are too complex, the decisions they make too influenced by circumstance, to be able to cast moral judgments on their actions. When seen from a different perspective, actions that are understandable to one person might be completely abhorrent to another. There is no “good guy” to stand for justice and beat the “bad guy,” because who’s to say that the good guy isn’t actually a judgmental tyrant who is forcing his own ideals onto others?

Disillusionment with Idealism

The anti-hero also represents a sense of disillusionment with idealism: Corruption is being uncovered everywhere we look—in politics, in entertainment, in the church, and in our own families. Trust in authority figures who claim to be virtuous has been all but obliterated, as those who were supposed to be the best among us are revealed to be the worst.

Because of this disillusionment, this generation, probably more than any other, is more interested in seeing the world for what it is, rather than what it could be, and this paradigm is reflected in the anti-hero. The ideal of the morally upstanding hero has been replaced with a more realistic, more flawed protagonist. He doesn’t operate under any “unfounded” higher principles. He is a pragmatist who doesn’t ascribe to ideals because they only get in the way. He doesn’t pretend to be virtuous, but accepts the darkness within himself and unapologetically uses it to his advantage. And we, the modern audience, don’t care if he is morally compromised as long as he is effective.

An Antidote to Hopelessness

In the end, the celebration of the anti-hero reflects a sense of resignation in our culture to cast off morals and ideals as unrealistic and inconvenient. But what it does not account for is that it takes considerably more strength and resolve to remain idealistic in an increasingly cynical world. When the going gets tough and the world is against you, is it not more difficult and more rewarding to stand firm in your beliefs rather than dropping them as soon as they are tested?

This is why a foundation of faith and belief in something greater than ourselves is vital. It provides the antidote to hopelessness and moral ambiguity. Ideals are crucial to a life of meaning, because they allow us to set our sights on an existence outside of our own and work toward becoming everything God intended us to be.

Kim Lilienthal is an intern at Family Research Council.

Women: Achieving Balance from the One Who Gives Us Worth

by Patrina Mosley

March 8, 2019

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Balance for Better.” Interestingly enough, achieving a better balance in the way we as women are thinking about cultural issues today may be the cure for feminist woes against God, men, and the world.

#MeToo and “Every Woman Deserves to Be Believed”

For some women, the #MeToo movement has been a blessing. But when taken to its extreme form of “every woman deserves to be believed,” it has been a curse. Just ask Ashley Kavanaugh, who had to watch her husband get accused of sexual misconduct on national television with no corroborating evidence. The blessing of the #MeToo movement is that it has exposed sexual abuse and helped bring long overdue justice to victims. However, saying “every woman deserves to be believed” does not make up for all the years when women were not believed, and it certainly hurts women who have husbands, fathers, and sons who are wrongfully accused. A better balance could be achieved by going after the truth so that there can be justice. Without that, we get people with personal vendettas seeking vengeance against someone who might be innocent.

Biology

Women: if we don’t get biology right, we can say goodbye forever to womanhood. “Anything you can do, I can do better” seems to be on a never-ending loop when it comes to modern feminism—even to the point of denying science. Adding and taking away body parts or hormones will not change the XX and XY chromosomes that God put in place and called good. Researchers have already discovered that we have thousands of genomes in the body that act differently based on our sex—from muscle mass, fat tissue, heart activity, reproductive functions, diseases and treatment, metabolism, and so much more.

There is nothing wrong with being distinct. In fact, when it comes to matters of strength, there are some women who are definitely stronger than men, but on average that is not the case—and that’s okay! A balance for better is valuing the diversity men and women bring to the table. We all love diversity, right? I don’t know about you, but I would rather have the ability to give life to the world than be able to bench press 400 pounds or carry a man on my back in combat any day.

Womanhood

Playing the “anything you can do, I can do better” game does not make us better or more valuable. In fact, studies show that it doesn’t even make us happier. While we may want to glamorize weekends of one-night-stands, independence, corporate-climbing, and the legal right to kill our children, none of these things make us equal with men. All we are doing is emulating the sins and misplaced priorities generally associated with men. A better balance can be found in applying the standard of what is right, not what we think is equal.

Sex is for marriage, and sexual fulfillment for both men and women is at its greatest in the context of a committed relationship. When it comes to independence, could it be that women are not happier because they alone shoulder the burden of working, taking care of the kids—and oh yeah—finding time to sleep? Two people are better off than one because they can help each other succeed, whether that be at home or in the workplace.

With abortion, we rage against our own nature to nurture and thereby give men free sex with no responsibility. As politicians seem to endorse infanticide, can we silently stand by and not protect our littlest ones? Their birthday should be met with love and care, not death. You can advocate for their lives and send a message through efforts like the “End Birth Day Abortion” campaign.

From Disney princess movies to even Fifty Shades of Grey, we all want a man who is enamored by us, committed to us, and would die for us. But giving our consent to the hook-up culture, abortion, and being married to our jobs is a great deal only for the man who doesn’t want to stick around, not for us.

We ultimately achieve a better balance when we remember that men and women alike have equal access to God through Jesus Christ, pointing us toward what is good and right instead of opaquely “equal” as we define it. In fact, there are currently many legal protections and practices in place for women not based on generic “equality” but on what is right. Do we really want men (who identify as transgender women) in battered women’s shelters, on our school sports teams, and in our public bathrooms and showers?

The Heart

At the heart of it all, this is a heart issue. Are we filled with such bitterness and anger in the era of #MeToo that we neglect the pursuit of justice and take the short cut to revenge? Do we desire to be the ruler of our own lives—instead of seeking God—to the point where we believe science is bigoted? We don’t need to focus on our differences to the point of self-hatred, nor do we need to exalt ourselves and roar with pride to make men feel low.

Ultimately, we should acknowledge and use our differences to pursue those things that are right, such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Only then will we truly be able to discern a better balance.

The Art of Disagreement

by Travis Weber

March 6, 2019

In the New York Times, Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has an interesting piece on the polarization and fracturing of America today. Of note:

Political scientists have found that our nation is more polarized than it has been at any time since the Civil War. One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election. Millions of people organize their social lives and their news exposure along ideological lines to avoid people with opposing viewpoints. What’s our problem?

2014 article in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on “motive attribution asymmetry”—the assumption that your ideology is based in love, while your opponent’s is based in hate—suggests an answer. The researchers found that the average Republican and the average Democrat today suffer from a level of motive attribution asymmetry that is comparable with that of Palestinians and Israelis. Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred—and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.

Brooks continues:

People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. Motive attribution asymmetry leads to something far worse: contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

Quite alarming. Nevertheless, this is confirmed by what we see in our slice of social discourse—whether in reference to people holding to historic Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, or merely seeking to protect their ability to hold to such teaching.

A recent study in The Atlantic discusses how such intolerance is cemented as beliefs become more siloed within certain groups and communities. The worst offenders? “[T]he most politically intolerant Americans, according to the analysis, tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves.”

Brooks’ solution for all this?

Not eliminating different ideas, but embracing them. “What we need is not to disagree less, but to disagree better,” he says. When treated with contempt, we should not return it upon our opponent’s head. Instead, we must choose to respond with grace.

Of all people, Christians should most eagerly embrace this idea. Our faith itself is based on God not responding to our contempt with contempt, but by sending his Son to die in our place on a cross.

We should be the first to embrace the idea of showing grace to neighbors and those around us. There is much we cannot control in our society today, but let us seize one of the few areas we can change—our individual choice to respond with grace when treated with contempt.

The Influence of Social Media on Politics

by Peyton Holliday

February 22, 2019

For most of us, social media has become a routine part of our day-to-day lives here in America. This reality is now taking hold in politics as well. Scrolling through social media pages such as Twitter and Instagram, I have seen videos of candidates and elected officials dancing in their offices, visiting the dentist, drinking beer, and all manner of day-to-day life being shared with the public. With videos posted by Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others, the political spectrum is changing.

I personally don’t want to see a video of a politician going to the dentist—I would rather see a video of them explaining their stance on abortion or border control. I want to know what the candidate stands for on policy instead of how cool of a dance move they can do. We are losing professionalism in the political world. It seems that we are now electing people because they have nice dance moves or seem relatable on an Instagram video. This makes me wonder—how will our future elections be shaped through social media?

In the 1960 election cycle, well before the era of social media, the debates between JFK and Richard Nixon were televised for the first time in American history. The looks, poise, and smooth actions of JFK helped him to win the votes of millions of Americans. The medium of television set a new precedent for an era in which politicians worried about their image as much as their messaging. These televised debates marked the beginning of a new type of political media that would shape the outcome of elections for years to come.

Now, we are in a new era where the political scene is changing again. Americans can now stay up to date on the day-to-day thoughts and actions of political figures through videos, pictures, and posts on social media. The political landscape is becoming more and more based on marketing and image rather than actual policy positions. If you can market yourself better than your opponent, you have a better chance at winning. If your social media page has millions of followers, you can get more attention than appearing on national television. Candidates don’t even have to set up an interview with a television station to get media coverage anymore—if a social media post goes “viral,” it will be all over both television and the internet.

Social media is clearly a useful way to make candidates more visible to the world. Social media is already shaping the outcome of elections. In future elections, social media will undoubtedly begin to play an even bigger role. Similar to what happened in the 1960 election, the actions, online presence, and relatable image of a candidate can hold more sway than their policy positions in the minds of many social media-addicted voters.

Future elections will be shaped by the online presence of the candidates. As for me, I would rather see candidates use social media to present thoughtful positions on policy issues rather than try to be hip.

Peyton Holliday is an intern at Family Research Council.

SOTU: How the President Led on Life, Family, and Fighting Sex Trafficking

by Patrina Mosley

February 6, 2019

The State of the Union has historically been the time when the president, our Commander in Chief and the leader of the free world, puts Congress and the world on notice of the legislative agenda and priorities for the nation. This is why it’s so significant to see President Trump take a firm stand on the sanctity of life, the acknowledgment of what real families need, and the injustice that is happening at our borders.  

Life:

There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days.  Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.  These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and their dreams with the world.  And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.

To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.

Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life.  And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.

All of this came just a day after the Born-Alive Abortion Survivor’s Protection Act was blocked by Democrats not willing to give unanimous consent to the fact that babies deserve a chance at life if they survive an abortion attempt. As I mentioned here, the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency was nothing short of unprecedented when it comes to defending life. The Republican party platform now more than ever stands in stark contrast to the Democrat’s extreme abortion agenda. His statement was not only a rebuke of the lack of humanity shown by the Democrats but a fixed point of reference that valuing life is never anything to be ashamed of and that this value is what will make America great.

Family:

To help support working parents, the time has come to pass School Choice for Americans’ children. I am also proud to be the first President to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave, so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child.

Lack of access to school choice has been one of the biggest factors separating the haves from the have-nots. Giving families the option to use their tax dollars to educate their children as they see fit is critical to setting them up for success later in life. Another part of the “success sequence” in marriage is taking the time to invest in your children from day one. Chasing the American dream should not be the goal in life—being faithful to your family and to God should take priority. Paid family leave will help relieve the stress of working parents and encourage these eternal values.

Sex Trafficking:

Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate, it is actually very cruel.

This is certainly true. Not only does illegal immigration defy what scriptures teach on respecting the authorities God has put in place, but it also hurts our national security as well as our communities who are already hurting for jobs, and it certainly hurts the illegal immigrant who is being taken advantage of (in some ways trafficked into labor) with unfair wages. To many in the elite class and to those with political power, the illegal immigrant is nothing more than someone who cleans their house or mows their lawn. For big business, they are cheap labor, so they can keep more profit for themselves. To the Democrats, illegal immigrants are future voters whom they can entice with amnesty so long as the immigrant faithfully votes to keep them in power. What most do not know is how illegal immigration has facilitated sex trafficking:

One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north. Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country. Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide-open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.

Most people are unaware of how sophisticated their system is—how smugglers promise to get women and children over the border but then hold them hostage by demanding more money once they are over the border and then violently forcing them to pay off their “debt” with sex. Often these girls are supervised by the women involved with the smugglers.

ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults. 30,000 sex crimes, and 4000 killings or murders.

One real life example of this was shared by the president in his address:

We are joined tonight by one of those law enforcement heroes: ICE Special Agent Elvin Hernandez.  When Elvin — thank you.

When Elvin was a boy, he and his family legally immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic.  At the age of eight, Elvin told his dad he wanted to become a Special Agent.  Today, he leads investigations into the scourge of international sex trafficking.

Elvin says that, “If I can make sure these young girls get their justice, I’ve [really] done my job.”  Thanks to his work, and that of his incredible colleagues, more than 300 women and girls have been rescued from the horror of this terrible situation, and more than 1,500 sadistic traffickers have been put behind bars. Thank you, Elvin.

We will always support the brave men and women of law enforcement, and I pledge to you tonight that I will never abolish our heroes from ICE. Thank you.

I hope the president’s address opens many eyes to see the compounding effects of criminal behavior. If those who have been entrusted with the authority to protect and pursue justice do nothing, then many immigrant lives will be needlessly victimized.

President Trump’s address is a flag planted in the ground of who we are as a nation, what we should strive to be, and what we’re going to get done by the grace of God.

How Two “Slam Dunks” are Key to the Success of the Tennessee Volunteers

by Caleb Seals

January 30, 2019

The Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball team is off to their best start in school history with a record of 19-1. The Volunteers are ranked number 1 in the nation for the first time in over 10 years. As someone who grew up in East Tennessee, I am thrilled to see the Volunteers at the top of the NCAA rankings once again.

However, the Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes has a bigger goal in mind other than winning games: “I hope that we’ve taught these guys how to grow up to be good Christian guys, men.”

Earlier in the season, Tennessee basketball players Kyle Alexander (image above) and Jordan Bowden got baptized at Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Coach Barnes told reporters, “Wins are important, but what happened with Kyle Alexander and Jordan Bowden is bigger than any win we could ever have.”

Tennessee’s leading scorer Grant Williams posted on his Instagram page a picture of his teammates getting baptized, with the comment: “Two of my brothers were baptized and took a step closer to the Lord.” Kyle Alexander also posted on his Instagram a picture of him being baptized with Sevier Heights Baptist Church’s pastor Tim Miller with the comment, “God You’re Good.”

Coach Barnes told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “Last night I was able to go over to Sevier Heights and watch 2 of our players get baptized last night. To see our team there and see not just the response from these guys, but also the students there were about 8 other students there and thankful for what Tim Miller is doing there for the students. I am also thankful for my family and the God that I believe in. I can sit here all day and tell you that I’m blessed and that there are so many things I am thankful for.”

Barnes has said that he spends time in prayer each morning to prepare for his day. Additionally, Barnes’ son Nick is a missionary overseas in the Middle East. Barnes recently reflected on his faith by saying, “I think God has created everything we do. I think he created basketball. I think it’s the platform that we’re supposed to use to be teachers and mentors of young people.”

It is refreshing to see more figures in sports living a God-centered life. We are blessed to live in a country where we can express our faith publicly. From Dabo Swinney giving God the glory after winning the National Championship to Tim Tebow wearing “John 3:16” under his eyes, we need more men of faith in popular culture. Although the current political climate is very harsh towards Christians, when a man of faith like Rick Barnes comes around, we need to cover him in support and prayer.

Go Vols!

In the World But Not of the World: Christians and Politics

by Zachary Rogers

January 25, 2019

Christians are commanded to be in the world but not of the world (John 15:19). This applies not only to areas of our secular life such as work and school but also extends to politics. According to the Apostle Paul, the government should promote good and restrain evil (Romans 13:3-4). This goal is best served by electing the right men and women to office and promoting laws that accord with justice.

Christians are confronted with different choices in candidates, policies, and parties. Choosing wisely requires the discipline of prudence—weighing ends and means in light of the circumstances in order to achieve the best results possible.

We are all made in the image of God, and He gave us the gift of reason. It should be used. Christians are able to weigh the declared aims and policies of politicians to determine between better and best, good and bad.

The blunt fact of the matter is that, currently, our two main parties advocate for different conceptions of the human good and biblical ethics. On issues such as abortion, LGBT rights, and religious liberty, the stances of the two parties and the politicians in them are starkly opposed. The implications for Christians are important because America lets its citizens elect their government. The Founders understood that the purpose of government is justice and structured it accordingly.

The Constitution on one hand carefully orders our republic to protect liberty and natural rights, while on the other relying upon a virtuous and vigorous citizenry. The federal government was given enumerated powers in order to achieve specific ends: national defense, domestic tranquility, and the protection of property and liberties. For this reason, it is a carefully constructed structure with separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism to restrain those who are overly ambitious and greedy. Yet at the same time citizens have immense power through their ability to elect representatives to deliberate regarding the national good and pass legislation to achieve this end.

Christians are faced with the fact that the American system of ordered liberty requires and depends upon active citizen participation. If they do not remain actively involved in campaigns, elections, running for office, litigation, and agency regulations, then politicians unconcerned with biblical morality, natural law, or natural right will be elected, and laws will inevitably be passed without the input of the citizenry. Americans sometimes fail to remember that the law and the system of government shapes the citizenry—the goals they have and how they pursue them. To ignore the privilege the Constitution bestows upon citizens and the need for Christians to be the salt of the earth is gross negligence of duty.

When military servicemen abandon their posts, the consequences are often severe—the destruction and defeat of their regiment, leaving open the city under their protection to invaders. Christians have the Holy Scriptures to guide them in a world of moral relativists. If Christians withdraw from the public square, what would fill the vacuum they leave behind? Because of the inevitable effect of laws upon culture (think of liberalized abortion and SOGI laws and their rapid acceptance afterwards by mainstream culture), Christians cannot safely withdraw from politics. Those who think they can safely withdraw to their local community and their local church are mistaken. Religious liberty and just laws are at stake. Therefore, men and women who will protect and promulgate these laws must be elected.

Are the politicians Christians elect perfect? No. On the question of whether flawed men can achieve sound ends, the answer is yes. Christians should strive to place the best candidates possible in government offices and recognize that while they are on Earth they will have to make use of their God given reason to make the best possible decision. This will inevitably include politicians who are not perfect and who will implement imperfect policies and pass less than flawless legislation.

Christians have been gifted with clear moral guidance from the Scriptures and the ability to carefully use reason to consider policies and laws, and have been blessed with a system of ordered liberty that depends upon their participation. To those Christians who are considering withdrawing from politics: you must stay. Your country needs you. While you might not be interested in politics, politics, politicians, and government bureaucracies are interested in you.

Zachary Rogers is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

Speaking the Truth in Love: Lauren Daigle and the Reality of Being a Christian in Modern America

by David Closson

December 6, 2018

Last week, Dove Award-winning Christian artist Lauren Daigle was asked about her view on the morality of homosexuality. Her response and the controversy it has generated provide an opportunity for Christians to reflect on how to approach today’s hot-button issues related to marriage and human sexuality.

Asked directly by a radio host if she “feels that homosexuality is a sin,” Daigle answered: “I can’t honestly answer on that, in the sense of I have too many people that I love and they are homosexuals.”

I can’t say one way or the other; I’m not God. When people ask questions like that, I just say, ‘Read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know because I’m learning too,’” she added.

Daigle, a Grammy nominated artist whose music has garnered cross-over appeal, appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on October 24. Following the appearance, Daigle received criticism from some supporters for her appearance with DeGeneres who identifies as a lesbian.

In early November, Daigle responded to these critics, saying, “I don’t have all the answers in life and I’m definitely not gonna act like I do, but the one thing that I know for sure is I can’t choose who I’m supposed to be kind to and who I’m supposed to show love to and who I’m not, because that’s the mission, right? Be who Christ was to everyone.”

Her recent comments on the morality of homosexuality again have critics upset.

There are two lessons to learn from this cultural moment. The first lesson is that all Christians, especially those in positions of influence, must be ready to answer questions related to marriage and human sexuality. To her credit, Daigle has leveraged her platform before to bring the positive message of God’s love to secular audiences across the country. Her recent appearances on the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” are examples. However, as the recent controversy demonstrates, a vague message on love is not a sufficient apologetic for the Christian faith. In 2018, Christians, including Daigle, must be prepared to answer what could be seen as “gotcha questions” concerning the Bible’s teaching on contentious moral issues including marriage and sexuality.

While the Apostle Peter’s admonition to always be prepared to give a reason for Christian belief and behavior is a timely warning, we should apply this truth graciously. While Daigle could have handled this better, there is no reason to question her sincerity at this point.

Second, this incident also reminds us that Christians must be willing to speak the truth in love. Loving people and acknowledging biblical truth are not incompatible. In fact, the highest expression of love is to speak the truth even when it bears a cost.

On the nature of marriage, the Bible is clear: Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24, Mat. 19:5, Mark 10:6-9, Eph. 5:22-23). Scripture is also unambiguous regarding the moral status of homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Rom. 1:26-28, 1 Tim. 1:10-11, Lev. 18:22, 20:13, Gen. 19:1-5). On these issues the Bible is unmistakable; there is a clear “Thus saith the Lord.”

Therefore, Christians must decide whether they accept or reject the Bible’s authority on these issues. Christians must choose whether to yield to the truth of Scripture or not. This trust in the Bible’s authority extends beyond issues related to sexuality. In fact, the exclusivity of the gospel is even more offensive than the Bible’s view on marriage. It was Jesus who said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What the secular world doesn’t understand is that Christians don’t believe homosexuality is wrong because they dislike gay people. Similarly, Christians don’t believe a relationship with Christ is the only way to heaven out of animus toward other religions. Rather, Christians hold convictions on these issues out of a commitment to the authority of the Bible. In our culture, this commitment to biblical truth is confusing to many and may even seem subversive.

However, commitment to the truthfulness of God’s Word is a nonnegotiable truth of the Christian faith. Christians who believe the Bible must be willing to defend it. But it’s important to remember that there is no one right way to go about this. Depending on the relationship one has with the person who is being witnessed to, and depending on the context of the conversation, there are different ways of conveying the truth to someone while still staying true to biblical truth. Meeting people where they are at can make all the difference in being effective witnesses for the gospel.

This is an important moment for millennial Christians. Daigle is a role model and highly respected Christian artist. Her Instagram account has over one million followers. She is instructing the next generations. By representing herself as a Bible-believing Christian artist, she has a great responsibility.

Daigle admitted she is learning. Christians should believe her and lovingly point her to what Scripture teaches.

This episode is instructive because it shows how important it is for Christians to be ready to answer the questions our culture is asking. Further, it demonstrates how our answers must be full of both grace and biblical truth.

Daigle is right when she sings about God’s tender words of healing for those who are weak and hurting. Her most popular song titled You Say includes the lyrics: “You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing/You say I am strong when I think I am weak/You say I am held when I am falling short.”

In response to what God says about His children, Daigle sings, “When I don’t belong, You say that I am Yours, And I believe… What you say of me, I believe.”

She beautifully captures the appropriate response of a Christian to God when he speaks: “I believe.”

Not only must we believe what God says about us, we must also believe what He says about Himself—His love of people and hatred of sin. We must also believe what He says about marriage, sexuality, and what makes for a flourishing society and culture. Whenever God speaks, a Christian’s duty is to respond in faith and obedience, even when it goes against the grain of a post-Christian culture.

Daigle is right. When God speaks, we must believe. No matter what the cost.

Must the State Recognize All Identities?

by Daniel Hart

November 9, 2018

A man in the Netherlands named Emile Ratelband is 69 years old, but he feels like he is 49. His feeling isn’t a particularly remarkable one—I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t “feel” our ages depending on the day. But the problem is, Mr. Ratelband (pictured above) has filed a court claim seeking to have the Dutch government officially recognize his feelings of being young by changing his birth certificate to reflect the age that he feels himself to be.

Because nowadays, in Europe and in the United States, we are free people,” Ratelband said in an interview. “We can make our own decisions if we want to change our name, or if we want to change our gender. So I want to change my age. My feeling about my body and about my mind is that I’m about 40 or 45.”

Mr. Ratelband’s demand is the latest example of a remarkable trend that has taken hold in Western countries over the last decade. It is the insistence that the state give legal recognition to all lifestyle choices, a movement that I will call the “identity rights” movement. This modern movement arguably began in earnest around 2003 when homosexual activists demanded that the state give them marriage rights (which was legalized in Massachusetts that year), even though there was no prohibition against two people of the same sex living together in a domestic partnership if they wished. This movement culminated in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that all states must recognize same-sex marriage.

The transgender movement steamrolled into the public consciousness soon after, with activists demanding that those who identify as the opposite sex from their biological sex at birth be given access to opposite sex public restrooms, changed birth certificates, and participation in opposite sex sports.

Also in 2015, a woman named Rachel Dolezal gained national attention when it was discovered that she had been posing as a black woman for years, even serving as the president of her local NAACP chapter, but in reality did not have any African ancestry. Even though her cause was not widely supported by the identity rights movement, Dolezal was simply following the same logic: if people can get state recognition to be the opposite sex from what they actually are, why can’t they also choose their ethnicity? Even U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) seems to think along these lines.

In an identity-obsessed world, Emile Ratelband’s demand for the state to publicly lie about his actual age doesn’t seem that unreasonable, which is why no one should be surprised if the Dutch court agrees to grant his request. But it raises the question: how far can this go? Where will society draw the line? Currently, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to foresee a day when people will be able to legally declare themselves to be taller than they actually are, or to be whatever animal they want to be. To follow this line of legal logic to its inevitable end is to grant people any conceivable identity that they can conjure up.

But what the identity rights movement doesn’t acknowledge is that when the state grants legal recognition to a person’s chosen identity, it affects the rights of others. Ask Jack Phillips, or Barronelle Stutzman, or Pascha Thomas. The list goes on and on.

At its root, the identity rights movement is a cry for the deepest human need: to be loved. When people publicly identify themselves as something they are not, they are crying out for what is tragically lacking in their lives through no fault of their own. As human beings, lovingly created in God’s image, it is our divine calling to love each other as best we possibly can, starting first and foremost with our own families. It is impossible for this kind of authentic love to be bestowed by the state. This is why the identity movement’s demand for state recognition of all identities is an ultimately futile endeavor—it’s never going to give them the affirmation that they are truly searching for.

In this age of an ascendant identity movement and the domination of identity politics, it is crucial for all believers to witness to this timeless truth: that God does not make mistakes. The way that we are created tells us something about who we are. We never have to seek the approval of others to know how much we matter. We have all been loved into being by the Creator of the universe—that is the only identity that truly matters.

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