Category archives: Religion & Culture

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.

How Shall We Engage Politically? A Response to Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung

by David Closson

October 26, 2018

A perennial question for the church is the issue of political engagement. From broader questions such as the Bible’s teaching on the role and purpose of government to specific issues such as abortion, marriage, and racial equality, theologians have grappled with these questions and offered various models for faithful witness in the public square.

Without doubt, we live in a time of acute political polarization. As evidenced recently in the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, civil discourse has reached a disheartening low. For Christians frustrated by the overall negative tone of politics and extreme partisanship, walking away from politics might be tempting.

However, for Christians called to be salt and light in the world, abdicating their political responsibilities is not an option consistent with Scripture. The gospel is a holistic message with implications for all areas of life, including how Christians should engage the political process and how we should think about our two-party system and voting.

So, what are the principles Christian ought to consider as they seek to live out their allegiance to Christ alongside their civic duties? 

Some Suggestions 

Recently, the question of how Bible-believing, gospel-loving Christians should exercise their political responsibilities has been raised by well-known pastors including Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung. In thought-provoking articles, both lay out their concerns with the current divisive and coarse nature of American politics and offer guidance for how believers ought to approach their engagement. Whereas Keller mainly considers how Christians fit into the two-party system, DeYoung offers practical suggestions for engaging in the political process.

Much of their advice is helpful. For example, in his article, Keller rightfully argues “to not be political is to be political.” By this he means that those who avoid political discussions tacitly endorse the status quo. Keller’s example of 19th century churches who were silent on slavery is a sobering illustration. By refraining from becoming “too political” these churches were in fact supporting a sinister institution. 

Likewise, DeYoung encourages pastors to engage in the political process by praying for leaders and preaching to controversial issues as they arise in the course of expositional preaching. DeYoung incisively echoes James Davidson Hunter by reminding Christians that faithful presence within the culture should be the overarching goal of cultural engagement and that electoral politics is just one of many ways to express neighborly love.

However, despite Keller and DeYoung’s contributions to the question of Christian civic responsibility, the utility and real-world application of their advice is limited due to an underlying political theology that hasn’t fully accounted for the realities of the political system within which we have to work. Although their warning to not equate the church’s mission with the platform of a political party represents faithful Christian convictions, they don’t follow through with a remedy for our current situation. Christians are left asking: Well, then, how should I engage politically?

Following Through

Answering this question requires an understanding of government’s God-ordained authority, the structure of a representative democracy, and a theologically informed view of voting.

In his article, DeYoung expresses discomfort with hosting voter drives and providing voter guides because it communicates that participation in the political process is “what Christians should do.” Although DeYoung agrees that “voting is a good thing” he does not think it is the church’s role to go beyond praying for candidates or preaching on issues. This is rooted in an admirable desire to preserve the church’s mission. However, despite these noble intentions, does this approach fall short in what full-orbed Christian discipleship requires?

In representative democracies like the United States, the locus of power is the citizenry; government derives its authority from the people. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist Paper 22, the consent of the people is the “pure original fountain of all legitimate authority.” This principle is foundational and provides American citizens with an incredible privilege and responsibility. Unlike billions of people around the world, Americans control their political future.

For Christian citizens, the implications of America’s form of government are even more significant when considered alongside Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 about the purpose of government. According to Paul, government is ordained by God to promote good and restrain evil. To this effect, government wields the sword to punish wrongdoers. Thus, the administration of justice is the state’s responsibility; the government, not individual citizens, is tasked with the actual exercise of the sword.

From these considerations a truth with massive implications for Christian political engagement emerges: suffrage as an exercise in delegating God-ordained authority. Because power resides with the people in a representative democracy, when Christians vote, they are handing their sword to someone else to wield. That’s what voting essentially is; the delegation of authority. Seen from this perspective, voting assumes enormous responsibility and implies that failure to vote is failure to exercise God-given authority.

Voting Is Part of It

Thus, returning to DeYoung’s article, it is simply not enough for pastors to hope their congregations are informed about candidates and issues. If the act of voting is the act of delegating the exercise of the sword, pastors should communicate to their members “This is what Christians should do.” Given the unavoidable role of politics and the real-world impact that the state’s decisions have on people’s lives, downplaying the role of voting amounts to a failure in Christian discipleship and a neglect to offer neighborly love.

On this issue of neighbor love, DeYoung writes, “Political engagement is only one way of loving our neighbor and trying to be a faithful presence in the culture.” Although true, DeYoung minimizes the significance of government and politics. Obviously, neighborly love must be embodied in all aspects of life. However, can Christians really care for their neighbors without substantively engaging the arena that most profoundly shapes basic rights and freedoms? Further, given the United States’ outsized influence in the world, how can American Christians love the people of the nations without having a vested interest in how their own government approaches the issue of religious liberty and human rights? Through the power of the vote, American Christians can determine who will represent their country abroad and what values will be exported around the world: whether abortion education programs funded by American taxpayers or values congruent with the Bible’s teaching on the dignity of human life. Will America’s ambassadors be stalwart defenders of those engaged in religious expression (such as overseas missionaries) and vigorously advocate for their rights, or will they abandon them? Again, American Christians through the exercise of the franchise have a direct say in all of these issues. 

Because of these considerations, pastors would do well to educate and equip their members to think biblically about political issues, candidates, and party platforms. It is not enough to espouse concern for human dignity but not support policies and candidates who will fight to overturn profound moral wrongs. In a Genesis 3 world plagued by sin, Christians are called to drive back the corroding effects of the fall wherever they exist. This must include the realms of law and politics.

Back to the Bible

Thus, in the quest for Christian faithfulness in political engagement, a robust understanding of the nature of government and the act of voting must be applied to the current reality of the two-party system. Addressing this issue is the primary goal of Keller’s New York Times article where he contends that Christians must participate in the political process without identifying the church with a specific political party. Because political parties insist that you cannot work on one issue with them without embracing all of their approved positions, Keller says Christians are pushed toward two equally unacceptable positions: withdrawal from the political process or full assimilation with a party.

When it comes to specific issues, Keller writes, “Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family.” He concludes, “the historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.” Keller implies that because both major parties hold some views that are faithful with Scripture alongside others that are not, Christians have liberty when it comes to choosing a political party.

This idea that historic Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments grounds the outworking of Keller’s political theology. Although not explicitly stated, he suggests that while Republicans may hold a more biblical view on issues related to abortion and marriage, Democrats are more faithful in their approach to racial justice and the poor. Implied in this analysis is that these issues carry similar moral freight and that consequently Christians should be leery of adopting either party’s “whole package.”

Although Keller is right in cautioning against blind allegiance to a political party, his analysis of the issues and where the respective parties stand is inaccurate. Without doubt, the issues of abortion, marriage, racial equality, and poverty are crucial, and the Bible has implications for how Christians should evaluate them. Regarding abortion, the Bible is straightforward—life begins at conception and abortion is murder (Ps. 139:13-16, 22:10, Jer. 1:5, Gal. 1:15, Ex. 21:22). Likewise, on marriage; the Bible is clear and presents marriage as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24, Mat. 19:5, Mark 10:6-9, Eph. 5:22-23). Moreover, Scripture is 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.”

As Keller acknowledges, in terms of biblical clarity and priority Christians have rightly seen abortion and marriage as first tier moral concerns; when it comes to voting, a candidate’s stance on them matters greatly. But what does the Bible teach about the other issues Keller identifies?

Concerning racial equality, the Bible is clear that all are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Additionally, the good news of the gospel is for everyone; Christ died for all people, and in him believers from every tongue, nation, and tribe are reconciled to God and each other in “one new man” (Eph. 2:14-16). In terms of access to God, the Bible is unmistakable: distinctions based on gender and race are abolished in the new covenant (Gal. 3:28-29, Col. 3:11). Consequently, racism is sinful and must be repudiated by the church.

Finally, God’s concern for the poor is a pervasive theme throughout the Bible. Exhortations to care for the poor abound (Prov. 3:27-28, 22:22-23, 31:8-9, Isa. 1:17, 10:1-3, Zech. 7:8-10) and Jesus himself displayed remarkable concern and compassion for the poor in his healing and teaching ministry (Mat. 11:4-6, 25:45, Luke 6:20-21, 14:14). Famously, Jesus’ half-brother, James, wrote that “pure and undefiled religion” includes care for orphans and widows (James 1:27).

Consequently, the Bible speaks to the issues identified by Keller; committed Christians, therefore, must care about all of them. Faithfulness to God’s Word requires nothing less. However, the tension arises when it comes to application—when biblical imperative intersects with the realities of today’s politics. Therefore, the first step in Christian political engagement—identifying the issues that the Bible explicitly or implicitly speaks to—is the easy part. The challenging part of application requires discernment, prayer, and wisdom. 

No One Ever Said It Wasn’t Messy

At this point it should be stated clearly: neither political party is a Christian party in the sense that everything they advocate for lines up perfectly with the Bible. Evangelical Christians do not think everything the Republican party does is Christian—at least they shouldn’t. In fact, there are numerous policy issues the Bible does not clearly speak on. On tertiary issues like these Christians should debate charitably and extend liberty toward one another on points where they disagree.

However, it is also true in recent years the two major U.S. political parties have clearly adopted positions on first tier moral issues on which the Bible does speak. “First tier” moral issues include questions where the Bible’s teaching is clear and where specific, positive action is prescribed. Concerning marriage, the Bible commends the union of man and woman as representative of the relationship between Christ and the church and prohibits encroachment by any means. Regarding life, every human being is an image bearer of God and possesses inherent dignity. Thus, the responsibility to preserve life is supreme. Therefore, life and human sexuality are first tier issues because of their biblical clarity and priority. Concerning these first tier moral issues of life and human sexuality, one of the major parties has embraced positions manifestly at odds with biblical morality. The result has been increased moral confusion in the culture and the undermining of human dignity.

Thus, although neither political party perfectly represents evangelical Christians, party platforms do allow us to make considered judgments for who to support at election time. Political scientists have shown that politicians increasingly vote in line with their party’s platform—80 percent of the time over the last thirty years. Consequently, a party’s platform is a good indicator for how politicians from that party will vote. Thus, for Christians, in so far as a platform recommends policies informed by biblical morality it is easier to support that party.

So, while it is clear Republicans have adopted positions more aligned with Scripture’s teaching on abortion and marriage, is it obvious (as Keller implies) that Democrats have the moral high ground on the other issues he raises? In short, no. In fact, neither party expressly takes an anti-biblical position on issues related to race and the poor—it is the remedies for these issues that are debated.

Though it is popular to conceive of the Republican party as “anti-poor” and opposed to minorities, these conceptions are not as neatly supported as many in the media would have us believe. Earlier this year Republican lawmakers voted almost unanimously to advance legislation designed to reduce recidivism through vocational training and education courses. House Republicans (262 of them) joined 134 Democrats in advancing this legislation. According to the NAACP, African-Americans and Hispanics make up 32 percent of the general population but 56 percent of those incarcerated. Thus, efforts to reform the criminal justice system represent positive steps forward in addressing problems that disproportionately affect minority communities. Further, not only is the current unemployment rate of 3.7 percent the lowest since 1969, the African American unemployment rate hit an all-time low of 5.9 percent in May 2018; in September, black teen unemployment fell to 19.3 percent, another all-time low. While the factors contributing to this picture are many, the fact remains that under Republican national leadership, more minorities are getting jobs.

On the issue of poverty, no doubt many individual Republicans and Democrats care for the poor (though many others might use the issue to their own political gain). It is simply misleading to conflate the parties’ different economic philosophies with moral indifference—a conflation which widely contributes to popular conceptions of all Republicans as “against the poor.” The fact that conservatives believe in the efficacy of limited government and free markets in addressing poverty does not indicate apathy toward marginalized communities. On the contrary, conservatives believe that the best conditions for economic flourishing are created when the government’s authority is decentralized. The Bible does not endorse a specific economic system—though it does favor some while disfavoring others; the commandment against stealing shows respect for private property as does the Old Testament’s regard for inheritances. At any rate, there is room for disagreement on how to address such issues biblically.

Thus, by unfairly characterizing Republican views on racial justice and poverty, Keller creates a false dichotomy between the two parties. Whereas the Republican party platform is clearly on the side of biblical morality on abortion and marriage (in contrast to the Democrat platform), it is not at all clear that Democrat policy positions on racial justice or poverty are “more biblical” than those held by conservatives. At a minimum, they can be debated.

Tying Up Loose Ends 

Further, while all of these issues are important, Christians should employ a form of moral triage as they consider their political engagement. As Andrew Walker points out, with abortion there is a “greater moral urgency to repeal morally unjust and codified laws than there is the priority to ameliorate social evils that exist because of social wickedness and criminal behavior.” In other words, the existence of a positive right to terminate the life of unborn children calls for immediate action. Christians concerned about the unborn—the most vulnerable class of people in our country—must leverage their influence, resources, and time to correct this wrong as soon as possible. As part of a holistic effort to create a culture of life, Christians must engage the political process to pass laws that protect life. Mapped out onto the political realities of a two-party system, the outworking of this moral calculus is clear.

In short, if theologically conservative Christians appear aligned with the Republican Party, it is only because Democrats have forced them there by taking positions on moral issues that oppose the Bible’s explicit teaching. Thus, while Keller is right that Christians should not feel perfectly at home in either political party, is it fair to suggest that they should feel equally comfortable in both?

In 2018 the answer would seem to be “no.”

It should also be noted that the challenges facing American Christians regarding politics is not unique; brothers and sisters in other nations face the same tensions. This is because there is no “Christian” political party; no party aligns perfectly with the Bible. This is true even in countries where dozens of political parties participate in any one election. This means that there is never a perfect choice when it comes to political engagement; on this side of the Parousia, faithful Christians will always be choosing from less than ideal options. This is why wisdom, prayer, and counsel are indispensable when it comes to Christian political engagement.

Conclusion

For the sake of Christian faithfulness, we need an informed Christian citizenry. It is not enough for pastors to acknowledge that various policy positions are profoundly evil yet withhold the requisite tools that empower concrete action. It is not enough to pray for candidates and speak on a handful of issues without equipping believers with everything they need to honor God in the voting booth.

Over the last few years, many Christian leaders have lamented the current state of American politics. They have reiterated that Christians have no home in either major political party (a state of affairs to which we might ask whether Christian indifference and distaste for politics has contributed to in the first place) and that in secondary and tertiary issues Christian liberty should abound. While these calls are helpful, people in the pews are yearning for more direction. Of course, it would be pastoral malpractice to pronounce a “Thus saith the Lord” when there is no biblical warrant. However, in areas where pastors and Christian leaders can say more, they should. These areas include grappling with the reality of our two-party system and following our political theology to its logical end by voting.

If political engagement is an aspect of Christian faithfulness, it is also a matter of discipleship. Thus, church members must be equipped to honor God in the political arena in a way that goes beyond merely describing current challenges. Applying a faithful political theology in our context requires a thorough understanding of biblical morality and an awareness of the positions of the political parties and candidates. As this dual knowledge is acquired, Christians will better understand the times and increasingly know what they ought to do in politics.

David Closson serves as the Research Fellow for Religious Freedom and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council. He is also a Ph.D. student in Christian Ethics (Public Policy) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Hundreds of College Students Travel to DC In Support of Kavanaugh

by John Wesley Reid

September 27, 2018

If your purpose is God then neither the criticism nor the praise of people is going to affect you.”

Today, September 27, hundreds of students from Liberty University and the D.C. metropolitan area gathered in support of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Organized by Concerned Women for America, conservative advocates voiced the importance of due process regardless of gender or political loyalty.

Among the cultural influencers in attendance, Allie Stuckey, known as “The Conservative Millennial,” talked to FRC about what it means to be a Christian while standing for truths that may be less than popular in today’s culture.

We know from the Bible that Christians are going to be persecuted and that we will be pushed to the margins of society for holding biblical views. Sometimes it’s challenging to voice our views because it becomes intimidating when you have a mob of people who call you a bigot and call you hateful and call you intolerant for just believing what the Bible says. It is intimidating but it’s worth it.”

Stuckey then had a challenge for young adults who wish to pursue a position that may present notoriety while maintaining their faith:

It’s impossible without the strength of Christ. Be involved in a gospel-centered church and a gospel-centered community, and stand on the Word of God. But beyond that you have to continue thinking about your purpose. If your purpose is God, then neither the criticism nor the praise of people is going to affect you.”

On the issue of Kavanaugh, Chief Council and Policy Director Carrie Severino of Judicial Crisis Network told Family Research Council, “It’s not ‘women always win’ or ‘men always win.’ Let’s have due process and fairness for all.”

Severino went on to criticize the weight of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.

Look, these allegations are uncorroborated, they have since been discredited because the very eyewitnesses that Dr. Ford pointed to said the events didn’t happen.”

From the stage, Severino gave a powerful speech to attendees.

As a mother of daughters, the experience she described does sound absolutely awful and there are women who suffer those kind of experiences all the time and it’s wrong. However, as a mother also of sons I want speaks for the fact that men need to have due process as well.”

President and CEO of Concerned Women for America, Penny Nance, explained the purpose of the rally to FRC.

The purpose of this rally was to give conservative women to take a moment and share our perspective and to share our thoughts in the middle of this process. We feel as if we’ve been pushed aside, but this is our moment, this is our time.”

We believe in the rule of law, we believe in due process, and we certainly believe in a presumption of innocence. What we’re seeing is a political weaponization of the #MeToo movement and it makes us sick.”

Update on California’s AB 2943: Therapy Ban Assaulting Freedom of Speech and Religion Passes Senate

by Peter Sprigg

August 17, 2018

Here are some quick facts on the most recent action regarding California’s alarming bill, AB 2943, with links to sources:

  • The California Senate just passed AB 2943 on August 16.
  • AB 2943 is Round Two of California’s attack upon sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).
  • AB 2943 is so sweeping it could potentially ban the sale of some books—even the Bible.
  • Therapy bans restrict what therapists can say to clients. The Supreme Court has signaled that this violates constitutional rights to free speech.
  • Ironically, AB 2943 was passed even as a new study has debunked claims that SOCE is ineffective and harmful
  • Most clients who seek SOCE just want to live their lives according to the teachings of their faith, so bills like AB 2943 are an attack upon their freedom of religion.
  • The Assembly or Gov. Brown have a last chance to block enactment of AB 2943. Urge them to do so now.

Nikki Haley’s Great Advice on Resurrecting Civil Discourse

by Spenser White

August 2, 2018

Our republic has a problem. Commentators have commented on it, pundits have pontificated on it—it could be the death of our society. What is this issue that could destroy our country? It is, simply, the death of civil discourse. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has been the most recent leader to address this societal problem.

Since her appointment, Ambassador Haley has become a conservative “rock star” for her stunning speeches on the UN floor. At an event at The Heritage Foundation this month, the Ambassador called the UN Human Rights Council, a council which currently includes egregious human rights violators Iran and the Congo, a “cesspool of political bias.” She has defended Israel—America’s main ally in the Middle East—countless times against its detractors in the UN.

Now Ambassador Haley is advising conservatives on their approach to debating and discussing ideas with those who may disagree. In a recent speech to a group of conservative high schoolers at the Turning Point USA conference at George Washington University, she commented on a recent trend by young people on social media: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever posted anything online to quote-unquote ‘own the libs.’” For those not up-to-date with modern slang, in this context, to “own” someone is to render them unable to reasonably reply to a sarcastic statement or zinger.

Quite a few students raised their hands and a few cheered. The ambassador then explained her view of the tactic: “I know that it’s fun and that it can feel good, but step back and think about what you’re accomplishing when you do this—are you persuading anyone? Who are you persuading? We’ve all been guilty of it at some point or another, but this kind of speech isn’t leadership—it’s the exact opposite.” Instead, Ambassador Haley offered her own definition of leadership: “Real leadership is about persuasion, it’s about movement, it’s bringing people around to your point of view. Not by shouting them down, but by showing them how it is in their best interest to see things the way you do.”

Ambassador Haley’s words line up perfectly with what Scripture says (which is not surprising, as she is a Christian). In the book of Proverbs, Solomon advises his son that “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” He then warns that the opposite, “harsh words,” only “stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Peter writes to his readers that they should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” and to “do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

The fundamental issue here is how we conduct discourse. Disagreements should never become merely a platform for “zingers” in and of themselves. When one or both sides resort to name calling and/or mocking their opponent rather than using reason to persuade, nothing of any value is accomplished. For example, suppose a conservative (or liberal) posts a political statement on Facebook or another social media platform, and a commenter on the other side of the aisle replies nastily to the post. The original poster has three options: not replying, replying with the same amount of ire, or replying with the purpose of persuasion. If the poster replies with “gentleness and respect,” there is a good chance that their original argument will get a fair hearing. Obviously, civil discourse needs two participants, and the commenter may not comply, but Scripture demands that we at least try to respectfully persuade our opponents.

If our culture really is coming apart at the seams, as some commentators are bemoaning, then conservatives adding to the cacophony of empty rhetoric will certainly not aid in tamping down the culture war vitriol. If conservatives are correct, than we should be comfortable voicing our opinions reasonably. At the end of the day, resorting to “owning” our opponents with one liners and zingers will not convince anyone of the rightness of our side. Let us resurrect civil discourse for the future our of country.

Remarks by Tony Perkins at the 2018 NRB Convention

by Tony Perkins

March 1, 2018

The following are prepared remarks by Tony Perkins at the National Religious Broadcasters 75th Annual Convention on March 1, 2018.

Winston Churchill once said, “During their lifetimes, every man and woman will stumble across a great opportunity. Sadly, most of them will simply pick themselves up, dust themselves down and carry on as if nothing ever happened.”

The apostle Paul spoke to the issue of opportunity in his letter to the Ephesians when he wrote in chapter 5: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.”

Now, if Paul had grown up in this country, he might have told the Ephesians “Make hay while the sun is shining.”

The sun is shining right now in American when it comes to our First Amendment freedoms. We need to be wise and act quickly, not only using these freedoms to spread the good news, but also to put in place policies that will protect and promote these essential freedoms, not just for ourselves but those yearning for freedom around the globe and generations yet unborn. 

Some of our brethren remain skeptical or indifferent about our engagement in the political process. Don’t be foolish. Elections have consequences, many far-reaching as we continue to see from the years of President Obama.

But we also see the consequences of the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. 

Let me put it in a format that many who track this administration are accustomed to – I’ll put it in the form of a tweet:

President Trump has:

  • Appointed Excellent Judges like Neil Gorsuch
  • Enacted Unparalleled pro-life policies;
  • Cut taxes & is Growing our economy

President Trump is:

  • Restoring religious freedom
  • Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
  • Rebuilding our military

This is happening because many of you in this room used your influence and your platforms to communicate what was at stake in the last election. I believe America dodged not a bullet in the 2016 election, but a political and cultural H-bomb.

Evangelicals, especially the subset that George Barna calls SAGE Cons—Spiritually Active Governmentally Engaged Conservatives (many of your listeners and viewers)—turned out in record-setting numbers and were unified. Ninety-one percent of SAGE Cons representing 20 million U.S. adults voted, and 94 percent of them voted for Donald Trump.

By the way, almost every time I see the president I don’t have to remind him that evangelicals were the margin for his victory—he reminds me that evangelicals voted for him and they love him!

And by the way, in post-election polling, 59 percent said they voted for the Trump/Pence ticket based on the GOP platform’s position on life and religious liberty. This is important. Despite what the media would say, evangelical voters are sophisticated.  They were able to separate personality from policy.

Evangelicals understood what was at stake and voted.

But the election was not the end of our responsibility, but rather the beginning of our opportunity.

First by acting upon it, but also preserving it.

We need to preserve it by communicating to those who look to and listen to us about what is really happening. We have to counter the narrative of the Fake News—which is real. I’ve been in conversations and meetings with this administration, which somehow got into the media based on their sources which were not only inaccurate but if I didn’t know better, I would think there were intentionally misleading.

Because of the importance of the evangelical voter, there is an intense effort on the Left to suppress their turnout in the upcoming elections, by dampening the enthusiasm of conservative voters. If they succeed and your listeners and viewers get discouraged and stay home in the midterm election, the reform is over. The restoration of religious freedom and the freedom of speech will end.

Nancy Pelosi needs just 24 seats to switch from Republican to Democrat to retake the gavel of the House. In every midterm election since the Civil War, the president’s party has lost, on average, 32 seats in the House and two in the Senate. There are more than 40 Republicans that have and will announce that they are retiring. 

If conservatives and in particular evangelical voters do not turn out, it will happen, and one of the first orders of business will be the impeachment of President Trump. They most likely will not succeed in removing him from office, but they will most likely succeed in stopping what this administration is doing.

What are they doing? The Trump administration is not just enacting conservative policies in line with the Constitution. President Trump is the first Republican President to not just stop the liberal policies of his predecessor; he is dismantling, slowly, but dismantling none-the-less parts of the framework of big, liberal government which has been expanded with the election of each Democratic administration since FDR

That is why the Left is unhinged. They won’t be able to jump back in the driver’s seat of big government and restart their programs, they will have to rebuild, and that will take time, especially if they don’t have the courts to help them in their activism. This is why every judicial confirmation is a fight.

We have to act upon the opportunity that we have, to fortify our freedoms, to ensure government does not again try to quarantine our Christian faith within the walls of our churches. A lot has been done, but there is still plenty to do:

  • The Johnson Amendment has to be totally eliminated.
  • The forced partnership between taxpayers and Planned Parenthood must be ended.
  • Patient-centered healthcare must be restored and,
  • God must be welcomed back into our public life.

The president ran and has governed by the theme “Making America Great Again.” But America will only be great again when it has become good again, and that is not government’s mission, but ours, followers of Jesus Christ.    

Benjamin Franklin said, “History will also afford frequent opportunities of showing the necessity of a public religion, from its usefulness to the public; the advantage of a religious character among private persons; the mischiefs of superstition, and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.” 

Let’s be wise and make the best use of this moment in time, this opportunity.

In the wake of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, there is a national discussion about how to protect our children in their classrooms. The focus has been on the instruments of destruction. We continue in a defensive posture with almost every school in America now having active shooter drills. 

In some ways, it is reminiscent of their grandparent’s generation that had duck and cover drills in their classrooms as Americans feared a nuclear attack from Russia in the 1950s.

While that threat was external, and today’s is internal, might we learn from how they responded?

In February of 1954, Reverend George M. Docherty, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., delivered a sermon on the subject of the pledge of allegiance, with President Eisenhower sitting in the front pew. The sermon was about the absence of the words “Under God” in our pledge. America was at the height of the Cold War with Russia, and a bold declaration was needed to show that there was a difference between America and the atheistic communists.

Three days after that sermon, a bill was introduced in Congress to add the words “under God.”

And on Flag Day, June 14, 1954, Eisenhower signed the bill into law, saying, “From this day forward, millions of school children will daily proclaim the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty.”

America will not be great again until it is good again, and that means America must once again not only acknowledge but live as one nation under God. 

Let us redeem the time.

Let us make the most of this moment.

Let us seize this opportunity!

Archives