Category archives: Religion & Culture

Praying for Ukraine

by Arielle Del Turco

February 24, 2022

Russia has “shattered peace in Europe” in one night.

In the early hours of the morning, billows of smoke could be seen rising above several major Ukrainian cities that were targets of Russian shelling and rocket attacks. The onslaught began only minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that he would be conducting a “special military operation” in the neighboring country. It quickly became clear that the operation was a full-scale invasion.

Thousands of Ukrainians are trying to leave the capital city of Kyiv, causing major traffic jams, while others are choosing to stay, ready to fight for the right to live in their own country with their own government. Casualties of the day-old war are already in the hundreds and still climbing.

As innocent civilians watch in terror as their country is invaded by one of the world’s most sophisticated militaries, here are five ways you can pray for Ukraine:

1. Pray for the people of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian people are tough, and they’re not surrendering without a fight. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukrainians have learned the value of having their own sovereign democratic country, and many don’t want to return to being ruled by yet another Russian autocrat, no matter what the cost.

Ukrainians don’t know what the future holds for their country. In a moving scene on live TV, CNN’s Clarissa Ward captured footage of a small group of Ukrainians kneeling to pray in a city square in Kharkiv in the freezing cold.

As these Ukrainians, and surely so many others like them, are driven to their knees in prayer, we should join them. Pray for safety for the people of Ukraine, that residential areas would not be targeted, and that God would comfort those who are afraid. Many Ukrainians are Christian; pray that their faith would be strengthened to withstand this trying time.

2. Pray for wisdom for world leaders as they respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring,” President Joe Biden rightly said in a tweet this week. However, world leaders bear the responsibility to respond, and the choices they make even in the next few days can shape the course of history.

Pray that they would have wisdom as they make decisions regarding sanctions, military support, and other means of deterring Russia and supporting Ukraine.

3. Pray that churches and Christian ministries in Ukraine would be equipped and ready to help in the event of a humanitarian emergency.

Ukrainian church leaders were already grappling with how to respond to an imminent invasion from Russia. Now that one is underway, they will need to lead their congregations with wisdom and courage.

The possibility of a refugee crisis becomes even more likely during a war, and churches and Christian ministries will inevitably be at the forefront, providing assistance and spiritual and material help to the displaced and hurting. Pray that God would prepare and equip ministries to aid those in need.

4. Pray for a change of heart for Russian leaders, that they would turn from war and aggression and choose peace.

Yesterday, the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations sent an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, requesting that he end his invasion. On their behalf, Chairman Hryhorii Komendant wrote:

Today we pray to the Creator of the Universe with a special request for wisdom for those who are authorized to make decisions so significant for the whole world, in whose hands the fate of humanity has turned out to be. This applies primarily to you, Mr. President of the Russian Federation. This prayer of ours is filled with hope for the generosity of the Almighty God and the openness of the heart that accepts grace.

5. Pray for peace and the expansion of freedom.

Recent years have seen a decline in freedom around the world—the Chinese government choked Hong Kong, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, and military coups took over Sudan and Burma. This is a dangerous time for the free world and a devastating one for the people who now live under oppression.

As Putin attacks Ukraine, peace and freedom are once again under siege. This conflict benefits very few people, and even some people in Russia see that. Despite extensive government propaganda, some Russians have protested Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In response, Russian authorities have cracked down on their own citizens, arresting at least 1,700 protestors in 53 cities.

Pray for peace in Ukraine and throughout Europe. Pray that plans intended for evil would be thwarted. Pray for the expansion of freedom around the world.

God’s Good Design for Marriage (Part 2): They Shall Become One Flesh

by Joshua Arnold

February 21, 2022

This is the second part of a multi-part series on God’s good design for marriage. Read part one.

It’s no secret that popular culture frowns upon Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality. In American entertainment, business, media, politics, and courts of law, the prevailing view is that marriage is an optional “extra” for romantic partners, one that quickly proves inconvenient and restrictive when it outlasts emotion. In the minds of many, marriage is an outdated artifact of obsolete social conditions and inhibits the self-expression, tolerance, and liberation expected in the 21st century. The Bible’s view of marriage as a covenant union of one man and one woman for life has become so incomprehensible in America and throughout Western culture that it is seen as downright offensive.

Many Christians are influenced by our culture’s negative view of marriage—and not for the better. But we don’t have to listen to the culture’s lies; we have God’s Word, which is truth. The Bible says a lot about marriage, portraying it in such glorious splendor that the world’s flashy counterfeits look dim by comparison. Every Christian can afford to spend more time tuning out the world and tuning in to God’s Word. This series aims to examine God’s good design for marriage by taking the Word of God itself as our guide.

This series began by looking at Genesis 1:26-31, where God created “male and female.” This second installment will examine Genesis 2:24.

Moses wrote Genesis for the people of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. Genesis describes God’s promise to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the beginnings of God’s relationship with mankind.

In Genesis 2, Moses retells in greater detail the creation of man and woman on the sixth day of creation (which he had summarized in the first chapter). Moses has theological purposes for holding a microscope to God creating mankind with this second account, some of which pertain to marriage.

In Genesis 2:24, Moses summarizes the first marriage in history, explaining, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The importance of this statement for understanding God’s design for marriage is underscored in the New Testament by Jesus (Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:8) and Paul (1 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 5:31). Both quote this verse to support marriage.

Thus, we learn that this verse is not a cloudy line in a quaint fable, nor an archaic notion that has passed away with the old covenant. Rather, Genesis 2:24 contains a transcendent, timeless principle of God’s created order that still applies to us today. As such, this verse is worth studying carefully.

Observations

First, notice the prescriptive language in the verbs: “shall leave… and hold fast” and “shall become.” In contrast to the narrative portions of Genesis, which describe actions and events, this verse ordains the covenant of marriage. Every human being is morally accountable to this formula.

Second, the man takes the initiative in leaving his parents and holding fast to his wife. The Holy Spirit could have inspired Moses to write, “a woman shall leave her father and her mother and hold fast to her husband.” He didn’t. In the context of Genesis 2 (which we will explore in the next part of this series), this is intentional, and it contains the seeds of both “distinctions in masculine and feminine roles” and “Adam’s headship in marriage,” as the Danvers Statement affirms. These biblical principles, which our culture hates, reflect the beauty and wisdom of God’s good design for marriage. We shouldn’t be ashamed of them.

Third, the man must leave his parents. This doesn’t mean he should desert them, for that would dishonor them (Exodus 20:12), but his relationship with his parents should change. He and his wife constitute a new and distinct family unit. A man’s wife replaces his parents as his chief relational priority. Of the many ways to apply this, perhaps the most apt for our cultural context is that men should move out of their parents’ house before they marry. A man who can’t function independently from his parents or run a household on his own isn’t fit to be married yet. To single men who are seeking a wife, get a job, get an apartment, pay some bills, and dress yourself. Show that you are responsible enough for a woman to feel safe under your leadership.

Fourth, the man must hold fast to his wife. Older translations used the word “cleave” (thus the phrase “leaving and cleaving”). Tim Keller explains in The Meaning of Marriage, “it is a Hebrew word that literally means to be glued to something.” Marriage binds together a man and woman tighter than any other natural bond. As centuries of wedding vows have acknowledged (“as long as we both shall live”), marriage is for life (see Romans 7:2). This close, intimate, exclusive relationship provides an opportunity for mutual support, encouragement, friendship, accountability, advice, and sanctification like no other human relationship. Marriage images Jesus, our “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Fifth, the man and his wife shall become one flesh. This phrase isn’t easy to explain. How, exactly, can two people become one flesh? If that seems impossible for man to achieve, it is. But Jesus helps us understand this is not God’s doing. After quoting Genesis 2:24, Jesus applies it in “a comment that explodes like thunder with the glory of marriage,” says John Piper in This Momentary Marriage. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9). Piper continues, “when a couple speaks their vows, it is not a man or a woman or a pastor or parent who is the main actor—the main doer. God is. God joins a husband and a wife into a one-flesh union.” Every marriage is a covenant, an exchange of vows before God, effected and enforced by God. Because God makes a marriage, “it is not in man’s power to destroy,” says Piper.

Conclusion

Violations of the marriage bond receive frequent and severe condemnation throughout the Bible. Jesus himself quotes Genesis 2:24, in conjunction with Genesis 1:27, to condemn divorce. Adultery is forbidden by the seventh commandment (Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18). Jesus added, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorted his readers, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). Hundreds of other Scriptures could be added to this list. The point is clear: because God has ordained marriage as part of his good design, he takes it seriously, and he has commanded us to honor it. So, we must obey his commands and honor marriage out of both “love and fear” (Deuteronomy 13:3-4).

More can be said about marriage from the Bible’s teaching in Genesis 2:24, and future parts of this series will explore it further.

But what should be crystal clear—and what all the Bible’s teachings are founded on—is that marriage is a covenantal relationship uniting a husband and wife, which is designed and achieved by God himself. Marriage is not a social construct to be cast aside on a whim but a lifelong, moral duty watched over by its holy creator, God.

Read part three.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of February 13)

by Family Research Council

February 18, 2022

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

1. Update: The Truck Stops Here

As the truckers’ protest in Ottawa enters its third week, Canadian lawmakers are beginning to feel the pain. Vehicles have blocked three U.S.-border crossings, including the busiest—Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario. Protestors opened one lane to Canada-bound traffic, but Ontario Premier Doug Ford threatened up to $100,000 and a year in prison to protestors.

2. Update: Olympic Rings Hollow for Missing Generations

At the Olympic games, China recently ranked a distant 11th in the medal count. For this year’s Olympic host, the ranking must come as a disappointment. One must wonder how much they could have accomplished with the generations China destroyed. How many future medalists were lost to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) one-child policy and disrespect of human life? The world will never know.

3. Update: U.S. Sponsors Fan the Olympic Flame

America’s biggest companies may be downplaying their Olympic sponsorships at home, but in Beijing you can’t walk two feet without a flashy reminder of the U.S.’s heavy corporate presence. Like most of today’s corporate culture, it’s the tale of two continents: demand “justice” at home, enable the violators of it abroad.

4. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Missouri’s SAFE Act

Missouri state representative Suzie Pollock recently introduced the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act. If passed, this legislation would prohibit puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and so-called gender reassignment surgeries for minors. The bill also prohibits the public funding, insurance coverage, and referral of such procedures for minors.

5. Blog: More Than Romance: The True Meaning of Valentine’s Day

For some, Valentine’s Day is a fun excuse to dote on a spouse or loved one with roses, chocolates, and heart-shaped cards. A cynical few believe Valentine’s Day is just a marketing ploy—a made-up holiday that guilts you into spending money on someone. However, the historical origin of Valentine’s Day had nothing to do with any of these things.

6. Washington Watch: Dave Brat, Ken Blackwell, Sam Brownback, Andrew Brunson, Chip Roy

Tony Perkins was joined by Dave Brat, Dean of Liberty University’s School of Business, who addressed what rising inflation and lagging wage growth means for the economy and the political landscape. Ken Blackwell, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance and former Ohio Secretary of State, discussed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce demanding an end to Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” of truckers. Sam Brownback, former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, spoke on China’s human rights record. Andrew Brunson, FRC’s Special Advisor for Religious Freedom, shared about the delivery of FRC prayer pledges to Päivi Räsänen, a member of Finland’s parliament who is facing trial for expressing biblical beliefs about human sexuality. And, Chip Roy, U.S. Representative for Texas, reiterated his support of Päivi Räsänen and discussed the letter he wrote offering her prayer and encouragement as she stands trial.

7. Washington Watch: Connor Semelsberger, Louie Gohmert, James Lankford, Nina Shea, Steve Daines, Meg Kilgannon

Tony Perkins was joined by Connor Semelsberger, FRC’s Director of Federal Affairs – Life and Human Dignity, who celebrated that Democrats in Congress have all but conceded that the Hyde Amendment will not be repealed this year. Louie Gohmert, U.S. Representative for Texas, discussed the Durham court filing, President Biden ordering the release of Trump’s White House visitor logs, and the call for open hearings on surveillance of representatives and staffers. James Lankford, U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, talked about his letter on the Equal Rights Amendment and the Senate’s Continuing Resolution. Nina Shea, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Hudson Institute, detailed China’s record of persecuting the Falun Gong and the high-tech nature of the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution. Steve Daines, U.S. Senator from Montana, addressed whether a GOP controlled Congress could ease the financial strain on American families. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Education Studies, unpacked news reports on school boards getting death threats amid rage over race, gender, mask policies.

Praying for a Progressive President

by Joshua Arnold

February 15, 2022

Recently, President Joe Biden signed off on a successful mission in the ongoing fight against the ISIS terrorist organization, taking out ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. According to U.S. intelligence, al-Qurayshi “helped drive and justify the abduction, slaughter, and trafficking of the Yazidi religious minority in northwest Iraq and also led some of the group’s global terrorist operations.” FRC’s Executive Vice President Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin explained, “this was a guy that replaced Baghdadi as the head of ISIS.”

[Biden] deserves a lot of credit for this,” Boykin added. “It was a good decision. This was a good kill.” FRC President Tony Perkins agreed. “I commend the president for taking that action to stop this ISIS leader who had been linked to several terrorist activities in recent months that killed civilians and others.” Family Research Council often criticizes President Biden’s pro-abortion agenda, his promotion of LGBT ideology, and many other policies we believe promote what is morally objectionable. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). But in authorizing this military raid, President Biden did well.

While we often disagree with President Biden’s progressive priorities, we must remember that God commands Christians to honor their rulers (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17), and even to pray for them. The clearest biblical text on this is 1 Timothy 2:1-4, which reads:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

These verses contain three reasons to pray for our rulers. First, it pleases God. This should be the aim of every Christian. If we don’t delight to do what pleases him, it calls into question whether we really love him. Second, that they might be saved. Many rulers are not Christians—both in Paul’s day and in ours. They need Jesus’ righteousness to cover their sins and save them from the wrath of God just like every other person. Third, for the sake of our own hearts, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” We are called not to anger and bitterness and outrage, but “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). That’s only possible if you “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

There is another, less discussed reason to pray for our rulers, which Paul does not address in 1 Timothy 2, but which the recent American military strike illustrates perfectly. That is, that when a nation’s rulers govern well, everyone benefits, including God’s people. For example, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). How does this prompt us to pray for rulers? To answer that question, we have to understand Jeremiah 29.

The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon to counter false prophets who were promising the people a quick deliverance and return to Canaan. Jeremiah explained to the exiles that their exile would continue for 70 years before God would bring them back. Therefore, he sets forth three ways they should conduct themselves:

  • In verse 5 he says, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.” That is, work! Don’t be idle. Improve your property by your own labor.
  • In verse 6 he says, “Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.” That is, don’t neglect the family. Enduring this exile and returning from it is a multi-generational project. Build relationships with your neighbors and plant deep roots.
  • And in verse 7 he says, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). The Jewish exiles are commanded to seek the welfare of Babylon, their enemy and captor. Seeking the welfare of the enemy of God’s people would seem like rebellion against God if God himself had not commanded it. But God through Jeremiah explains that, during their exile, Babylon was their new home. Thus, their welfare was tied to its welfare.

How, then, could Jewish exiles with no political power (except for a few uniquely gifted persons like Daniel) seek the welfare of Babylon? God explains; they seek its welfare by praying to the Lord on its behalf. And what is praying for a nation if not also praying for its rulers? Their own welfare was tied to their prayers for rulers of Babylon.

How does this apply to us today? First, let’s remember that not everything in the Old Testament applies to new covenant believers in the same way that it did to Israelites under the old covenant, and living in the unique, God-ruled theocracy of ancient Israel. Next, let’s note that the letter in Jeremiah 29 is written not to Jews in Canaan, but to Jews in exile in Babylon. New covenant believers are exiles (1 Peter 1:1), whose “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Like the recipients of Jeremiah’s letter, we are living in a place that is not our home, but we are eagerly looking forward to the day when we will finally get to go home at last. Our situation is quite similar to that of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.

Of course, Christians have an additional mission. Israel under the old covenant was tasked with remaining a holy people, distinct from the surrounding nations. Christians are tasked with the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.

As we wait for Jesus to return, and as we make disciples, we should also work, raise families, and seek the welfare of our nation. And that includes praying for our nation’s leaders, whether we like their policies or not. We can pray that they would rule wisely and justly and for the good of all. We can pray that they would pursue policies that allow the gospel to flourish, and that glorify God. We can pray that God would reveal himself to them that they might be saved.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of February 6)

by Family Research Council

February 11, 2022

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

1. Update:  Pelosi Again Disqualifies Olympic Criticism

During the Olympic opening ceremony, China kicked off its Genocide Games with an obvious PR stunt; one of two athletes who lit the Olympic cauldron was a woman of reportedly Uyghur heritage. The unmistakable message China is promoting is that Western criticism is incorrect, that there is no genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinxiang, that the U.S. declaration of genocide is baseless propaganda.

2. Update: Natural Immunity: Don’t Follow the Science Cherry-Pickers

A new study from Johns Hopkins on natural immunity to COVID-19 might prove Anthony Fauci’s worst nightmare. “If you had a positive COVID test in the past, then you had a 99.3 percent chance of having circulating antibodies against COVID, and those antibodies were present up to 20 months,” explained Dr. Marty Makary on “Washington Watch.”

3. Blog: A Year of Biden’s Foreign Policy: Blunders, Chaos, and Human Suffering

President Joe Biden assumed office one year ago, and although he declared at a press conference yesterday that he “probably outperformed what anyone thought would happen” in his first year, Americans are frustrated—and rightfully so. When it comes to foreign policy alone, one can’t help but think that American interests are less secure and our allies more frustrated with us than last year.

4. Blog: On Religious Freedom Day, Let’s Recommit to This Fundamental Human Right

Each year on January 16, America observes Religious Freedom Day. Unlike many others, this observance wasn’t launched in the 20th or 21st century. Its first appearance dates back to a founding American document on the subject, penned by Thomas Jefferson in 1777. Less than 10 years later, the document was enacted into Virginia State Law, and later into America’s First Amendment.

5. Washington Watch: Roger Marshall, Jerry Boykin, Bob Fu, Meg Kilgannon

Tony Perkins was joined by Roger Marshall, U.S. Senator from Kansas, who discussed Democratic governors rescinding COVID restrictions as waves of polling show Americans are ready to move on with life. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, FRC’s Executive Vice President and former commander of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, discussed United States and Iran resuming nuclear talks. Bob Fu, Founder and President of China Aid Association and FRC’s Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom, talked about the growing repression of China on Christians and others. John Stemberger, President and general Counsel for Florida Family Policy Council, responded to President Biden’s comments on Florida’s bill that protects children from inappropriate sex and gender conversations in the classroom. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Education Studies, detailed FRC Action’s candidate school training event in North Carolina.

6. Washington Watch: Chris Smith, John Boozman, Michael Waltz, Marty Makary

Tony Perkins was joined by Chris Smith, U.S. Representative for New Jersey, who discussed the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and why many are referring to it as the “Genocide Games.” John Boozman, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, talked about the Senate Republicans’ letter to the DHS Secretary asking why taxpayer dollars are being used to fly illegal immigrants around the country. Michael Waltz, U.S. Representative for Florida, called out NBC for refusing to air his ad that criticizes China. And, Dr. Marty Makary, Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine & School of Public Health, shared the findings of his newly released study on natural immunity.

7. Washington Watch: Nihal Krishan, Craig Parshall, Dave LaRock, Nury Turkel, Tim Norton, Mark Harris

Tony Perkins was joined by Nihal Krishan, reporter for the Washington Examiner, to address Biden’s FCC nominee, Gigi Sohn, and the impact she could have on swaying the majority in the agency. Craig L. Parshall, attorney and special counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, shared whether Gigi Sohn’s confirmation to FCC could lead to reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. Dave LaRock, Virginia Delegate, discussed the voting happening in the Virginia House on a bill that gives families the ability to opt-out of mask mandates issued by school systems. Nury Turkel, commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious, talked about China’s treatment of the Uyghurs and the CCP’s propaganda during the Olympics. Tim Norton, a trucker from Brooks, Alberta, discussed his personal experience with Canada’s “Freedom Convoy”. And, Dr. Mark Harris, FRC’s vice president for the Association of Churches & Ministries, shared about FRC Action’s recent candidate training event in North Carolina.

God’s Good Design for Marriage (Part 1): Male and Female He Created Them

by Joshua Arnold

February 10, 2022

This is the first part of a multi-part series on God’s good design for marriage.

It’s no secret that today’s popular culture opposes Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality. The Christian view of marriage has become so incomprehensible in America and throughout Western culture that it is seen as downright offensive. Recent examples include American tech giant YouTube removing a John MacArthur sermon clip on transgenderism as “hate speech,” the Canadian parliament approving a new law which could criminalize preaching and teaching against homosexuality or transgenderism, and Finland’s top prosecutor prosecuting a bishop on criminal charges for publishing a booklet titled, “Male and Female He Created Them.” All that was just last month.

Many Christians are influenced by our culture’s negative view of marriage—and not for the better. But we don’t have to listen to the culture’s lies; we have God’s Word, which is truth. The Bible says a lot about marriage, portraying it in such glorious splendor that the world’s flashy counterfeits look dim by comparison. Every Christian can afford to spend more time tuning out the world and tuning in to God’s Word. That is the goal of this series: to examine God’s good design for marriage, taking as our guide the Word of God itself.

This series will begin, appropriately, in the beginning, by looking at Genesis 1:26-31. Moses wrote Genesis for the people of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. Genesis describes God’s promise to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the beginnings of God’s relationship with man. In these verses, God’s creation of the world reaches its crescendo in the creation of man (that is, the race of mankind—men and women). Many Christian doctrines are grounded in these verses, but for the present, let’s consider three specific points.

1. God Created Man

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

Four times in two verses, Moses repeats that God created man. With any human creator, we readily understand that the creator has total power and authority over his creation. He made it, so he decides how it works and what purpose it serves. That is God’s relationship with man, as the frequent analogy of the potter and the clay depicts (Isaiah 29:15-16, Jeremiah 18:1-12, Romans 9:20-21). God has the sole, unquestionable authority and power to determine how mankind works and what purpose we serve. Men may not naturally like that very much, but reality does not conform itself to our desires. We are not gods.

Besides, complaining about God’s authority is foolishness because God’s purposes for mankind are far better than any we could invent for ourselves. We are created “in his own image.” An image, such as we find in a photograph or mirror, is not the thing itself, but it is “like” that thing. It bears a resemblance to it such that an observer can recognize the original in its image. In Genesis 5:3, we find similar language, “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” Just as a child looks like his parents, so God created man to look like God himself.

These are two ironclad reasons for the dignity of mankind and the sanctity of human life. We are created by God, so anyone who harms or criticizes another human being is harming or criticizing God’s handiwork, God’s prized possession. We bear God’s image, so anyone who harms a person is defacing an image of God’s character.

It’s fair to ask, in what way do humans bear the image of God? After all, “God is spirit” (John 4:24), so he doesn’t have a body like we do. And God is invisible (Colossians 1:15), so to say we literally look like him is nonsensical. The first answer is that, like God and unlike other creatures, we also are spirits. The second answer is that God uses metaphors of the body to describe himself in ways we can understand. In various places, the Bible speaks of God’s eyes (Genesis 6:8), ears (Psalm 18:6), mouth (Numbers 12:8), lips (Job 23:12), face (Matthew 18:10), nostrils (Isaiah 65:5), arm (Acts 13:7), hands (Hebrews 10:31), fingers (Psalm 8:3), back (Exodus 33:23), and feet (Exodus 24:10). Christians don’t understand these passages to mean that God literally possesses all these body parts. Rather, these metaphors describe God’s power in ways we can comprehend. God’s ears refer to what God hears. God’s mouth refers to what God says. Christian meditations on this question could fill libraries (here’s a summary), but, for our purposes, it’s sufficient to establish that God created mankind as an image of himself.

We also read, “male and female he created them.” This phrase helps us to interpret the rest of these verses; when it says God created “man” in his image, we can understand that the text is referring to the creation of both men and women—the entire human race. Another way to say the same thing is that the image of God in mankind is incomplete without considering both male and female. Thus, God’s relationship to his children is explained both as a father (Psalm 103:13) and as a mother (Isaiah 66:13). (This is not to say that God is feminine; God may nurture his children like a mother, but he is their Father (Isaiah 64:8). Scripture exclusively refers to God with masculine pronouns.)

Genesis teaches that men and women are both made in the image of God, and both participate in the inherent dignity of that image. Thus, Christianity has historically taught (usually in opposition to prevailing cultural norms) that men and women possess equal dignity and worth. Moreover, Christians have historically fought to protect the dignity and value of women. This is also why the transgender movement sweeping the Western world cannot be reconciled with Christian teaching. Transgender ideology teaches that gender is a social construct that can be altered and that bodies should be altered to conform to a person’s chosen identity. Christianity teaches that a person’s sex is an innate, immutable characteristic created by God to reflect his character. Thus, cosmetically altering a person’s body is defacing God’s image, lying about his character, and usurping his lordship.

Marriage is implied in this creation of male and female. John Piper writes in This Momentary Marriage, “Marriage is God’s doing because it was his design in the creation of man as male and female.” Jesus himself cites Genesis 1:26 as a prooftext for marriage (Mark 10:6, Matthew 19:4). We’ll explore this more in part two of this series on Genesis 2, where Moses explains that a man and his wife “shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Mankind exists to portray God’s image as male and female, according to God’s created order. God has the authority to order our lives because he is our maker. But he uses that authority for our good, as we will see in our next point.

2. God Blessed Them

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

It’s challenging to interpret what Scripture means by the phrase “God blessed them.” Perhaps a rough approximation would be “God made them happy.” The verses that follow explain how, beginning with a succession of imperative verbs: “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion….” If it was unclear from “be fruitful” (the Hebrew word for “offspring” is “seed,” see Genesis 3:15), the use of the word “multiply” makes it clear that God wanted the first human couple to reproduce. Genesis 1 teaches that human reproduction was part of God’s blessing on mankind from the very beginning. And they weren’t told to merely procreate at a replacement rate; they were told to “fill the earth.” Here are two blessings for mankind from God: sex within marriage and, as a result, plenty of children (see Psalm 127:3-5). The culture may mock these truths to its own detriment, but the Bible is very clear on them.

Another part of this blessing is mankind’s role as middle magistrates. God proceeds to tell Adam and Eve to “subdue [the earth]” and “have dominion… over every living thing.” Because of the image of God they bear, they are exalted to a position of authority over the rest of creation (see Psalm 8:5-8). Notice these verbs are all imperatives. While blessings from God, these are also commands from God. Mankind has authority over all creation but is itself under God’s authority. The centurion understood this (Matthew 8:5-13), but Adam and Eve rebelled (Genesis 3:1-7). Learning to live under authority and wielding authority well are crucial aspects of a healthy marriage, as we’ll see later in this series.

3. It Was Very Good

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

The last point to consider from Genesis 1 is that everything God made, in his infallible judgment, was “very good.” That includes God’s creation of mankind as male and female in his image, the institution of marriage, and the command to be fruitful and multiply. God designed marriage, and he declared that it was very good.

Perhaps this strikes you as incredible. After all, our world is filled with sad, painful stories of people suffering from spousal abuse, parental abuse, difficult marriages, gender dysphoria, and rebellious children. How could marriage and family relationships, with all the disorder and hurt we see in them, be designed by God and declared “very good”?

First, what we witness today isn’t God’s original design. The Bible explains that our familial relationships are cursed with pain and strife (Genesis 3:16) as the result of our first parents’ rebellion against God (Genesis 3:6). Through their disobedience, sin entered the world, bringing death and suffering along with it (Romans 5:12). As a result of sin, many things God designed for pleasure (like childbearing and marriage) are now full of pain.

But as we struggle against the effects of the curse, we can still affirm that God’s design is good. As we strive to live according to God’s Word, we will come to experience the goodness of his plan. It’s a duty that is filled with pleasure and joy.

Second, God designed marriage for other reasons, which weren’t revealed in Genesis 1. Just because God’s good design for marriage has been sadly marred and warped doesn’t mean that marriage can’t still fulfill some of its good purposes. But that’s for future parts in this series to explore.

Read part two.

Beauty Will Save the World (Part 1): How Mary Cassatt’s The Boating Party Illustrates the Interdependence of the Family

by John Sumereau

January 27, 2022

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the great Russian writer, famously observed that “Beauty will save the world.” In this spirit, this blog series will focus on great works of art and how they reveal new layers of meaning to the inexhaustibly rich themes of life and human dignity, marriage and family, and religious freedom.

***

Mary Cassatt, born in Philadelphia in 1844, lived nearly all her adult life studying, collecting, and creating avant-garde artwork in France. She never married. She never bore children. But the decades-long gaze she fixed, through the sensitive and thoughtful eyes of a truly great artist, bore lasting fruit as a towering tribute to the beauty of motherhood. 

Few are unfamiliar with Cassatt’s touching portrayals of mothers and their babies absorbed in the routine exercises of homelife. Bathing, feeding, sewing, reading, often doing nothing more than exchanging a look or a touch with the children in their laps, Cassatt’s mothers are immersed in a shared existence. This is the very opposite of the individualism the artist’s own commitment to art required her to adopt. But an authentic search for beauty, the most essential virtue of an artist, demands an unflagging fidelity to truth. And Mary Cassatt was too great an artist to ignore the exceeding goodness of the road she left untaken.

Unique among Cassatt’s finished works is the large-scale painting she titled The Boating Party (1893). The painting’s central figures, a mother and her softly squirming baby, resemble any of a hundred other pieces by the artist. But now the frame has been widened. We are permitted to see the rare figure of a father, and it is not unreasonable to assume that there is significance in this uncommon element. What clues does it give us to Cassatt’s attitudes and beliefs about the other half of parenthood to which she has devoted so much attention? The figure himself is unsurprisingly obscure. We see him from behind, his dark clothes strongly contrasting with the sun-drenched scene that we join him in beholding. The father is a lonely figure. He propels the boat forward only by physically pulling away from his family. His dependents face their helmsman.

All at once we glimpse the fragility of the mother’s and child’s shared world. Their relationship, as saturated with love as the figures are with sunlight, is seen perched on a small boat blown by the wind and floating on deep waters. The mother looks expectantly at her captain, visibly aware of her reliance on him, but warmly expressing, if not love, at least a willingness to love; a hope that her vulnerability will find shelter under his headship, permitting a true love to grow. There is something ominous about the man, and the dynamic composition hinges on the tension of vulnerability. Yet Cassatt refuses to give us any explicit indication of treachery on the part of the father, and, indeed, there is no reason to suspect that any exists. We are merely aware of his absolute importance to their continued flourishing. 

Is this painting a confession of the necessity of co-dependency? Or is it a protest against it? Perhaps it’s both, but much more importantly, it is a call to parents. The Boating Party lays bare the delicate architecture of interdependence that makes up a family. Our modern society has become allergic to dependence. We’re encouraged to pursue self-sufficiency and self-reliance. There is little doubt that this widespread fear of interdependence is a natural reaction to the many instances of abuse, neglect, and abandonment we learn about so often. But Mary Cassatt saw plainly that true fruitfulness and fulfillment can only be found in vulnerability. 

And the one figure who looks in the direction the boat is traveling, the child, asserts the impact of her parents’ fidelity to their calling both on her own future and the future of humanity.

John Sumereau graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Art from the Penn State School of Arts and Architecture in 2013. John lives in Winchester, Virginia with his wife and three children, whom he currently supports by working as an ultrasound tech at a local hospital. His artwork can be seen on the John Sumereau Art Facebook page.

The Limits of Human Happiness: The Danger of Trying To Find Our Identity in Our Feelings

by Dan Hart

January 24, 2022

In a recent interview, pop superstar Adele told Oprah that the reason she divorced her husband and created a broken home for her then six-year-old son was because “she realized she was ‘ignoring’ her own happiness.” Similarly, Honor Jones, a senior editor at The Atlantic, wrote recently that, even though she “loved [her] husband,” who she had three young children with, she was breaking her family up because she “felt that [her husband] was standing between [her] and the world.”

This 50-year-old-and-counting trend of “no-fault” divorce, in which a husband or a wife chooses to split from their spouse because of a feeling rather than a concrete transgression like abuse or adultery, is part of a larger phenomenon that has been happening in Western society for decades now: the ascendence of feelings and emotions as the definitive barometer of who a person is.

Arguably, we are seeing this trend more explicitly in our current American moment than we ever have before with the advent of transgenderism—the idea that one can change their “gender” because of being unhappy with one’s biological sex. Just as with no-fault divorce, the choice to become transgender has proven to have very real negative consequences that not only affect the health of the individual choosing to identify as transgender (through harmful hormone therapy and surgeries that do not resolve the person’s unhappiness) but also society (through classroom indoctrination, bathroom privacy violations, and the assault on women’s sports, among other harms).

In our “live your own truth” society, consuming pornography, participating in premarital sex, and committing adultery are acts that cannot be judged by others if they feel right to the individual in the moment, despite the trail of brokenness and victimization left in their wake. Furthermore, we are seeing highly-charged feelings about America being a “racist” and “white supremacist” country driving a nationwide movement to establish intensely divisive “Critical Race Theory” policies in schools and places of work, despite clear, commonsense evidence that “systemic” racism does not exist in America.

The right to act on strongly-held feelings—no matter how it may affect others—has become an idol in our culture, and the damage that this causes is plain to see. While feelings and emotions are an important part of being human, they do not ultimately define us, and we must carefully discern whether or not to act on them. If we want to flourish as a society, it is critical that we have a grounded, biblical perspective on our emotions, which continually shift from day to day like the changing winds.

The Pursuit of Happiness

In this country, we can trace the privileging of feelings back to our founding. Ever since Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement in the Declaration of Independence that among our “inalienable rights” bestowed on us by our Creator is “the pursuit of happiness,” the concept of “happiness” has held a prominent place in the American heart.

But what is happiness? At best, what we associate with or describe as happiness is often a fleeting feeling of contentment or pleasure. According to Thomas Aquinas, this “imperfect happiness” is the only form of happiness that can be obtained on earth. For most of us, even when we are doing something we thoroughly enjoy for an extended period of time, a genuine, all-encompassing feeling of happiness is usually short-lived. If one were to continually strive for one’s own version of happiness at every turn, it’s easy to see the disaster that would unfold—someone acting on every whim and urge regardless of the consequence or the effect on others.

Yet, there is no denying that happiness in its essence is a good thing and is wonderful to experience. Even so, what’s interesting about happiness is that we tend to experience it when we don’t necessarily expect to. It could be when we are simply on a walk, and the beauty of nature strikes us in a way that we weren’t anticipating. Or it could be in a more predictable context, like when we are engaging in an activity that we find pleasure in such as reading a good book or playing guitar. What’s fascinating, though, is that even when we do something in order to be happy, there is no guarantee that we will feel happy. This speaks to the ephemeral nature of happiness—it is a gift that is given to us from above. When we grasp for it, it is often just out of our reach. Perhaps this is what Jefferson meant when he wrote of the “pursuit” of happiness—we seek it because of how good it makes us feel, but we don’t always find it.

When we look at Scripture, we find that happiness or its synonym joy is almost always connected with seeking God and the virtues. For example, Psalm 146:5 proclaims: “Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Proverbs 3:13 declares: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding.” In Psalm 92:4, the psalmist writes, “You, O Lord, have made me happy by your work. I will sing for joy because of what you have done.” In another passage, King David actually commands happiness, writing, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11). 

These verses tell us something about what should be of ultimate importance to our earthly life and Who we should ultimately seek.

The Limited Offerings of the World

A natural question to ask here is, why? Why should we seek after a God we cannot see? A large part of the answer lies in the nature of the world. At the end of the day, as Bishop Robert Barron has so eloquently written and spoken about, “nothing in this world finally satisfies the deepest longings of our heart.” When we think of our most cherished and memorable experiences and feelings in our lives—the most delicious meal, the most mind-bendingly electrifying movie, the most beautiful mountain view, the most exhilarating athletic achievement, the most stimulating conversation—what do they all have in common? They all inevitably end, fading into the mists of the past, and we are plunged headlong into the next moment or the next day, which usually isn’t nearly as memorable. Even our loved ones will eventually die, ending our most cherished relationships. So what can we learn from this universal (and somber) certainty?

One thing we can learn is a fundamental truth about being human: We all have a deep desire for lasting happiness which points to something beyond anything this world can offer. Built into every human heart is an insatiable hunger for ultimate love, ultimate goodness, ultimate beauty, ultimate truth. As wonderful as our best moments on earth are, they only leave us wanting more. But why? Why would God create us this way? C.S. Lewis, in his great work The Problem of Pain, gives a perceptive, poetic answer to this confounding question:

The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world; but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

Knowing that ultimate fulfillment can never come on earth, our hunger for it nevertheless drives us to continually seek it. In this pursuit of happiness, it is often our deeply felt emotions and feelings that drive our actions. But as we have seen, unless these feelings are directed toward good things that ultimately come from God, we will not only be chronically unhappy, but we will also end up falling into wrongdoing, hurting ourselves and those around us.

The Fulfillment of All Desire

Our Heavenly Father knows our needs and the deepest longings of our hearts (see Matthew 6:25-33), but He also gives us the freedom to choose to follow those longings in the way we choose to do so. This is why we must remain anchored in God’s Word and follow His laws laid out for us in Scripture, so that our emotions and our deepest longings will naturally fall in line with the things of God—those things that are by nature true, good, and beautiful.

This is the wonderful reality about the unique gifts and talents that we are all blessed with: everyone can express their ultimate longing for God in their own way by pursuing truth, goodness, and beauty through music, athletics, writing, building houses, repairing cars, homemaking, or any of the multitude of good things that fills the earth. God delights in giving His children good gifts. As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). At the same time, our natures tell us that ultimate fulfillment won’t come from these finite gifts, for as Christ said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

When we live our lives without God, however, the results are plain to see. We end up straining and grasping for fulfillment moment by moment, without a fixture of truth to guide our hearts. We attempt to “live our truth” by following whatever earthly thing we think will make us happy, eternally confounded by its finiteness.

May we instead live in the promise of the “food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27), forever consoled and strengthened by the hope and truth of the One who has set all people free (John 8:32), who will eternally fulfill every desire in our true home—the world to come.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of January 16)

by Family Research Council

January 21, 2022

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

1. Update: Virginia Finds Hope in the Gov Compartment

Of all the things in short supply right now, optimism may be the hardest to find. After 12 disappointing months of an administration whose domestic and foreign policy failures are rivaled only by the number of illegals crossing the border, Americans everywhere are desperate for some sign of hope, some indication that the country they love isn’t completely lost.

2. Update: Hollow the Leader: Biden’s Empty Year Takes Its Toll

If you thought your week was bad, Joe Biden’s was worse. In a matter of hours, Biden witnessed the end of the private employer vaccine mandate at the Supreme Court—followed, that same afternoon, by a death blow to two of the Left’s signature priorities: the crusade to end the Senate filibuster and his raging attempt to takeover U.S. elections.

3. Blog: Is Diversity a Biblical Goal?

While racial tensions reached a fever pitch in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death, the issue is not new. Two thousand years ago, Paul addressed the issue of race in his letter to the Galatian church when he said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

4. Blog: Religious Freedom Day: The Biden Administration Is Failing To Uphold Our First Freedom

Since 1993, the United States has formally observed Religious Freedom Day on January 16. President Joe Biden released a proclamation acknowledging the day. Although the president’s comments on religious freedom were mostly encouraging, it is difficult to appreciate his rhetoric when many of his actions throughout the first year of his presidency have undermined the freedoms he claims to support.

5. Washington Watch: Michael Waltz, Ken Blackwell, Greg Phares, Meg Kilgannon

Tony Perkins was joined by Michael Waltz, U.S. Representative for Florida, who discussed the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ken Blackwell, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance and former Ohio Secretary of State, shared how President Biden is misusing Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy to push a federal government takeover of elections. Greg Phares, former Baton Rouge police chief, shared, in light of the terrorist hostage situation at a Texas synagogue, how security training saves lives. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Education Studies, commended newly inaugurated Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin for his first executive actions on education.

6. Washington Watch: Bob Good, Mike Rounds, Caroline Downey, David Closson, Nury Turkel

Tony Perkins was joined by Bob Good, U.S. Representative for Virginia, who gave an overview of President Biden’s education policies in his first year in office. Mike Rounds, U.S. Senator from South Dakota, discussed the Democrats pushing an elections takeover bill and gutting the filibuster. Caroline Downey, News Writer for National Review, talked about emails showing that Dr. Fauci and NIH Director Collins dismissed prominent scientists who endorsed the lab-leak theory on the origins of COVID. David Closson, FRC’s Director of the Center for Biblical Worldview, reflected on President Biden’s first year in office. And, Nury Turkel, Commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Chairman of the Board for the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), discussed the Golden State Warriors co-owner saying that “nobody cares” about China’s persecution of Uyghurs.

7. ProLifeCon Digital Action Summit

As we look forward to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, pro-life legislators, organizations, and activists share resources and hope for digital activism in the #prolife movement.

Counseling Bans in Canada and West Lafayette Threaten the Free Speech of Pastors and Counselors

by David Closson

January 21, 2022

In today’s sensationalized news environment, most of the stories we read or hear about rarely deserve our immediate and undivided attention. However, two recent developments related to so-called “conversion therapy bans” merit attention from Christian pastors, counselors, and parents. These bans threaten the rights and responsibilities of those tasked with teaching, discipling, and caring for the people in our churches, ministries, and families.

The first story comes from West Lafayette, Indiana, where the city council recently proposed an ordinance prohibiting the practice of so-called “conversion therapy” by unlicensed counselors. While these counseling bans are not new, the scope and reach of the proposed ordinance go beyond almost anything we’ve seen previously. By intentionally targeting unlicensed professionals, the ordinance would subject pastors and counselors to hefty fines for having conversations with church members and counselees about what the Bible teaches about unwanted same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria.

The proposed West Lafayette ordinance is likely unconstitutional. As written, the ordinance explicitly infringes on the speech rights of pastors, parents, and counselors. However, before taking a closer look at the shocking details of the proposed ordinance, it is important to understand the history behind the push to ban such counseling.

Counseling bans have become an important goal of the LGBT lobby. As public opinion on LGBT issues has shifted, there has been a concerted effort to enact bans on counseling pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity. By and large, these bans mandate that counselors use a “gender-affirming” model of care with their clients, meaning that licensed health care professionals and counselors are prohibited from discussing unwanted same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria with their clients (even if the patient and/or parents choose such counseling).

Although the media and the LGBT lobby use the term “conversion therapy” (which evokes images of discredited practices such as electroshock or other pain-inducing methods), counseling bans intentionally use broad language that includes talk therapy. In other words, counseling bans prevent counselors and mental health care professionals from counseling in a way consistent with their sincerely-held religious beliefs and deny patients the right to choose such counseling. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have counseling bans in place.

For Christian pastors and counselors, the proposed ordinance’s inclusion of unlicensed counselors is very significant. Although the city “strongly discourages” those with professional licensure through Indiana’s Professional Licensing Agency from “engaging in conversion therapy with a minor person,” it currently stops short of prohibiting the practice because the city lacks the authority to do so.

The proposed ordinance defines conversion therapy as “any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.” Because there are no ecclesial or ministerial exceptions, any guidance, advice, or encouragement from a pastor or Christian counselor about addressing unwanted same-sex attraction is prohibited. Violators of the ordinance would be fined $1,000 for every violation.

If passed, the ordinance would immediately affect a West Lafayette counseling ministry operated by Faith Church. Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries provides 60-80 hours of counseling each week and follows a counseling model known as biblical counseling, which offers support and guidance by applying biblical principles to people’s needs.

The second recent development in this area comes from Canada, where parliament recently passed a new law that bans so-called “conversion therapy.” Passed without debate or discussion, the bill, known as “C-4,” went into effect on January 7. C-4 amends the criminal code to criminalize conversion therapy, which is broadly defined as a “practice, treatment or service” designed to:

  • change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual,”
  • change a person’s identity to heterosexual,”
  • change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth,”
  • repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behavior,”
  • repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity,”
  • repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned at birth.”

Moreover, the legislation describes as a “myth” the belief that “heterosexuality, cisgender gender identity, and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.”

Although it is unclear how C-4 will be enforced—and there is hope that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which explicitly protects the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression” (as well as the freedom of conscience and religion) will protect the speech of pastors, counselors, and parents—the fact remains that Canadian law now equates orthodox Christian beliefs about human sexuality with harmful “myths” and “stereotypes.”

Describing the biblically-based views of millions of Canadians as “myths” is discriminatory and intolerant, but that’s not even the worst thing about C-4. Under the guise of preventing “conversion therapy,” legislators in Canada have enshrined contested gender ideology into law. The broad manner in which this new counseling ban defines “conversion therapy” opens the question of whether Christian pastors and ministers will be in violation whenever they preach and teach about Christian sexual ethics. Moreover, it would appear that talk therapy—the practice of simply having conversations—related to sexual orientation and gender identity would transgress C-4. If so, Christian counselors and even parents could face criminal penalties for talking to children about the Bible’s teaching on sexuality.

Pastors in Canada and the United States are speaking out about C-4. In Canada, the Canadian Religious Freedom Summit encouraged pastors to read a statement to their congregations on January 9 expressing their concern about the new law and their intention to continue preaching the “whole counsel of God.” In the United States, John MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church, encouraged pastors to preach on biblical sexual morality on January 16. According to The Daily Wire, at least 4,000 pastors in the United States responded to MacArthur’s call by preaching on texts such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Timothy 1:10.

Incredibly, but not surprisingly, YouTube removed a clip from MacArthur’s sermon that Grace Community Church had posted to the site. In the clip titled “Transgenderism is a War on God,” MacArthur stated, “God made man male and female. That is determined genetically, that is physiology. That is science. That is reality. This notion that you are something other than your biology is a cultural construct intended as an assault on God. The only way you can address it, honestly, is to say, ‘God made you and God made you exactly the way He wanted you to be. You are not only fighting God in His physical creation, you are fighting God in His sovereignty. You are fighting God in His spiritual relationship to you.’ This is a war on God.”

For the offending statements, YouTube censored MacArthur, claiming that the comments on transgenderism violated their “hate speech policy.” This is just the latest example of Big Tech suppressing Christian views on sexuality.

Although it remains to be seen how C-4 will be enforced, the passage of this bill is not promising for pastors, counselors, and other ministry leaders in Canada. They need support, encouragement, and prayer as they face an uncertain legal terrain. And those of us in the United States must remain vigilant to ensure that lawmakers in the United States understand that tens of millions of Americans do not want their freedom of speech or religion infringed in a similar fashion. Counseling bans are wrong and have to go.

Like Canada’s new law, the West Lafayette counseling ban discriminates against orthodox Christian beliefs pertaining to sexuality. Although courts could find the ordinance unconstitutional, the discussion and debate surrounding it reveal the growing hostility toward those who hold orthodox Christian beliefs. The utopia of the cultural revolutionaries is a world where the teaching of Christian sexual ethics is outlawed, counselors are restricted to providing so-called “affirmative” practices only, and parents are prohibited from raising and discipling their children in line with biblical principles. Coming at a time when a Finnish member of parliament is being criminally prosecuted for her biblical speech on sexuality (her trial begins next week), these developments paint a foreboding picture.

Christian pastors, counselors, parents, and policymakers need to recognize our cultural moment and push back against this growing threat of counseling bans. If we don’t, the next generation will have less freedom to teach and live out God’s Word.

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