Tag archives: Culture

Dobbs Leak: A Leftist Pastor Takes on Abortion

by Joshua Arnold

May 9, 2022

When words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Proverbs 10:19), so it’s little surprise that among all the ink spilled over the leaked Dobbs decision draft, there were at least a few shockingly poor takes.

One such take came from Leftist pastor Brandan Robertson, “God has given all human beings authority and autonomy over our own bodies. And if Roe v Wade is struck down, this will be yet another assault on women’s authority and autonomy over their own bodies.” No Psalm 139 for him. I guess consistency requires anyone ignoring “you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (verse 14) to also ignore “you hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (verse 5) and “search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (verse 23)—not to mention the rest of the Bible.

It’s difficult to even call him a ‘Christian’ pastor,” said David Closson, Director of FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview. “At one level, yes,” we do have autonomy over our own bodies, he noted. “That’s one of the reasons I was against the vaccine mandates…. But do we have unlimited autonomy? No. And do we have the unlimited right to do something with someone else’s body? Absolutely not.”

Closson explained Robertson’s beliefs track with the worldly perspective identified by Carl Trueman in his mighty book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. That worldview lauds “being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want. You follow the dictates of your feelings, your emotions, your desires. And so it’s disconnected from any understanding of accountability or responsibility to God.”

The secular world says, ‘my body, my choice,’” added Joseph Backholm, host of Friday’s Worldview Conversation on “Washington Watch.” “Scripture says the opposite.” Christians are called to live as if their body belongs to Jesus, not themselves. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20), and “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), and “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). “The starting assumption is that I am submitted to Christ,” Backholm explained.

In previous eras, even non-Christians in America understood that each person is accountable to God; this assumption undergirded oath requirements for holding certain offices or testifying in court. Accountability and rights are two sides of the same coin—a coin God minted. Today, people pick and choose which parts of religion to believe (a.k.a. inventing their own), embracing rights and jettisoning responsibility. So, President Joe Biden could say (in defense of abortion), “I believe I have the rights that I have not because the government gave them to me, which you believe, but because I’m just a child of God, I exist.” Rights do come from God, remarked Closson, but “President Biden doesn’t really believe that.” If he did, he would show more fear wielding such an argument to justify denying unborn children the rights God gave them.

Robertson had another zinger, “If we are going to bend the moral arc of this nation towards God’s vision of justice and equity, we must demand that women’s rights are protected and abortion is health care.” Backholm warned that Robertson employed “buzzwords” to “generate sympathy,” and “linguistic maneuvers like that can be persuasive unless we have a framework” for understanding what the Bible actually teaches. “When that’s our framework, then we can look at somebody who’s well intentioned [but wrong]… and we can say, ‘well, maybe a nice guy, but the things that he’s saying are not true.’”

Abortion activists “have an idea of what they think justice or equity should look like,” which they “superimpose… on holy Scripture,” said Closson. “We don’t start with our own ideas of justice…. We want to go to the Bible first and foremost and ask, what is God’s idea of justice?” Someone who fixes up cars in his spare time won’t get hoodwinked by a dishonest mechanic because he knows what he’s talking about. In the same way, a Christian who studies the Bible regularly, and understands it, won’t be misled by someone trying to twist it to mean something it doesn’t.

The Bible is not a philosophical textbook” where “we go just to debate…. It’s God’s revealed word, and so we go to it for belief and obedience,” said Closson. He has authored a publication on Biblical Principles for Pro-Life Engagement that starts with what the Bible teaches, not what man’s faulty reason has invented.

Emotional manipulation… ad hominem attack… these tactics are employed so often in public policy debates,” said Backholm. But “[blessed is the man whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2-3). How firmly are you planted on God’s word?

A Zero Star Review for Yelp’s Abortion Activism

by Joy Zavalick

April 18, 2022

The numerous pro-life protections being enacted across the country and the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are making the abortion industry increasingly desperate to maintain its place in American society. Recently, this mounting desperation has been seeping into the policies of some major corporations. Yelp is the latest in a string of private companies (such as Citigroup) that have announced that they will cover travel expenses for employees who desire to obtain an abortion that would not be legal in the state where they live.

This type of company policy is in direct response to state-level pro-life protections such as Texas’ heartbeat law, which has successfully saved thousands of babies’ lives by protecting life in the womb after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. By implementing such policies, these corporations have actively decided against remaining neutral on the topic of abortion.

The recent uptick in companies publicly declaring a position on abortion shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how corporate America has similarly caved to shareholder pressures on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. The activists behind progressive ESG investment organizations like As You Sow have consistently applied pressure to corporations, including Yelp.

In 2021, As You Sow published a report condemning Yelp for allowing Planned Parenthood sites to be “dogged by ongoing posting of unsubstantiated and illegitimate” reviews. The report concludes, “It is recommended that Yelp seek to engage harmed businesses”—such as Planned Parenthood—“in meaningful discussions about their experiences and desired alternative approaches.” Now, four months later, Yelp has chosen to enact a policy that will ensure that its employees continue contributing to the profits of the abortion industry by whatever means necessary.

Enabling female employees to obtain an out-of-state abortion instead of encouraging them to pursue motherhood is profitable—both for the abortion industry and the corporation that adopts such a policy. It minimizes the costs of providing maternity leave and keeps female employees actively engaged in the workplace for the obvious utilitarian purpose of maintaining productivity.

Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.) summarized the motivation for corporations to encourage abortions during a 2020 House Financial Services Committee hearing. She said, “In the span of four decades since the 1970s, 38 million women joined the workforce. Without those women, our economy would be 25 percent smaller.” Her point is clear: ever since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, companies have increasingly been able to profit from women employees—and they are not interested in going back.

Instead of liberating working women, Roe created a loophole for employers so they wouldn’t have to adapt to suit the needs of working mothers. Instead of creating an environment that embraced women in their totality, corporations could simply expect women to reject motherhood.

Employing a working mother often requires additional consideration beyond allowing for a few weeks of maternity leave once the child is born. Because of Roe, workplaces like Yelp have been able to take the easy way out for decades. Now, with the Dobbs decision on the horizon, they are doing everything in their power to make sure that the abortion loophole remains available.

Miriam Warren, chief diversity officer at Yelp, stated, “We’ve long been a strong advocate for equality in the workplace, and believe that gender equality cannot be achieved if women’s healthcare rights are restricted.” Corporate America has come alongside the abortion industry in normalizing the sexist myth that motherhood and career success are mutually exclusive.

No one makes the claim that men cannot progress in their careers when they become fathers. Female workers do not need to suffer the mental and physical trauma of abortion in order to be equal with their male counterparts.

Yelp has caved to pressure from the abortion lobby and hidden its true utilitarian agenda behind a façade of female empowerment. Other cowardly corporations will likely follow suit. As companies increasingly reveal their true colors and lack of spine, Christians must carefully consider which ones receive their business.

4 Days (and Ways) to Enrich Your Easter Celebration

by Dan Hart

April 13, 2022

For believers, the holiest week of the year is upon us: the great celebration of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. While it’s wonderful to mark Easter with fun egg hunts and festive chocolate egg-filled baskets for the kids, there are a multitude of other Christian traditions and practices that believers of all ages can partake in to deepen our faith and enrich our experience as we celebrate “Holy Week” and consider Jesus’ last week on earth including His teachings in the temple, the Last Supper, His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, His arrest, trial, torture, and crucifixion, and His glorious rising from the grave.

1. Thursday: Commemorating the Last Supper

As recounted in the gospels, Jesus partook in the traditional Jewish Passover meal with His disciples on the night before He was crucified—which has become known as the Lord’s Supper or the Last Supper. In the Jewish custom, it is known as a Seder (or Passover) meal. It has since become a tradition in the Christian church to celebrate a symbolic Seder meal on Thursday night that can consist of wine, bitter herbs (such as parsley), salt water, unleavened matzah bread, hardboiled egg, and lamb (or other elements depending on the tradition).

Another tradition is washing the feet of our loved ones, just as Christ washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:1-20). We can also sacrifice some sleep on Thursday night and spend some quality time in prayer in order to “keep watch” as Christ did when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).

2. Friday: Remembering the Goodness of Christ’s Sacrifice

It may seem somewhat ironic to refer to the Friday before Easter as “Good Friday” given that it is the day Christ suffered a brutal crucifixion at the hands of sinners. However, “Good Friday” is indeed good because of the profound goodness of Christ’s victory over sin and death by means of His crucifixion and death on this day, culminating in His Resurrection on Easter. The gospels tell us that Christ was nailed to the cross between nine o’clock and noon and that He died around three o’clock. Therefore, Christians can set aside the time of noon to three for special prayer and meditation on the passion and death of Christ. We might also consider fasting as a tangible way to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice.

Some other ways we can observe Good Friday might be to take a long walk and meditate on Jesus’ road to Calvary. We could also watch a film adaptation of the passion narrative such as The Passion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Risen, or another well-produced movie to enter into the final hours of Jesus’ earthly life more fully.

For younger children, we can fill plastic Easter eggs with symbols of Christ’s passion and resurrection, such as a cross, nails, a stone, and other related items. When they open them, we can give age-appropriate explanations on how each symbol was part of the extent to which Jesus loved us by suffering, dying, and rising for us.

3. Saturday: Preparing for the Lord’s Rising

Historically, the Saturday before Easter has been referred to as “Silent Saturday.” As we await Christ’s Resurrection, we can engage in edifying activities to prepare our hearts for Easter. One idea is to create a traditional Polish Easter basket as a gift for your pastor. Each item in the basket is symbolic of different attributes of God. For example, eggs symbolize new life and Christ’s rising from the grave, sausage symbolizes God’s favor and generosity, ham symbolizes joy and abundance, a candle represents the light of Christ, and more.

A way to inspire our kids when they are painting Easter eggs could be to have them look at pictures of the traditional European art of painting eggs with intricate designs and Christian symbols.

Another fun activity to do with children is to make a Resurrection Garden. This consists of a large garden pot that can be transformed into a mini “garden” that symbolizes Calvary and Christ’s tomb using potting soil, rocks, moss, three homemade wood crosses, and more.

4. Sunday: The Resurrection of Our Lord

As we celebrate the glorious day on which Christ defeated death and saved us from our sins—the most consequential day in human history—we can enhance our celebration in a number of ways. One idea that may especially appeal to families is adding food to our Easter feasts that is rich in symbolism, such as Resurrection Rolls. These are made by stuffing crescent rolls with marshmallows, and when they are done baking, the marshmallow inside disappears, and you are left with a delicious “empty tomb.”

Adding candles to your Easter table is especially appropriate as we celebrate the light of Christ’s resurrected body. Singing traditional Easter hymns is another great way to revel in and truly celebrate the spirit of Easter.

Another idea is to make a traditional Easter wreath and hang it on your front door. The symbolism consists of (among other things) the wreath itself representing the crown of thorns, a purple ribbon representing royalty and the robe placed over Christ’s shoulders during His mock trial, a nail representing His crucifixion, grapes representing the blood He shed, and a lily representing the new life of the risen Christ.

Finally, in addition to attending an Easter morning worship service, it may be helpful to set aside some time to read the Bible’s account of the resurrection. The story of Jesus’ resurrection is told in Matthew 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-13, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-29. It is extremely encouraging to read the gospel accounts themselves, and Christians do well to ponder these glorious passages on Resurrection Sunday.

These are just a few ideas about how to enrich your Easter celebration among the multitude of traditions that have sprung up over the last two millennia since Jesus’ resurrection. No matter how you and your loved ones choose to commemorate Easter, the most important thing is to truly celebrate it in order to stir in our souls once again the hope that is in all of us as believers—that Jesus burst into our fallen world and redeemed it in the most astonishing of ways, conquering sin and death so that we might be forgiven our sin and reconciled to God the Father. It’s a message that our darkened world needs to hear now more than ever.

Thinking Biblically About Grief

by Worth Loving

April 5, 2022

A few months ago, one of my best friends moved away, and I was plunged into some of the deepest grief I have ever experienced. It sent me spiraling into a season of depression and provoked one of the deepest questionings of my Christian faith. At times, I cried out to God, pleading for an answer that would give me the peace and closure I needed to move on. At other times, I was filled with pride and arrogance, demanding an answer from God and refusing to trust Him again until I got one.

In the following paragraphs, I am going to be very open about my struggles because I believe that is what the church needs. For too long, we have kept inside what we should be sharing. In Galatians 6:2, Paul commands us to “bear one another’s burdens.” Most relationships in the church barely scratch the surface, either because we are too afraid to share with others or because we don’t know how to respond. My hope is that this article will help both those who are grieving and those who want to minister to others.

As I wrestled with my feelings, naturally I looked for others who had experienced something similar. I stumbled across C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed one day and decided to give it a read. I have read several of C.S. Lewis’ works in the past, most of which are either allegories or apologetics. A Grief Observed was very different, almost like a deeply personal journal that was not intended for public reading. Originally published under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk, Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after his dear wife Joy died of cancer. They were married for only four years before she passed away.

Now, I have certainly not experienced the death of my friend. Nonetheless, there is still incredible grief from his absence. Growing up as an only child, I always wanted a brother. The Lord most definitely filled that desire through my friend. For the past four years, we spent nearly every day together. And through my friend, I repeatedly experienced the unconditional love of God as he forgave me when I was wrong and saw past all my many faults. And now, suddenly, he is gone. I am thankful that we still have the ability to communicate and visit each other. But the fact is that my friend no longer lives close by, and things will never be the same. That void is often overwhelming.

As I read A Grief Observed, I found myself identifying with many of the feelings this giant of the faith experienced so many decades ago. At the start, Lewis addresses God’s apparent silence in our grief:

But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

Thankfully, these are only thoughts that crossed Lewis’ mind and not anything he actually came to believe. I know such thoughts have crossed my mind during the last few months, and I’m sure they have crossed yours as well during a time of grief. Later, Lewis acknowledges that grief is one of God’s methods to test our faith, to show us who or what our trust is really in:

God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.

Now, I admit, my suffering pales in comparison to that which so many others have experienced, for which I am very thankful. But I have often wondered why a good God would allow some of His choicest servants to experience such indescribable suffering. I have seen families lose loved ones in tragic car accidents. I have seen godly people endure excruciating pain from cancer. I have witnessed individuals forever scarred by years of abuse. In The Problem of Pain, Lewis describes our suffering not as punishment from God but rather as a loving act from our Sovereign Creator:

Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. We’re like blocks of stone out of which the Sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect. The suffering in the world is not the failure of God’s love for us; it is that love in action. For believe me, this world that seems to us so substantial, is no more than the shadowlands. Real life has not begun yet.

As I’ve stumbled through this grieving process, I did some research on how Christians deal with grief, looking for similarities to what I was experiencing. My research concluded that there is indeed a cycle of shock, denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance—all of which I have experienced in this process and which C.S. Lewis experienced as well. He described grief as “not a state but a process. Grief is like a winding road where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” He also goes into detail describing the stages of grief and how they repeat, manifesting themselves differently in every person:

For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often—will it be for always?—how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.

It’s also important to realize how grief can cloud our judgment. Sometimes, we are so overwhelmed that we can’t receive the help we really need. Lewis described it this way:

The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.

While C.S. Lewis experienced a deep and terrible questioning of his faith in his time of grief, similar to what I and many others have experienced, thankfully, Lewis had the hope of Heaven just as we do today:

Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.

I confess that I still don’t have all the answers that I want from God. I still don’t fully understand why He called my friend to move away, and I’m still not completely at peace with His plan. The life that we lived together was incredibly special, and the reality that this stage of life is over is very difficult for me to accept. But I have been reminded of three precious promises as I’ve grieved over the last few months:

  1. God loves me unconditionally despite my doubts and lack of peace.
  2. God’s ways are higher than mine. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
  3. I know God is close to those who have a broken heart. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

For five months, I prayed that my friend wouldn’t leave. I begged God every single day that He would allow him to stay. But that was not His plan. And then came the day I prayed would never come; it was not the answer I had prayed for, wanted, or understood. I was devastated, and I still am. I’m not sure when I will stop grieving. I still don’t understand, but I know that I have a loving heavenly Father who has plans so much more than I can imagine, holds my broken heart, and wants me to trust Him completely.

One of my favorite quotes from John Piper describes how to grieve well: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” That’s a choice we will all face at some point. We have only two options—trust God or lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6). This is certainly not the life I hoped would be. At times, I still weep deeply and continue to grieve, but I am desperately trying to trust God’s sovereign plan. Grieving is completely natural, but I want to do it well. I don’t want to waste this time of suffering and miss what God is trying to teach me. My prayer is that, like Job, I will submit to God’s will and “come forth as gold” (Job 13:15; 23:10).

Whatever trial you are facing today, know that God has a purpose for your pain beyond your understanding. Know that He holds your broken heart in the palm of His hand. Let Him use your trial to refine you and minister to others. Better days are ahead, if not here, most assuredly in Heaven where all crying, sorrow, and pain will be gone (Rev. 21:4). And then, we will clearly see the purpose of what today seems so mysterious.

Ukraine, Russia, and Who to Believe

by Arielle Del Turco , Joseph Backholm

April 4, 2022

Most people believe journalists will lie to them. According to Gallup, only 36 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the media and there are lots of reasons why.

Most recently, the legacy media has finally decided to admit it really was Hunter Biden’s laptop found in a pawnshop loaded with incriminating information, including incriminating information about Joe Biden, just before the 2020 election. When the media partnered with the Biden campaign to claim it was Russian disinformation, they weren’t telling the truth.

They also told the nation a high school kid from Kentucky, Nick Sandmann, was racist because they didn’t like the look on his face, they said border patrol was whipping Haitian immigrants on horseback when they weren’t, and described riots they were sympathetic to as “fiery but mostly peaceful protests.” Big media has earned every bit of skepticism they receive.

As a result, many have viewed coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine skeptically. More than one month since the start of the unprovoked invasion, Russia has been brutal. Russian troops have attacked hospitals, including maternity hospitals, residential areas and apartment buildings, and refugee evacuation routes. A bombing of a Ukrainian theater where civilians were sheltering is estimated to have killed 300 people. Overwhelming public evidence and intelligence sources led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to officially declare that Russia is committing war crimes.

It is in situations like these that mistrust of the media can go too far. Rather than express shock and sympathy, there is almost a temptation to explain away the legacy media’s narrative. Some of us have become so cynical we assume everything we are being told is false. If they tell us Russia is the bad guy, they must be the good guy. If they tell us Ukraine is an innocent victim of a ruthless dictator, they must be the ruthless dictator.

We saw something similar, but different, happen recently when right-wing pundit Dave Rubin announced, along with his same-sex partner, that they are expecting two babies through surrogacy. In the past, Rubin tended to align more with the Left but developed an appreciation for the dangers of wokeness and stood up to the Left’s attempts to silence speech and punish those they disagree with. Upon his announcement, many conservatives, including professing social conservatives at Prager University and Glenn Beck’s Blaze TV, were quick to congratulate Rubin, apparently out of personal affection. It’s one thing to wish Dave Rubin well in life despite choices we disagree with—it’s another thing to celebrate decisions and developments we know to be wrong because the person doing the wrong thing is someone we generally like.

Which leads to the larger point.

As Christians, we must evaluate the truthfulness of a claim or the goodness of an action without regard to tribal identification or our personal feelings about the people involved. This is what the Apostle Peter refers to as being soberminded. We often think of sobriety as the opposite of drunkenness, but alcohol is not the only thing that can impair our mental capacity. Our emotions can be just as intoxicating. Peter warned us about the danger of emotional intoxication when he instructed us to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Mental intoxication makes it easy for others to deceive us and makes it easy for us to deceive ourselves.

Sober-mindedness is an underrated yet important qualification for leadership in the church (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 2:2). Someone who determines what is true based on how they feel is poorly equipped to lead people, especially the people of God.  

In other contexts, we immediately recognize the folly of focusing more on the messenger than the message. One common, and appropriate, criticism of Critical Race Theory (CRT) is that it calls us to consider someone’s racial identity before we consider the merits of their arguments. CRT discounts the perspectives of white people because they are white and it elevates the perspectives of non-white people based on the belief that lived experience gives non-white people a prioritized perspective.

This is both an irrational and unbiblical way of evaluating information. It goes without saying that people of all skin pigmentations are capable of being right and wrong and it is their ability to think and reason that determines their credibility, not their skin color. In the same way, our personal feelings towards something must not sway an objective assessment of truth and reality. Of course, it’s possible we might grow to dislike people we know to be untrustworthy, but it will always be true that those we love can say something false just as someone we dislike can say something true. The truth is the truth, even if someone who has lied in the past says it. These days, we tend to focus on the identity of the people involved more than the claims themselves to our own demise.

All this is important to keep in mind as we consume information and take in perspectives.

Yes, the mainstream, legacy media has said a lot of things that weren’t true. A lot. But that does not mean everything they say is false. We should not allow our personal frustration with someone’s willingness to misrepresent the truth prevent us from always looking for the truth. It is critical that we approach the situation of Ukraine with sober-mindedness and discernment. We must avoid the trap of calling good evil and evil good based on distrust of the media.

If we find ourselves trying to ignore information we might otherwise believe because of who it would force us to agree with, we may be more focused on fighting personal or partisan battles than trying to find the truth. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Democrats (and Some Republicans) Are Pushing to Fully Legitimize Marijuana

by Family Research Council

March 31, 2022

The movement to legalize the recreational use of marijuana has seen astonishing success in the U.S. over the last decade. After voters in Colorado approved a ballot initiative to legalize its recreational use in 2012, 17 other states, plus Washington, D.C. and Guam, followed suit and legalized recreational pot over the next nine years.

The head-spinning sea change that has occurred in how our culture views marijuana over a relatively short period of time is hard to fathom. Not long ago, smoking pot was largely seen as a vice—and an illegal one—that was mostly indulged by rebellious teenagers and west coast hippies. Now, United States senators and congressman passionately advocate for the full legalization of marijuana from the Senate and House floors with straight faces.

While there are a multitude of reasons why this has happened, the indisputable fact is that marijuana has been federally registered as a Schedule 1 drug (alongside heroin and LSD) since the 1970s for a simple reason: it contains high levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a powerful psychoactive chemical that is highly addictive, has high potential for abuse, and can cause an array of negative psychotropic effects including anxiety, delusions, hallucinations, panic, paranoia, and psychosis. What’s more, the concentration of THC in marijuana has increased three-fold from 1995-2014, exponentially increasing the risks of widespread addiction, abuse, and detrimental health effects.

Despite the clear dangers that marijuana poses to public health, Democrats in the House have brought forward the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2021 (H.R. 3617) for a vote this Friday. This bill would de-schedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, making it fully legal at the federal level. It also includes provisions to dramatically increase financial investments into the marijuana industry, including tax incentives for marijuana businesses and legalizing advertisements for marijuana products, making it easier for these businesses to manufacture high-potency and kid-friendly products. While many of the bill’s co-sponsors are Democrats, they aren’t its exclusive supporters. And Republicans have increasingly been supporting the legitimization of marijuana in recent years. This is problematic.

De-scheduling the drug is bad enough, but the MORE Act contains almost no public health guardrails or regulations. This will open the door for international drug cartels—who already use marijuana legalization as a cover for their illicit activities—to have increased money laundering access.

At a time when the opioid epidemic and other illicit drugs continue to ravage our communities, the last thing we need is the legalization of more recreational drugs. Contact your congressmen and urge them to vote against the MORE Act ahead of tomorrow’s vote in the House.

5 Ways to Draw a Loved One Back to Christ

by Dan Hart

March 31, 2022

In March of last year, a Gallup poll revealed that for the first time in America’s history, church membership had fallen below a majority. Survey data shows that since the 1970s, “Americans [who] said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque” has been dropping steadily, from around 70 percent in 1975 to 47 percent today.

This data fits with the experiences of many believers who have adult children, siblings, parents, or friends who were once churchgoers but have now fallen away and are living a fully secular life apart from God. For followers of Christ, it can be a gut-wrenching and painful experience to watch a loved one publicly turn away from their faith or renounce what we believe is the ultimate source of truth, human fulfillment, and flourishing on earth.

But we also know that life is full of suffering and disappointment. The trials of earthly life can feel overwhelming for everyone, believers included. It’s safe to say that we have all had moments in our lives when we have doubted God’s existence, or at least doubted His goodness or questioned His wisdom. We also know the powerful allure that the world offers us in its material things, sinful pleasures, and idolatrous philosophies that draw us away from God. Therefore, we must have empathy for those in our spheres who struggle with doubt. We also must think biblically about those who profess to no longer believe. After all, if it weren’t for God’s grace, none of us would have any faith at all (Eph. 2:8-10).

When we first learn about a loved one turning away from the Christian life, it can be tempting to react quickly and strongly, confronting the person with theological, intellectual, and what may seem to us commonsense reasons for why they are making the wrong decision. But as experience will tell us, this rarely works and often only increases tension and resentment. Instead, our ardent desire for our loved one to return to the faith must be seasoned with patience, patience, and more patience.

As we move forward in the hope that God will draw our loved one back to Himself in a manner according to His will and in His own good time, here are a few suggestions on ways we can reflect Christ’s love to our struggling loved ones.

1. Focus On the Relationship First

Instead of focusing on your loved one’s lack of faith, make a sincere, directed effort toward building your relationship with them on a human level. In your conversations, focus on discussing day to day activities, such as jobs, children, family matters, illnesses, shared interests, and the like. When possible, make a concerted effort to be there for your loved one at a moment’s notice, whether it be if they are sick and need errands to be run, need a last-minute babysitter, or just need someone to talk to during a time of difficulty. If faith-related topics come up, seek to listen well, ask good questions, and don’t try to win an argument.

In this way, you will build trust with your loved one, showing them that you care for their whole person no matter what their faith status is and no matter what season of life they are in.

2. Be Vulnerable

Being able to relate to your loved one even when they have abandoned the faith that you hold so dear is extremely important. The best way to do this is to let your guard down in your conversations with them and be as vulnerable as possible. If they bring up faith-related questions and show an interest in discussing them, share your own faith journey story from the very beginning without omitting any embarrassing details. Share any struggles you have had over the years in your relationship with Christ and the theological questions and Scripture passages that you continually wrestle with. Share your personal faults, weaknesses, and familial wounds and how they have affected your faith journey.

The more you share about your own personal struggles as a believer and the more honest and vulnerable you are, the more likely it is that your doubting loved one will make a connection with something you say—however small of a detail it may be—and be able to relate it to their own experience. Who knows—some seemingly insignificant anecdote you share may just be the mustard seed that plants itself in your loved one’s soul that will one day become a beautiful tree of renewed faith.

3. Share Life’s Beauty

As believers, we know that everything that is beautiful on earth is ultimately a reflection of God. This underscores the importance of talking with your loved one about the beautiful things in your life that you are passionate about. Discuss the ins and outs of the novel or biography you are currently reading. Share why you loved a particular movie or TV show that was excellently acted and produced and describe how it edified your soul. Illustrate how the latest concert you attended electrified you. When your loved one shares their own experiences and passions, listen attentively and connect with them over shared interests.

By keeping your discussions focused on passions and hobbies, the arts, and the multitude of other beautiful things that fill the earth, you can connect with your loved one in a deep yet unthreatening way that does not directly touch on faith. Even so, your conversation still has the potential to nudge your loved one a little closer to the Creator of all that is beautiful.

4. Live Your Life as a Witness

As previously mentioned, directly confronting your loved one about their doubts regarding faith is generally not advisable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be an active witness of faith to them. How? By living a life of virtue fueled by your faith, which will be difficult for your loved one to ignore.

There are few things on earth more beautiful than a believer living an authentically free life to the fullest, being a visible sign of God’s presence on earth by living out the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Christians like this have a palpable sense of joy and peace that radiates from their soul, and which anyone, believer or not, can’t help but notice. Give your loved one the freedom to recommit to the faith through the witness of your own life.

5. Fast and Pray

There is a storied tradition throughout the entirety of Scripture on the importance and effectiveness of fasting for a particular intention. When we combine this with prayer, it is a potent means of calling on the Lord for the conversion of a loved one. As Christ Himself said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mark 11:24). Here are a few themes we can meditate on as we pray for our loved ones to return to the fold of faith.

  • Hope. Who can forget the incredible true story of Saint Augustine and the faith of his mother Monica? The early life of the man who many consider to be the greatest early church father was marked by sin and a rejection of the Christianity that his mother Monica tried to instill in him as a child (as described in his book Confessions). He embarked on a decade-long affair with a woman he never married, fathered a son with her, and spent years believing in astrology and Gnosticism. Throughout those agonizing 30 years of witnessing her son away from the faith, Monica never lost hope and continually believed and prayed for her son’s conversion. Sure enough, Augustine underwent a monumental conversion to Christianity and went on to become one of the most beloved bishops, thinkers, and writers in church history.
  • Surrender. As hard as it is to let go of our own will when it comes to our desire for our loved one to return to the faith, that is exactly what we must ultimately do—let go. Time and time again, Scripture tells us to humble ourselves and surrender all things to His will. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we entrust our lost loved one in prayer to the Divine Shepherd, we will drive out anxiousness about their fate and bring peace to our souls.
  • The Prodigal Son. Perhaps the most beautiful and moving parable in all of Scripture is Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32). Part of the reason why it is so moving is that it is continually relatable and applicable to our lives as believers, for we know that whenever we sin, Christ welcomes us back with open arms time and time again when we beg for His forgiveness, for His mercy never ceases. As we meditate on this parable, let us picture our lost loved ones returning to our Savior, His arms spread open on the Cross, bleeding for their restoration with Him, and being washed in the blood of the Lamb’s embrace.

Anticipating Gen Z

by George Barna

March 11, 2022

Millennials, the generation born between 1984 and 2002, are a very significant force in American culture. Let’s consider the tail end of the Millennial generation, those aged 18 to 24. That segment represents the latter third of the generation, comprising roughly 30 million individuals.

Based on historical tracking, this segment represents a bridge between their generation and the succeeding generation (widely known as Gen Z). Such a bridge group is often a hybrid, torn between the norms of their own generation and the new thoughts and ways of the upcoming group. As such, they give us both a helpful guide to what is coming as well as hints as to how to have a positive impact on their development.

Data from the American Worldview Inventory, conducted annually by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, shows that this “bridge” segment is shockingly distant from biblical orthodoxy in its beliefs and practices. Almost six out of 10 of them describe their faith as Christian (58 percent—alarmingly low in itself), yet less than two percent of bridgers have a biblical worldview. Bridgers who qualify as Don’ts (i.e., don’t know, don’t care, or don’t believe that God exists) outnumber born-again Christians by a two-to-one margin (31 to 16 percent).

We might consider what it will take to draw bridgers—and Gen Z—closer to a worldview that is consistent with Scripture. To do so, let’s consider three types of measures: basic Christianity, applied biblical principles, and life metrics.

Basic Biblical Truths

People are unlikely to develop a biblical understanding of life until they can piece together some of the foundational principles God has provided to us. As you consider how to dialogue with young adults and teenagers about life, keep in mind that most of them do not have a grasp of some of the most basic biblical principles and teachings.

The Definition of God. Less than four out of 10 bridgers believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect, and just Creator of the universe who rules that universe today. Nearly as many of them doubt or reject His existence. Without belief in a holy, omniscient, and omnipotent creator, life is a free-for-all, and the world revolves around our personal thoughts and feelings.

Creation Narrative. Bridgers are more likely to believe in chance and randomness than in the authority and creative yet orderly power of God. Only about four out of 10 embrace the biblical account of creation as valid. If it is not God’s universe, and He does not have control of it, then mankind has no obligation to believe in, much less obey Him.

Basis of Truth. Just three out of 10 bridgers contend that God Himself is the foundation of truth. Six out of every 10 don’t believe in absolute moral truth. Bridgers are most likely to believe that they have the capacity and responsibility to determine truth, which has become the basis of the growing levels of current conflict and confusion in our nation.

The Bible. Less than three out of 10 bridgers accept the Bible as the true and accurate words of God and therefore authoritative and relevant to how we live. Without Scripture as our touchstone for understanding, truth, purpose, and morality, we have no reliable guidance and boundaries for life.

Purpose of Life. Most bridgers contend that the ultimate purpose of life is happiness and pleasure. Only one out of every six believes we exist to know, love, and serve God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul. The result is selfishness and pride. Any type of community, be it a nation, family, church, or government, cannot be sustained when everyone only looks out for themselves.

Applied Biblical Truths

A benefit of God’s truths and principles is that they are practical and designed to be implemented in our lives. Conversely, rejecting those norms results in accepting and applying deficient and detrimental alternatives, resulting in an unsatisfying and unfulfilled life.

Commitment. Humans are spiritual beings made for spiritual purposes. Yet, a minority of bridgers claim to be deeply committed to practicing their faith—and a significant share of the religious beliefs and practices they embrace are not drawn from biblical Christianity. The insight is that they devote little, if any, time and energy to the Christian faith.

Marriage. A mere one out of every five bridgers believes the marriage of one man to one woman is God’s creation design for all cultures. In essence, bridgers argue that love is a feeling, and marriage is an option whose contours we may define. They have little understanding and appreciation of the nature and role of the family or human sexuality in God’s universe, or the implications of substituting human concepts of human roles for God’s perfect and purposeful design.

Morality. Most bridgers accept as morally legitimate behaviors God defines as unacceptable (e.g., lying, cheating, stealing, sexual experiences outside of marriage, divorce, abortion, drunkenness). Again, they calculate morality based on a fluid formula incorporating circumstances, personal feelings, and outcomes. Instead, God’s righteousness is based upon known and unchanging standards that reflect His character and our best interests.

Salvation. Only one-sixth of the 18-to-24s believe that they will experience eternity in the presence of God solely as a result of confessing their sins and asking Jesus Christ to save them. Almost none of the bridgers believe they will experience Hell. Most of them either believe they will simply cease to exist, be reincarnated, or experience Heaven for any of a variety of reasons other than being forgiven and born again through Christ. American Christians and churches have done a sub-par job of leading sinners to Christ and applying an effective discipleship process.

Evaluating Life

In my business (social research), we live by the expression “you get what you measure.” What do bridgers measure to evaluate their life? As reflected in the minuscule two percent who have a biblical worldview, they do not embrace the measures indicated by Scripture.

Defining success. Less than one out of every 10 bridgers defines success in life as “consistent obedience to God.” Instead, they rely on measures such as wealth, happiness, accomplishments, fame, and comfort level. Shifting their metrics to be based upon God’s expectations rather than their feelings and reputation will make all the difference.

Avoiding sin. Less than half of bridgers say that they make a conscious effort to avoid sinning because they know it breaks God’s heart. In fact, millions of these young adults do not believe that “sin” exists. Changing their yardstick of righteousness from how they feel about themselves to how robustly they honor God and adhere to His guidelines would not only change their lives but also help to transform the world.

Intentional Christianity. About six out of 10 bridgers believe that all faiths are of equal value, so one’s faith of choice doesn’t matter. This corresponds with their widespread belief that there is no absolute moral or spiritual truth. Helping bridgers to understand that God’s way is the only way is offensive to this niche of young people who argue for inclusiveness and tolerance of all points of view. Effectively explaining that there are many roads that lead to destruction but just one path that leads to real life is an insight that millions of Americans desperately need to adopt.

Bless the Bridgers

God’s plan for us is like a complex puzzle in which every piece has just one proper location and brings beauty and greater clarity to the ultimate puzzle. Rejecting or replacing any piece ruins the perfection of the puzzle and robs us of the joy of experiencing it in its fullness.

As you have opportunities to question the choices bridgers make and discuss biblical alternatives to their choices, you have the privilege of blessing them with insights God has given to you and from which you and others have benefitted. Exchanges with young adults can be frustrating, confusing, and even produce self-doubt, but stay the course of God’s ways and allow the Holy Spirit to lead the way.

Real Men Don’t Bomb Women and Children. They Protect Them.

by Arielle Del Turco

March 10, 2022

Throughout his career, Russian President Vladimir Putin has cultivated the image of a “strong man,” in both the political and physical sense. He has projected a powerful masculine image for himself while reasserting Russian influence on the world stage.

Numerous photos published by the Kremlin show a shirtless Putin doing stereotypically manly outdoorsy things. Images of him hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and submerging himself in icy waters for the Orthodox observance of the Epiphany are accompanied by the Russian state media’s glowing reports of how physically fit the president is. Sure, Putin knows international audiences poke fun at these stunts, but he says he sees “no need to hide.”

Yet, with Putin’s unprovoked invasion into peaceful neighboring Ukraine, the humor of Putin’s self-made macho image is fading. Writing for WORLD, Andrew Walker points out, “Putin’s masculinity is one of cavalier ruthlessness and vainglory—one using raw strength to self-aggrandize, bully, destroy, denigrate, and suppress.”

Standing in stark contrast to the Russian president’s shirtless wilderness photoshoots is comedy actor turned politician, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Before the Russian invasion, Zelensky was a relatively unknown figure on the world stage. But now, he has risen to the task of being a wartime leader with determination, good humor, and fearlessness. Standing in the dark streets of Kyiv as the invasion was underway, Zelensky recorded a video on his smartphone reassuring his people and warning his adversaries that “We are here.”

The risks to his own life are great, but thus far, Zelensky has refused to leave. In an address from his office, he said, “I stay in Kyiv. On Bankova Street. I’m not hiding. And I’m not afraid of anyone. As much as it takes to win this Patriotic War of ours.” This is a strength and courage that Putin’s vacation pics can’t replicate.

Zelensky’s unwavering and passionate communications to his fellow Ukrainians and the outside world have earned him countless comparisons to Winston Churchill. His leadership has rallied Ukrainians to fight back against the Russian onslaught and stirred the hearts of world leaders to act. Neither Zelensky’s politics nor his lifestyle are a perfect model of masculinity. Yet, as he leads his country’s struggle to fight back against one of the most powerful militaries on earth, people around the world are drawn to his powerful example of what masculinity can look like when channeled in the right direction. He has shown he is willing to sacrifice his life for the good of his people and country after being offered an easy way out.

Instead of modeling sacrificial leadership, Putin chose to put the lives of his troops on the line—for some, perhaps even unknowingly—to assault a neighboring sovereign country without a legitimate cause. At home, Putin’s state media obscures the truth about the war he started in Ukraine, and authorities are severely cracking down on the Russians who are brave enough to protest it.

Meanwhile, Russian forces are ruthlessly targeting residential areas for missile attacks. Over the weekend, Russian forces fired mortar shells toward a bridge civilians were using to flee. Four people died, including an eight-year-old child. That’s what Putin is doing to his own soldiers and the innocent people of Ukraine. This is not masculine strength—it’s cruelty.

While Putin’s military indiscriminately harms women and children, Ukraine is making provisions for their safety. Ukraine instituted a policy that allows women and children to flee across the border but expects men to stay and fight. Extra concern for women and children will be all the more important as some fear increased vulnerability for women in the wake of Russia’s invasion and reports of abuses by Russian soldiers.

Of course, many Ukrainian women have been courageously volunteering to fight. Grandmas, members of parliament, teachers, and many others have taken up arms to defend Ukraine. Even so, the Ukrainian government isn’t placing the bulk of the burden to fight onto women, and that is appropriate. A culture expecting men to protect and defend women and children is an impactful display of healthy masculinity.

Zelensky, like the Ukrainian people, has inspired the world with unexpected bravery and resolve in the face of a seemingly impossible situation. In doing so, he provides a clear alternative to Putin’s faux, destructive masculinity. Real men don’t bomb women and children. They protect them.

Ukrainian Athletes Are Teaching the World a Lesson in Valor

by Mary Szoch

March 9, 2022

As Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin continues to wage war on Ukraine in the weeks immediately following the Olympics, sports stories continue to make international headlines. Ahead of and during the Beijing Winter Olympics, the terrible conditions for Olympic athletes dominated the news, while the Uyghur genocide was a second tier news story.  But now, it is the defense of Ukraine’s freedom that has placed athletics and athletes in the spotlight.

Last week, World Taekwondo pulled all future events from Russia. It also stripped Vladimir Putin of his honorary black belt in recognition that he is, as Ukrainian President Zelensky put it, behaving “like a beast.” Putin’s status as honorary president of the International Judo Federation (IJF) and the European Judo Union has been revoked, and he is no longer the recipient of the International Swimming Federation (FINA)’s highest honor.

In stunning displays of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, the National Hockey League announced they would suspend business partnerships with Russia; the Union Cycliste Internationale has banned Russian and Belarusian teams from competing; the World Curling Federation has removed the 2022 European Curling Championships from Russia; FIFA has suspended Russia from the World Cup; and multiple Russian athletes have voiced their support for Ukraine at great risk to themselves. Even the International Olympic Committee, which did not pull the 2022 Olympics out of China despite the ongoing genocide in that country, issued a recommendation that international sports federations not invite or allow Russian or Belarusian athletes to participate in international competitions.

But the most inspiring stories of all have been the Ukrainian athletes who have joined the fight for their homeland. The Ukrainian men’s fencing team withdrew from a World Cup event in Egypt, where they were set to face Russia. Wearing their national colors, the team announced, “Today, Ukrainian fencing team refused to fence team event against Russian Federation. This is our protest against the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Thank you for all international fencers for supporting Ukrainians in the world. Russia, stop war in Ukraine.” Instead of fencing, the team planned to return home and defend their country.

Ukrainian tennis star Sergiy Stakhovsky was vacationing with his wife and three children in Dubai when he heard the news of Russia’s invasion. He, too, decided to return home and defend his country. “I was born here, my grandparents are buried here, and I would like to have a history to tell to my kids,” he said. “Nobody here wants Russia to free them, they have freedom and democracy … and Russia wants to bring despair and poverty.” His three children, all under seven, believe he is at a tennis tournament.

Ukrainian soccer coach Yuriy Vernydub left at the height of his career to fight for his country. “My son called me at 4:30 am and he told me the Russians attacked us. I knew then that I would return to Ukraine to fight,” he said. “Football is my life. I hope this war won’t last for long. We will win, and I will go back to my beloved work.”

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, and his brother, Wladimir, are former boxing champions who are ready to fend off Russian attacks. Waldimir commented, “I am Ukrainian, and I am a fighter…our strongest force is the will and desire to live in a free country.”

And the Klitschko brothers aren’t the only prizefighters bearing different arms. Champion boxers Vasily Lomachenko and Oleksander Usyki have returned to defend their homeland as well. When asked about his decision to fight, Ukrainian heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyki said, “My soul belongs to the Lord and my body and my honor belong to my country, to my family. So there is no fear, absolutely no fear. There’s just bafflement—how could this be in the 21st century?”

Across the country, Ukrainians—including three athletes, Vitalii Sapylo, Dmytro Martynenko, and Yevhen Malyshev—are willingly laying down their lives for their country to remain independent. These men and women are heroes—dying so that others may live free. 

One of the reasons sports are good is because they have the ability to teach life lessons. They teach men and women to work hard, be the best they can be, work as a team, be mentally tough and courageous, and die to self for a greater good.

As Ukraine continues to struggle to maintain its independence, Ukrainian athletes are proving they have learned much more from sports than how to win gold medals. It is time for the rest of the world to learn a few lessons from Ukrainians.

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