Category archives: Religion & Culture

Thinking Biblically About Cancel Culture

by David Closson

May 12, 2021

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

Over the past few years, the language of “cancel culture” has become ubiquitous in our society. Social media platforms are cluttered with hashtags and campaigns urging us to “cancel” someone or declare that they are “over.” Whether the context is politics, sports, entertainment, or business, no one seems safe from the reach of the so-called cancel culture movement.

However, many people are increasingly becoming wary of it. When asked about cancel culture in a recent interview, comedian Dave Chappelle quipped, “I hope we all survive it.” Chappelle’s passing comment points to a growing awareness that a movement that might have begun with good intentions has taken on a life of its own, resulting in a variety of unintended consequences.

What is cancel culture? How should Christians think about the notion of “canceling” people, institutions, or ideas?

A thirst for accountability. Broadly speaking, “cancel culture” refers to a coordinated effort to silence, shame, and sideline (i.e., “cancel”) an institution or individual on account of views, opinions, or beliefs that someone else (the cancelers) deems socially unacceptable. One online dictionary defines cancel culture as “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.”

In other words, cancel culture encourages people to withdraw their support from and actively oppose public figures or organizations that step outside what the mainstream—or a sizable faction—of society thinks is socially acceptable. Seen in its best light, cancel culture is an attempt to hold people with large audiences and platforms accountable when they do or say bad things. However, cancel culture has a dark side.

A lack of forgiveness. It is important to hold people accountable. When public figures misuse their power or platforms, it may be appropriate to speak out publicly against their ideas or decisions. However, cancel culture (as it is being practiced today) does not merely encourage people to reconsider their biases or apologize for past actions. Nor does it help people thoughtfully handle disagreements. Rather, the impulse behind cancel culture is to impose a figurative capital punishment on the reputation of anyone who holds political, cultural, or religious beliefs deemed offensive to the cancelers. Cancel culture seeks to exclude the canceled from future participation in the public square, with little to no hope of reprieve.

Consider a few recent examples. Last summer, Boeing Communications Chief Niel Golightly was forced to resign after a colleague complained about a 1987 article he had written, in which he had stated that women should not serve in combat. Despite Golightly having since changed his opinion on the subject, Boeing forced him out of the company.

J.K. Rowling, the celebrated author of the Harry Potter series, faced intense backlash in July 2020 after tweeting her belief that biological sex distinctions are real.

Just last week, Promise Keepers CEO Ken Harrison faced criticism for explaining that his ministry supports a biblical understanding of marriage and human sexuality. A USA Today editorial castigated Harrison for his comments and called upon AT&T Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys to rescind the ministry’s contract for an upcoming event.

Issues related to marriage and human sexuality usually provoke some of cancel culture’s strongest reactions. Moreover, a common theme in these examples is the extreme vitriol thrown at those whose views are deemed outdated or bigoted. In other words, if you disagree even the slightest bit with cultural progressivism (see the J.K. Rowling example), you are at risk of not only being canceled but also being labeled as hateful.

How should Christians think about all of this?

Christians should not be surprised when their churches, ministries, or beliefs are the object of criticism or outrage. According to recent research, only six percent of Americans hold a biblical worldview, which means most Americans do not think about issues such as marriage and human sexuality from a perspective influenced by the Bible. Thus, those who retain a biblical worldview are increasingly viewed by our society as being different, old-fashioned, or even dangerous.

Christians should expect to face opposition or marginalization for holding views in line with the Bible. Jesus forewarned us that there would be opposition. In his final extended conversation with His disciples before being betrayed, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The apostle Paul affirmed, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Furthermore, Paul explained that the gospel is a “stumbling block” and “folly” in the eyes of the world (Rom. 9:33, 1 Cor. 1:23). Thus, Christians should not be surprised when their biblically informed beliefs are mocked or dismissed. However, we also ought to regularly examine ourselves against Scripture and make sure the reason we are being opposed is due to godly, not sinful, behavior (Mat. 5:10, 1 Peter 2:20).

The Bible teaches that no one is without sin. Scripture tells us that sin is wrong and that our actions have consequences. It also teaches that no one is without sin except for God. As Paul explains, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In other words, all humans deserve to be “canceled.” Scripture also tells us that human beings are not qualified to pronounce ultimate judgement upon one another. None of us can determine that someone else is irredeemable. God, not us, is the judge (Mat. 7:1-5). Whereas cancel culture elevates the passing whims of an outraged mob to the role of judge and jury, Christians recognize that God is the ultimate arbitrator of right and wrong.

The Bible teaches that no one is beyond hope or forgiveness. Scripture teaches that “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is in direct contrast to cancel culture, which usually denies the possibility of forgiveness, even when repentance is present. Christianity not only teaches that sinful people can receive forgiveness from God but that we also receive, through the Holy Spirit, the power to forgive each other. This is why Paul says in Colossians 3:13 to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Cancel culture is incompatible with a biblical understanding of sin and redemption. Cancel culture teaches a message antithetical to the gospel. It denies the possibility of grace, forgiveness, and redemption. It rejects God’s role as judge of human hearts and actions. In almost all recent examples, it singles out biblically based beliefs for scorn and censure. As Christians, we are called to be part of the ministry of reconciliation, not cancellation (2 Cor. 5:11-21).

The Prayer That Saved America

by Worth Loving

May 12, 2021

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a now-famous speech to the Illinois Republican Party as he accepted their nomination for the U.S. Senate. In this speech he referenced Matthew 12:25, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Indeed, the nation would quite literally split in half a little over two years later. But less than 100 years prior, we nearly ceased to be a nation.

The United States was a mere six years old and was on the brink of collapse. Our first form of government, the Articles of Confederation, proved to be an abysmal failure due to a weak central government that failed to keep the young nation united. In May of 1787, the states decided to send delegates to Philadelphia to draft a new governing document—what is today known as the Constitutional Convention.

The convention dragged on for weeks amid the stifling heat and humidity of the Philadelphia summer. There was fierce debate among the delegates regarding representation in the new Congress. Delegates from the small states favored equal representation, known as the New Jersey Plan. Delegates from larger states, on the other hand, favored a more proportional representation based on population, known as the Virginia Plan. Apparently, there was such vigorous debate that it sometimes descended into a shouting match. Some delegates left and never returned. By late June, it was an open question whether an agreement could be reached to save the young nation.

It was at this point that the aged delegate from Pennsylvania offered his sage advice. Benjamin Franklin, now 81 years old, was a frail figure compared to his younger self who spent years frolicking in France as the U.S. ambassador. In fact, he was now so weak and feeble that he often had to be carried into the convention on a sedan chair. Additionally, he would write out his speeches and have a fellow Pennsylvania delegate deliver them in his stead. What makes this speech unique is that Franklin actually rose from his chair and delivered the speech himself.

Mr. President:

The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other—our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection.—Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service. 

As a result of Franklin’s speech, the rest of the Convention proceeded smoothly. Although a chaplain was never appointed, likely because the Convention couldn’t afford to pay one, the delegates gathered a few days later on the anniversary of our independence at the Reformed Calvinist Lutheran Church for a sermon and prayer. A few weeks later, the delegates reached a compromise, known as the Connecticut Compromise, that gave birth to the House and Senate prescribed in our Constitution today. On September 17, 1787, the U.S Constitution was signed by 39 of the 55 delegates. While there were still great disagreements among the delegates, they chose to put aside those differences for the greater good. The “miracle at Philadelphia” was birthed through prayer. The new Constitution also honored Franklin’s request—a chaplain was appointed for both the House and Senate. To this day, both houses of Congress are opened in prayer by a chaplain before they proceed to business.

While Franklin was publicly a professed Christian, privately he did not believe in Christ’s saving work on the cross. Franklin believed he could live a virtuous life and perform enough good works to gain Heaven. Again, this makes his call to prayer at the Constitutional Convention even more unique. 

Over 240 years later, Benjamin Franklin’s call to prayer is just as relevant today. Perhaps we are even more divided today than we were in 1787. Have we forgotten “that powerful Friend” who gave this nation our independence? Have we thought of “humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings”?

James 5:16 says that “the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” We need Christians to offer up prayers for our nation, that our leaders would set aside their differences for the common good. Prayer literally saved our nation, and it can do so again today.

God Is the Solution to a Declining Birth Rate

by Mary Szoch

May 10, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data showing the American birth rate in 2020 fell to its lowest point in history, continuing the general trend that began in 1971 of American birthrates falling below the replacement level. The Brookings Institute has predicted that in 2021, Americans should expect 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births, a 12-14 percent decline from 2020.   

The social and economic impact of the rapidly falling birthrate cannot be overstated. Fewer children means rising loneliness, fewer consumers, isolation in old age, a dwindling economy, and overall, less happiness. Americans recognize this and actually want more children. Forty-one percent of Americans say three or more children is ideal, while just 1 percent say zero, but in reality, the fertility rate for American women is just 1.7.

Around the world, countries like China, Japan, Germany, Spain, and Italy are facing an even more drastic trend with experts predicting as many as 23 countries will find their population has halved by 2100.

Many blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the dramatic decline in births, arguing the 14 percent decline predicted in America for 2021 is the result of the pandemic. This decline is much steeper than countries have seen before, but it would be naïve to think that this decline is more than an exaggerated data point in a general trend.

Currently, government leaders around the world are working to reverse this trend. China expanded their one-child policy to a two-child policy in hopes of increasing the population, but it has failed to do so. Various countries have implemented maternity leave and childcare policies but failed to find a panacea. Without an accurate diagnosis of the problem, efforts to correct it will continue to flounder.

Without a doubt—the conditions created under the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a dramatic decline in births. Throughout American history, during times of economic decline, the fertility rate has also dropped. Fewer births in 2020 are attributed to the instability caused by COVID-19. But an examination of what happened during the lockdowns across the country points to another, major cause.

During the pandemic, in the name of keeping people safe, weddings were postponed, couples decided not to have children, students did not go to school, loved ones died alone, ICU patients were denied the presence of a priest, multiple churches were ordered to close or limit attendance—even at Christmas. Of course, in many cases, precautions were prudent and, in some cases, necessary. Still, the message “Be afraid of yourself and be afraid of others. Do not make any commitments or take any risks—even for the sake of love (especially not love of God)” was incredibly damaging. 

Sadly, this message was just a magnified version of what society has been preaching for years: “Be afraid. Don’t commit. Don’t take any risks—even for the sake of love.”

Today, the world is one where technology allows us to cancel plans even minutes before they were scheduled; where it is possible to find out everything about a person before going on a first date; where instead of committing to marriage, the norm is to “try things out” by moving in together; where commitment to moral principles has been replaced by a “commitment” to whatever makes people feel good; and where instead of practicing a religion, people identify as “spiritual” but not religious or as “nothing.”

The inability to commit points to an inability to love, which requires commitment, vulnerability, and risk taking. Ultimately, the inability to love indicates a rejection of God who is love. As the birthrate has declined in the United States, so has Christianity. In fact, among Millennials, four in 10 people identify as religious “nones.” It is not surprising that the rejection of God and the rejection of the self-sacrificial love required to fall in love, get married, and bring a child into the world go hand in hand.

The pandemic and the restrictions implemented as a result proved many things—human beings need social interaction; in general, people follow rules; work is a huge source of self-esteem; fear motivates drastic actions; and most importantly, spending time with God is essential for human flourishing.

Certainly, instability caused by COVID-19 impacted the birthrate, but COVID-19 did not cause the instability—it simply magnified a problem that already existed. The antidote to this instability is a return to God. He is the only being not surprised by anything in the future. In Him is ultimate stability—and with that, the courage to fall in love, get married, and have children.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of May 2)

by Family Research Council

May 7, 2021

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

1. Update: Dems Race Awareness of Hypocrisy with Scott Smear

Thanks to Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), we finally found all of those racists Joe Biden keeps talking about. They’re on the Left, right under the president’s nose. After Scott’s inspirational response to the president’s speech, in one of the most vile displays of hypocrisy, Democrats have apparently decided that it’s okay to be prejudiced—as long as the black man is a conservative.

2. Update: Voters Have a Vax to Grind with Dems

The New York Times wasn’t laughing at Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan. But the host of the paper’s podcast was laughing at how popular the president’s team thinks it is. In a sit-down with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the former candidate estimated that “20 or 30” Republicans might vote for the president’s $2 trillion joke of a public works bill.

3. Blog: H.R. 1: A Religious Test for Redistricting?

Tucked away in H.R. 1, a bill intended to enact sweeping election reforms, is a problematic religious test for public service—this time on redistricting commissions set up by the bill. H.R. 1 requires states to establish a nonpartisan agency in the state legislature. This nonpartisan agency will establish an independent redistricting commission to organize electoral districts.

4. Blog: The Staggering Reach of Billionaire Transgender Activists

The first billionaire we have to thank for pushing trans propaganda on our children is a man named James Pritzker. Pritzker came out as transgender in his 60s and now goes by the name Jennifer. The Pritzker family has been on the Forbes magazine Top 10 list of “America’s Richest Families” since 1982. And now it’s the medical industry where the Pritzkers have staked a lot of their current investments.

5. Washington Watch: Scott Perry, Tom Cotton, Andy Barr, Kelsey Bolar

Tony was joined by Scott Perry, U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania, on President Biden’s proposed spending of more than $4.3 trillion. Tom Cotton, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, discussed foreign policy in the first 100 days of the Biden administration. Andy Barr, U.S. Representative for Kentucky, shared his call for an investigation into John Kerry after audio surfaced of him leaking sensitive intelligence. Kelsey Bolar, Senior Policy Analyst at Independent Women’s Forum, weighed in on the problems with President Biden’s daycare plan.

6. Washington Watch: Mike Rounds, Paul Coleman, Greg Steube, George Barna

Tony was joined by Mike Rounds, U.S. Senator from South Dakota, on a possible deal between the United States and Iran. Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, discussed a bishop in Finland who was charged for hate speech for sharing what the Bible teaches about human sexuality. Greg Steube, U.S. Representative from Florida, highlighted hostilities to religious expression here in the United States. George Barna, FRC’s Senior Research Fellow for Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, discussed worldview formation and what parents need to do to counter the indoctrination that is accelerating in our culture.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Praying For Our Foundations

On the eve of the National Day of Prayer, Tony Perkins was joined by two top leaders in the Trump administration, Reince Priebus and Jennie Lichter, who worked to protect religious liberty, and Ronnie Floyd to lift up our nation in prayer and pray for President Biden and his administration, believing that the Lord can turn hearts toward Him.

Thinking Biblically About Communication

by Joseph Backholm

May 5, 2021

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

Sadly, the polarization of the country seems to be polarizing the church as well. While factions are nothing new within the Christian church, new fault lines appear to be forming based on a host of tertiary issues including immigration, critical race theory, and Donald Trump. Unfortunately, those differences seem to be affecting the way we treat each other and speak to each other.

Even within the Family Research Council community, evidence of these divisions have appeared in the comment sections of our social media pages as people who claim to love Jesus speak to each other in ways that are clearly unloving.

Caring deeply about issues is a good. Ideas matter to God, which is why Paul instructs us to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). As Abraham Kuyper described it, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” While it is appropriate to have opinions about immigration, critical race theory, and Donald Trump, it is even more important to make sure that our thoughts are motivated by the Spirit and not the flesh.

Ideas matter because ideas can be lethal. As James explains, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). Death is often the result of a malignant idea that has had the time to mature.

Nevertheless, the seriousness with which we should take the battle of ideas should not blind us to the fact that there are rules of engagement God expects us to honor. After all, “life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Our words have the power to give life: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24). In the same way, harsh words spoken in anger can leave wounds that never fully heal.

The power of the tongue is one of the reasons our ability to control our tongues is foundational to a surrendered life. As James explains, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Solomon tells us in Proverbs that “the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs12:18).

An important question for every Christians to ask is this: do my words bring healing? 

Fortunately, there is no shortage of instruction in Scripture on this point: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). Also, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ecclesiastes 4:29).

These reminders do not mean that God forbids direct communication or saying things that will bother people. Jesus referred to the Pharisees as a brood of vipers (Matthew 12:34) and “whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27-28). He also told them that their father was the devil (John 8:44).

While these are hard truths, they were spoken for the benefit, not the harm, of the hearers. Jesus was not speaking out of anger, pride, or frustration over who they voted for but out of a desire to help them see their situation as it really was so they could repent.

In contrast, though we may speak truth, we do not always speak truth in love. Instead, we are often motivated by a desire to win the argument, exact a rhetorical pound of flesh, or silence someone who has become bothersome. But as Proverbs 29:11 reminds us, “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.”

This is the difference between us and Jesus.

The call to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) is challenging because it is impossible to fake love. What we feel about someone will inevitably reveal itself in our interactions with them. As Jesus reminds us, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Whether we are speaking to other Christians with a different perspective or people who are hostile to the gospel, the key to speaking truth in love is to actually love the people we engage with—even if we disagree with them about everything. In many cases, this requires us to change the way we see the people we engage with.  

If we see someone primarily as a heretic or political enemy, we will inevitably treat them that way. If we see someone as a threat to our children and our way of life, we will treat them as if they are a threat. However, if we see them first and foremost as people made in God’s image—whether they are deceived or not—we will see them as loved by God and therefore deserving of love from us. From this perspective, we will see people who may disagree with us not as a roadblock to our goal but as the goal itself. After all, Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

If we win the argument but lose the person, have we really won anything?    

In addition, showing grace and kindness to those we disagree with makes it easier to admit our mistakes when it turns out we were the one in the wrong. If we act pridefully, it’s much more difficult to admit mistakes.

But even when we are right, our highest goal should not be to prove it. The reason we care about ideas is because we care about the impact that ideas have on people. That means people are the priority. The way we treat people, online or otherwise, should always reflect this truth.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of April 25)

by Family Research Council

April 30, 2021

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

1. Update: A Word of Warming on the Border Crisis

It’s been blamed for everything, so it makes sense that if the White House needs a scapegoat on immigration, global warming would fit the bill! America’s supposed border czar, Vice President Kamala Harris, blamed the cause of the surge at the border not on Joe Biden’s ridiculous open-borders policy, but on the environment.

2. Update: Red States Get Seat Revenge in Census

There’s more than one way to get good government: move to it! According to the latest Census data, that’s what a massive number of Americans who are sick of higher taxes, lockdowns, and regulations are doing. Many are moving from states like California and New York, to freer, cheaper states like Texas.

3. Blog: Big Money Is Driving the Transgender Trend

The children’s section in Barnes & Noble recently featured a display table of books written by or about “notable women.” Included in the display is the book I Am Jazz. Author Jazz Jennings is a transgender teen (boy) who authored a picture book to explain to preschool age children that their gender identity may not match their biological sex.

4. Blog: Texas Takes a Stand for Religious Belief

Liberal states have been attempting to demand total adherence to their ideology for a while now. The Left is no longer interested in co-existing, but rather in demanding every person adheres to their views on sexuality and marriage. The latest target? Texas. But California should know better than to mess with Texas. The Lone Star State is fighting back.

5. Washington Watch: Claire Culwell Emphasizes the Importance of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act

Claire Culwell, twin abortion survivor, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the importance of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Check out Claire’s new book, Survivor: An Abortion Survivor’s Surprising Story of Choosing Forgiveness and Finding Redemption.

6. Washington Watch: Michael Burgess, Ron Johnson, Roy Blunt, Jerry Boykin

Tony was joined by Michael Burgess, U.S. Representative for Texas, on President Biden’s address to Congress and Senator Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) response. Ron Johnson, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, discussed his assessment of foreign policy in the first 100 days of the Biden administration. Roy Blunt, U.S. Senator from Missouri, examined President Biden’s domestic agenda. And, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, FRC’s Executive Vice President and former commander of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, broke down President Biden’s address to Congress.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Mike Pompeo & Dr. Ben Carson Reflect on Biden’s First 100 Days

President Joe Biden has now been in office for over 100 days. Tony Perkins, Mike Pompeo, Dr. Ben Carson, and Michele Bachmann reflect on Biden’s 100 days and the direction this White House is driving America’s policies, at home and abroad.

Thinking Biblically About Religious Freedom

by David Closson

April 28, 2021

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

Last week, Montana joined 21 other states in passing legislation that requires the government to have a compelling reason for violating its citizens’ sincerely-held religious beliefs. Montana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—like the federal version passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993—says that when the government must restrict religious expression, it may only do so using the least restrictive means possible.

Lawmakers in Montana, including Gov. Greg Gianforte, were criticized for approving the legislation. This is not surprising; recent attempts to pass RFRAs in other states, such as Indiana in 2015, have elicited passionate responses. Although it received relatively little national attention, Montana’s RFRA was still opposed by over 250 businesses, including national corporations like Google, Amazon, and Verizon.

Why are efforts to protect religious freedom encountering so much opposition nowadays? The political left’s opposition to RFRA laws has become predictable. However, a well-known pastor and seminary chancellor recently stunned evangelicals when he called religious freedom “idolatry.” The United States of America was founded in part by those fleeing religious persecution, but it seems our society’s understanding of the value of religious freedom has been lost.

How should Christians think about religious freedom? Is religious freedom worth defending? Moreover, does the Bible provide a rationale for a policy of broad religious freedom?

First, it is important to define our terms. Religious freedom is the freedom to hold religious beliefs of one’s own choosing and to live in accordance with those beliefs. Religious freedom protects individuals’ ability to come to their own conclusions about matters of utmost importance—such as God, the world, and themselves—free from government coercion.

An important implication flows from this definition: religious freedom does not privilege one religion over the other. Religious freedom protects people of every faith and people with no faith affiliation. Although its detractors often characterize religious freedom advocacy as the attempts of a dominant faith group (e.g., American Christians) to acquire more power or rights, this is simply not the case. Properly understood, religious freedom levels the playing field and protects the conscience rights of everyone.

Now that we have established what religious freedom is, we must ask ourselves: is it biblical? Can a biblical case be made for policies that protect religious freedom? In short, yes. Although no one verse in the Bible expressly demands religious freedom on its face, I would argue that the concept is implicit on nearly every page of Scripture.

How did I reach this conclusion? First, it is important to recall what Christian theology teaches about the interior nature of faith and the futility of coercion in matters of religion. Consider someone’s relationship with God. Although outside forces can certainly influence a person’s perception of God, a person’s inner beliefs are ultimately only known to the person himself (and, of course, to God). The spiritual nature of faith makes it impervious to outside control. This is why an aggressor can torture, abuse, and persecute a believer’s physical body without affecting that believer’s core beliefs. External pressure may be successful in producing outward conformity, but external forces can never change inward belief.

Scripture passages that underscore these truths include Jesus’ parable of the tares (Mat. 13:24-30) and the story of the rich young ruler (Mat. 19:16-30). In the parable, Jesus explains that the wheat (representing believers) and weeds (unbelievers) must be allowed to grow together. Although the unbelievers do not belong to the community of faith, they should be left alone because God’s judgment is eschatological (i.e., it will happen at the end of days). At the end of the age, God will root out the weeds (unbelievers) for their unbelief. Likewise, in the story with the rich young ruler, Jesus allows a potential disciple to walk away instead of coercing or scolding him. By honoring the man’s choice, Jesus underscored the personal nature of faith.

Further evidence that the Bible supports religious freedom is the persistent language of appeal and persuasion in evangelism. For instance, Paul reasons and debates with his listeners in Athens (Acts 19:8, 26). Throughout his ministry, Paul never attempted to force anyone to believe the gospel; he knew such a move would be futile and counterproductive. Rather, he used the means of persuasion and pleaded with people to follow Christ. Paul sought to be faithful with the gospel without being confrontational in encouraging conversion.

In short, the Bible can be said to support a broad conception of religious freedom.

As secular society increasingly misunderstands religious conviction, a growing number of people are content to restrict religious liberty protections. This is reflected in the opposition to the RFRA legislation passed last week in Montana—legislation modeled after a federal bill that once passed Congress with strong bipartisan support. Thus, there is an urgent need to explain to our society why protecting everyone’s ability to believe and live out those beliefs without consequence or restriction serves all people—religious and non-religious.

For a more extended treatment of the Bible’s teaching on religious freedom, visit frc.org/belief.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of April 18)

by Family Research Council

April 23, 2021

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

1. Update: Troubled Waters: California Rep. Eggs on Rioters

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) doesn’t represent the people of Minneapolis. In fact, when she stands in front of a crowd and spews dangerous rhetoric, she doesn’t even represent Los Angeles County. When she travels to Minnesota to tell the mob to “stay in the streets” and “get more confrontational,” she only represents one thing: the fringe Left.

2. Update: A Border Boiling Over

When the 10 Republican lawmakers arrived before midnight to tour the migrant holding facility in Donna, Texas, they were shocked by what they saw. In March, border guards encountered 172,331 unaccompanied minors, family units, and single adults on the southern border, and the flood keeps on coming. And yet, Democrats still insist: there is no crisis.

3. Blog: Urgent Prayer Alert: Six Somali Christians Face Life-or-Death Trial for their Faith

The East African country of Somalia is infamous for many reasons, one if which is for hosting the vicious Islamist al-Shabaab terrorist group. And now, according to Open Doors’ World Watch List, Somalia is the third worst persecutor of Christians in the world.

4. Blog: Terrible News for Nigeria’s Christians as Violence Increases

The stories that emerge from Nigeria are always terrifying and similar: heavily armed jihadis suddenly appear in the dead of night. They attack house after house, breaking down doors, shouting “Allahu Akbar.” They shoot the elderly and able-bodied men. Women are raped or murdered. They kidnap young boys and girls. Then they torch houses, schools, and churches.

5. Washington Watch: Michael Waltz, Jeff Duncan, Ken Blackwell, Larry Taunton

Tony was joined by Michael Waltz, U.S. Representative from Florida, on President Biden withdrawing troops from Afghanistan; Jeff Duncan, U.S. Representative from South Carolina, on Major League Baseball removing the All-Star game from Georgia; Ken Blackwell, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance and former Ohio Secretary of State, on concerns about violence ahead of the Chauvin verdict; Larry Taunton, Executive Director of the Fixed Point Foundation, on the Marxist takeover of big business.

6. Washington Watch: Marsha Blackburn, Jason Johnson, Rand Paul, John McLaughlin

Tony was joined by Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Senator from Tennessee, on the annual report released by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Jason Johnson, former Deputy Police Commissioner for Baltimore and President of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, on the verdict in the Chauvin case; Rand Paul, U.S. Senator from Kentucky, on the letter he and a group of GOP senators sent to the Department of Justice and the Small Business Administration urging an investigation into Planned Parenthood; and John McLaughlin, Pollster for McLaughlin and Associates, on his survey showing that 78 percent of all voters support voter ID requirements in elections.

7. Washington Watch: John Boozman, James Comer, Quena Gonzalez, David Closson

Tony was joined by John Boozman, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, on his legislation that increases penalties for those who attack law enforcement officers; James Comer, U.S. Representative from Kentucky and Ranking Member on the House Oversight Committee, on the U.S. House of Representatives approving D.C. Statehood legislation; Quena Gonzalez, FRC’s Director of State & Local Affairs, on recent state legislation impacting faith, family, and freedom; and David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, on the media criticizing evangelicals for vaccine hesitancy.

Thinking Biblically About Identity

by Joseph Backholm

April 21, 2021

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

So many of our political debates are rooted in the concept of identity that there’s now an entire category called “identity politics.”

Some women’s rights advocates argue for “equal pay for equal work,” while others fight for female athletes’ right not to compete against biological males in sports. And although most people agree that racial equality ought to be the goal, there is significant disagreement about what that means. Terms like “white supremacy” and “Asian hate” assign oppressor and oppressed status based on who people are rather than what they have done.

At their core, these political debates flow from conversations about identity. How should we see ourselves? How should we see other people? Of course, identity is complex. Our identity is likely a combination of our country of origin, country of citizenship, the family we were born into, our race, sex, or even our athleticism or ability to sing. Some people define their identity primarily in terms of who they are attracted to.

For Christians, identity should begin with the fact that every person is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). The American experiment was built around a similar presupposition articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

For Christians, our creation is where our identity begins, but it is not where it ends. In the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesian church, the apostle Paul describes the identity of a Christian. Paul explains that believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing; we have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, grace-lavished, and unconditionally loved and accepted. We are pure, blameless, and forgiven. We have received the hope of spending eternity with God. In Christ, these aspects of our identity can never be altered by what we do (Eph. 1:3-14).

This is what it means to be a Christian, but it is not all that it means to be human. Some of us are male, others are female. We are different races, different sizes; we have different hair colors and eye colors, different abilities, types of intelligence, and interests. But for Christians, those characteristics are of secondary importance. As Paul notes in his letter to the Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28, ESV). While not unimportant, Paul believed identity markers such as sex, occupation, and ethnicity were subservient to one’s identity in Christ.

When we make the mistake of making our secondary identity primary, we inevitably create divisions. If I believe the most important thing about me is my sex, I will see those of the opposite sex as primarily different than me. The same is true if my primary identity is determined by my race, athletic abilities, or political affiliations. But if I see myself primarily as someone created in the image of God, I will identify with others by what we have in common.  

Beyond that, the goal of equality is impossible unless our identity is rooted in our creation. There is no other basis on which one could reasonably argue that all people are equal. Consider this: in all other ways, we are different. We are not equally intelligent, talented, attractive, or capable. If our identity, value, and equality are not endowed by our Creator, they are nonexistent. The only other way of assessing human value would be based on our merits—our ability to perform a task, solve a problem, or contribute something meaningful to humanity. In these respects, humans are decidedly unequal.  

Once our identity is detached from our creation, it becomes easy to identify those who are different from us as not just different but inferior.

Misplaced identity explains, in part, why the most vicious and violent governments in history have also been the most secular and explains why eugenicists, past and present, have argued that the lives of people with disabilities are less valuable than the lives of those who have none. If our value comes strictly from our productivity and what we can contribute, those with disabilities are less valuable because they cannot contribute in the same ways other people can. Moreover, those with physical or mental disabilities require more resources from the community. However, if our value is inherent in our creation, those who devalue people with disabilities are tragically and fatally wrong.

The Nazi’s “Final Solution” was made possible by a naturalist, Darwinian worldview that allowed them to identify an entire race of people by how they were different. The Chinese Communist genocide against Uyghur Muslims happening today is made possible because the Communist Party leaders identify Uyghurs first and foremost by the ways in which they are different.

One of the few things that seems to unite Americans today is the belief that we are divided. Part of our division may lie in the way we see ourselves and others. It’s much easier to remain divided if we divide the world in terms of blue or red, black or white, gay or straight. Let’s take God’s advice and start seeing each other primarily as image-bearers of God and see how that goes.

It’s hard to imagine it would get worse.

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

by Dan Hart

April 15, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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