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By Colson Center

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 Sep 3, 2020

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Join John Stonestreet for a daily dose of sanity—applying a Christian worldview to culture, politics, movies, and more. And be a part of God's work restoring all things.

Episode Date
Why Progressive Christianity is “Another Gospel?”
04:57

According to recent survey, nearly a third of self-described evangelicals do not believe that Jesus Christ is truly God. Arianism, as it turns out, is a heresy that plagues multiple generations of the Church, not just the one of the fourth century.

Well, over and over the Church has, in various times and ways, ruled that some beliefs are not acceptable alternatives within Christianity. Adherents are, in fact, outsiders to the faith. For example, nearly 100 years ago, in a book entitled Christianity and Liberalism, Presbyterian scholar J. Gresham Machen argued, in an extensive scholarly treatment, that liberal Christianity was not a version of the one, true faith handed down once and for all to the saints. Liberalism was, he argued, a completely different religion from Christianity.

The Liberal Christianity of Machen’s day focused on a social-reform agenda, fueled by feelings and informed by secular thought, barely draped in religious language. The God it preached was not sovereign over creation and providential over the affairs of men; did not really come in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, who did not really perform miracles or physically rise from the dead. The Bible was not really the fundamental and decisive revelation of God, nor the final authoritative source for morality, but must be understood according to our evolving scientific knowledge and political agendas.

Today, there is also an effort to update Christianity, to adapt and re-form it according to the spirit of the age. From church pulpits to the Christian blogosphere, from once-reliable Christian publishing houses to the campuses of Christian colleges that are Christian in name only, from beautiful and historic churches decorated with gay pride flags and pastored by ordained ministers who “bless” abortion clinics to the “exvangelicals” who become self-styled spokespersons for “what Jesus would really say and do,” there is, in our day too, a Christianity that is no Christianity at all.

Devoid of the truth claims and moral teachings of historic Christianity, what is today called “progressive Christianity” is not another side of the same coin. It is a different religion founded on a different worldview.

Machen’s crucial insights were presented in a largely academic book written for a largely academic audience. Since the progressive Christianity of our day is far more populist than the liberalism of his, I am pleased that a new book, theologically robust and very accessible, is now available to address the ideas deceiving so many Christians. The book is titled Another Gospel: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity.

Alisa Childers grew up in the church and eventually became a member of the very successful Christian pop group “Zoe Girl.” Despite that pedigree, as she told my colleague Shane Morris on his Upstream podcast, she was completely unprepared when she learned her pastor was a skeptic, and confronted her with questions and counterclaims about the reliability of Scripture, the morality of the atonement, whether God answers prayer, or cares about our sexual choices, or even exists.

Flailing in doubt, Childers went to work to find answers, studying Scripture, church history, great apologists for the Christian faith (past and present), and critiques of the claims of progressivism. In the process, she found that her beliefs had rock-solid foundations, and answers to the toughest questions.

A “progressive Christianity” that denies the divinity of Christ, treats His incarnation and resurrection from the dead as myths, and reimagines human nature away from God’s created design and according to sexual libertinism isn’t just another take on the faith. It’s another gospel entirely.

Childers’ book Another Gospel is an incredibly valuable resource. Every week it seems, I talk with pastors, youth pastors, parents, and grandparents watching the next generation buy into a false gospel and questioning the historic truth claims of Christianity. Using the framework of Childers' story, Another Gospel provides a thorough, rigorous, and entirely readable take-down of progressive Christianity, and a reliable introduction to the non-negotiables of the Christian faith.

During October, we’ll send you a copy of that book, “Another Gospel,” with your gift of any amount to BreakPoint and the Colson Center. Come to BreakPoint.org to get your copy.

This Breakpoint was originally aired on October 9th, 2020

Oct 20, 2020
Religious Freedom Isn’t Hypothetical, Federal Judge Tells Washington State
04:56

Shortly after her birth in September 2019, a baby girl, identified in Idaho court records as “H.V.,” was removed from parental custody. The state asked the girl’s great-grandparents, the Blaises, to consider caring for her. The Blaises agreed and began the process of becoming licensed foster-care providers in the state of Washington, where they live.

In Washington, becoming a foster parent requires more than proving financial capacity and the ability to provide emotional support. It requires agreement with the state on what it means to care for foster children “developing, discovering, or identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.” So, in the process of becoming licensed to care for their own great-granddaughter, the Blaises were asked to react to hypotheticals such as “what if H.V. wanted to undergo hormone therapy to change her sexual appearance,” or “wanted to dress like a boy and be called by a boy's name.” Again, remember H. V. is one-year-old.

The Blaises are devout Seventh-Day Adventists. They told the licenser that “their Christian faith obliges them to love and support all people,” especially “children who feel isolated or uncomfortable,” but in the “unlikely event H.V. may develop gender dysphoria . . . would provide her with loving, medically and therapeutically appropriate care that is consistent with both then-accepted medical principles and (their) beliefs as Seventh-day Adventists and Christians.” Remember, this is a hypothetical. And, remember, H.V. is one, and in need of a family.

Expressing alarm, the state licenser told the Blaises their application would likely be denied since “their responses conflicted with the Department's policy to support LGBTQ+ children.” Again, no one knows if H.V. will identify as LGBTQ+.

Thankfully, last week, federal court judge Salvador Mendoza, an Obama appointee, ruled in the Blaises favor, effectively blocking the state from automatically banning those with religiously based objections to department policy from becoming foster parents.

The department’s policies, wrote Mendoza, only burdens “potential caregivers with sincere religious beliefs,” since those with religious beliefs are likely to object to the policy.  Even more, these policies probably “favor certain secular viewpoints over certain religious viewpoints,” which is also a violation of religious liberties. Even giving the licensors the freedom to ask additional questions, suggested Mendoza, could “preclude people with certain religious beliefs from participating in foster care.”

Judge Mendoza’s ruling was not only strong, it clarified how the state is expected to handle the religious freedom of its citizens. While not rejecting the state’s interests when it comes to LGBTQ kids, regulations must be applied in a neutral manner. In this case, clearly, they were not. As Mendoza put it, “The regulations and policies disproportionately exclude persons who observe certain religious faiths from qualifying as foster parents based solely on speculative future conduct.”

Mendoza’s emphasis on the lack of neutrality relies on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Employment Division v. Smith. Washington State was required to prove that its regulations not only served a compelling state interest, but that they did so in the least intrusive means possible. Obviously, in this case, they did not.

Of course, if their past behavior and disdain for religious freedom (especially in the Baronelle Stutzman case) is any indication, the state of Washington will likely appeal this ruling. Even if upheld, Washington may try to find a bureaucratic way to deny the Blaises a foster care license. After all, government officials so easily “alarmed” about religious belief tend to be a vindictive bunch. Just ask Colorado cake designer Jack Philips.

By the way, Washington’s foster care system has been described as “dysfunctional,” and its difficulties retaining qualified foster parents are well-documented. Turning away people whose faith offends the state, when their faith is what motivates them to provide care for needy children in the first place, makes no sense. Turning them away based on the speculative future conduct of both the parent and the child makes even less sense.

Children have long been victims of the sexual revolution. Thankfully, Judge Mendoza refused to victimize little H.V.

Oct 19, 2020
Restoring Order With Divided Hearts of America
23:57

Ideas have consequences that impact humans. Ideas either support God’s design or stand opposed. Ben and Kirsten Watson are passionate to push to unite our culture under God's design.

The Watsons' latest
Divided Hearts of America interviews influential scientists, politicians, and social influencers. The pair direct viewers through an important conversation dealing with the effects of Abortion on the legal, social, and racial fabrics of society.

In the Break Point Podcast this week John pushes Ben to take us into the heart behind the film. The pair discuss the importance of acknowledging the effects downstream when social structures are altered from God’s design.

Oct 19, 2020
What We Learned from the Amy Coney Barrett Hearing
51:59

Can you remember a time when a Supreme Court nomination hearing wasn't a blood sport? How has approving the nomination of a Supreme Court justice become such a partisan affair? John Stonestreet and Shane Morris provide their insights--as well as their thoughts on Merriam-Webster changing the definition of "preference" within 24 hours of the bogus dust-up over whether or not people choose their orientation.

Also on today's episode: A conservative Christian and a liberal question have a civil discussion about God and LGBTQs. But at what point does liberal Christianity cease to be Christian at all? And why does the scientific establishment hate, just hate, Intelligent Design theory?

John and Shane wrap up the episode with their recommendations of the week: Trevin Wax's new book, Rethink Yourself, and the Colson Center's next Short Course: "How Four Christians from History Confronted Cultural Chaos"

Resources:

Oct 16, 2020
Intelligent Design Passes Peer Review
05:02

In his book The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins defined biology as “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Though our generation’s arch-atheist recognizes the tendency of human intuition to attribute things wonderful and complex to the work of a designer, he goes on to argue that life is not designed at all. His prior commitment to a worldview that understands the universe to be the product of eons of accidents and natural selection only imitates design is reflected in the book’s title: the blind watchmaker.

For a long time now, the scientific establishment has shared that assumption. In classrooms and peer-reviewed journals, only naturalistic explanations for life are allowed. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences open admits this presumption, insisting that “creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science.” Of course, that assumption is itself is not testable by the methods of science.

But what if the claims of design are testable? What if our intuition that paramecia and porpoises and people are too exquisitely complex to have arisen by mindless, purposeless forces of nature could be expressed in, say, mathematical terms?

The authors of a groundbreaking new paper in the Journal of Theoretical Biology argue precisely this. In it, Steinar Thorvaldsen of Norway’s University of Tromsø and Ola Hössjer of Stockholm University ask a simple question: Can we detect “fine-tuning” in biology as we can in physics? In other words, do the chemistry and construction of living things give Darwinian evolution any “wiggle room” for mistakes and do-overs, or are they precise? Will they, like a puzzle piece, only fit in one place, one way?   

Employing a lot of math, math too complicated for me to understand or articulate, the authors answer the question. Their use and definition of “fine-tuning” will sound familiar to anyone familiar with the language and work of the intelligent design movement. Something in biology can be described as “fine-tuned,” they say, if it is “unlikely to have occurred by chance” and if it conforms to “an independent or detached specification.”

As an article over at Evolution News points out, this is nothing other than what ID theorist William Dembski has called “specified complexity.” In fact, the authors of the paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology even cite Dembski by name. As if that weren’t risky enough, they also invoke biochemist Michael Behe’s concept of “irreducible complexity” as a measure of the fine-tuning in life, credit him by name, and mentioned other Intelligent Design notables Douglas Axe and Stephen Meyer.

These Scandinavian scientists offer, for the first time, a statistical framework for determining whether certain features in living things are fine-tuned or were “evolve-able.” Using this method, they demonstrate how functional proteins, cellular networks, and the biochemical machines found in cells exhibit evidence of “design.” 

“Fine-tuning,” the authors say, “is a clear feature of biological systems. Indeed, fine-tuning is even more extreme in biological systems than in inorganic systems.” And, in a shot over establishment’s bow, they say bluntly: “It is detectable within the realm of scientific methodology.”

Not only were their arguments compelling enough to be published in a major scientific journal, it challenges the long-held assumptions that design cannot be tested using scientific methods. Of course, the real reason design is so controversial within the scientific establishment is because of a deeply embedded and unscientific pre-commitment to the idea that every effect in nature must be explained by causes within nature. As expected, under pressure from critics who were unhappy about the fact this paper was published, the Journal of Theoretical Biology issued a rebuttal, (and a weak one at that), to Thorvaldsen’s and Hössjer’s paper.

Of course, that’s a sign of the vulnerability of materialism, which is most vulnerable when scientists arrive at the edges of nature and find it pointing beyond itself. Those committed to fine tuning out the ever-increasing evidence of the world’s fine tuning will demand that papers like this never make it past peer review. Those willing to follow the evidence where it leads will find themselves in a small but growing company of scientists who find their observations are confirming their intuitions.

Oct 16, 2020
What We Cannot Know unless We Know the Bible
04:50

Once “Harry Potter” author J. K. Rowling became persona non grata over her stance on the transgender issue, progressive writers are left with only one literary reference: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Even before Amy Coney Barrett was picked to replace Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, opinion writers compared her to the misogynistic leaders in Atwood’s dystopia because of her views on abortion. Not a one of these opinion pieces references any book predating the 1980s.

The Great Books, argues Luther Ray Abel, have been largely abandoned. And, our culture-wide unfamiliarity with the great books can be directly attributed it our culture-wide unfamiliarity with the Good Book. An undergrad from a small liberal-arts school, Abel is consistently surprised that his peers do not know even the best-known accounts in the Bible. “When a class must stop at almost every biblical reference in the poetry of Emily Dickinson—so that a student or the professor can explain who John the Baptist was or why the Book of Revelation is kind of a big deal—the quality and pace of instruction decline.”

The Bible, of course, looms large in Western literature. Augustine, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Melville, Mark Twain, and even (ironically) Margaret Atwood allude to the Bible in their metaphors, turns of phrase, and portrayals of the human condition. In fact, the Bible is like a key that unlocks many of these works. To read and understand them requires some basic knowledge of the Bible.

In fact, the English language itself has been significantly shaped by Holy Scripture. Several years back, Anglican minister Glen Scrivener delivered an incredible spoken-word poem on YouTube to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. In it, Scrivener highlighted the many phrases owed to that historic translation, such as, “A law unto themselves,” “A man after his own heart,” “A thorn in the flesh,” “All things to all men,” “Eat, drink, and be merry,” “An eye for an eye,” and “By the skin of my teeth.” These familiar expressions, used countless times by authors, poets, politicians, leaders, and story tellers of various kinds, are Biblical expressions.

Think of the references to biblical stories and concepts still common to our speech. “That guy has ‘the patience of Job,’” we say.  “That rule is ‘written in stone.’” “I’d like to ‘extend an olive branch’ to my opponent.” Or even, (and especially apropos to 2020), “This year has been ‘apocalyptic.’”

The Bible is the beating heart of Western language and literature. Our lack of Biblical knowledge both reflects and reinforces the sort of “chronological snobbery” that dominates higher education and public discourse today.

The quick and easy remedy to this lack of knowledge, the way to open the closed door to the past, is simple: Know the Bible. Crack the cover open, absorb God’s words, let them work on our hearts and minds. Scripture is inexhaustible, with relevance and application that never run out. It’s like a pool in which a child can wade and an elephant can swim. Like a certain Lion you may have read about, the Bible has this way of growing bigger as we grow older.

God has given us the gift of others who have invested their lives in understanding Scripture. Their works can help saturate us is Scripture, from Gordon Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, to Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book, to The Big Picture Story Bible for kids.

One of the most helpful resources in understanding Scripture is actually on YouTube. The Bible Project’s collection of beautifully-illustrated explainer videos walks through books of the Bible, the Big Story of the Bible, and essential themes of the Bible. Together, the videos provide a tremendous course of study in this Book of books.

Though an appeal to Biblical study may fall on deaf ears in our culture (as will that reference), we can increase our knowledge of the Bible and, by extension, the reach and impact of Western literature. At the very least, we’ll have better references for current events than Margaret Atwood.

Oct 15, 2020
Teacher Anxious on Preferred Pronoun Mandate Asks Shane and John for Advice
35:36

John and Shane help us think well when our faith collides with mandates from an employer. In the question John and Shane empathize with a teacher pressured to call students by their preferred pronoun. John outlines a “Daniel Option”, provides insight from Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies, a title based on the phrase coined by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and encourages the listener and us with an inspiring closing thought.

Oct 14, 2020
How Augustine, Solzhenitsyn, O’Connor, and MLK Confronted the Cultural Chaos of Their Day
04:44

There’s an old Chinese curse which supposedly goes “May you live in interesting times.” It’s a version of what’s My favorite Facebook meme for 2020 so far is, “God please give us precedented times.” I think we’ve all had enough of the unprecedented times.

In truth, of course, there’s nothing new under the sun. We aren’t the first followers of Christ forced to navigate a dizzying array of global, political, cultural, and health challenges. Not only are we part of, with centuries of the faithful before us, what Hebrews calls “the great cloud of witnesses,” we have much to learn from their examples and their failures as we, too, journey to what Scripture calls that “better city.”

Not only is it helpful to know what the faithful before us believed, we need to know how they behaved. Specifically, it is helpful to know how Christians in the past navigated the cultural storms of their day. Our next Colson Center Short Course looks at four such Christians: the great Church father St. Augustine of Hippo, Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the novelist Flannery O’Connor, and Martin Luther King Jr. The course is titled “How Four Christians from History Confronted Cultural Chaos,” and begins next Tuesday, October 20th and continues each Tuesday (except for election night) through November 17th.

Each of these individuals we will deal with in this course dealt themselves with particular cultural challenges that, in many ways, mirror ours. Each week, a stellar instructor will explore how these Christian forebears understood and responded to the cultural crisis of their times.

Augustine of Hippo, for example, lived in the midst of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. After the Goths sacked Rome in 410 A.D., his native North Africa was conquered by the Vandals. Geneva College President Dr. Calvin Troup will examine Augustine’s question, “Who is a Christian to be” when the pillars of civilization seem to be crumbling and when human government fails? The relevance for us today is obvious. 

Author and Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn famously said that “the line between good and evil runs through every human heart.” Dr. Bill Brown, Senior Fellow of Worldview and Culture at the Colson Center will wrestle with Solzhenitsyn’s understanding of human nature in the face of grave political and cultural evils, and why the world is both broken and eminently worthy of redemption.

Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson of the University of Dallas will discuss how novelist Flannery O’Connor, through her storytelling, confronted the cultural imagination and prejudices of the “God-haunted South,” where Christianity was a cultural phenomenon but pretty much neutered in its effectiveness and power, as well as the cultural imagination of the elites of her time, who were inclined to dismiss anything distinctly Christian or southern.

The final session of our Short Course will be taught by Rev. Derek McCoy and will focus on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, specifically his approach to justice work and his work for reconciliation. Rev. McCoy has years of experience building urban coalitions to promote human flourishing. It’s fitting that this short course begins with Augustine and ends with Dr. King, who famously cited Augustine in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail that “an unjust law is no law at all.” And it was that appeal to that eternal truths of the universe to ground his cause that makes Dr. King’s work so different from the activism we see today.

By design, this short course will begin before the election and end after it. The temptation to be locked in to the chaos of the cultural moment, captivated by the minute-by-minute, ever-changing headlines of the day. Instead, our perspective must be tempered by the knowledge of the larger Story that Christians are part of, and how Christians in the past calibrated their understanding of what was true and good accordingly. What is true on October 20, when we begin the course, will still be every bit as true on November 17th, no matter how the election turns out: Christ is risen! Christ is Lord! Christ is making all things new.

Please join us, starting Tuesday October 20, for our next short course on “Augustine, Solzhenitsyn, O’Connor and MLK: How Four Christians from History Confronted Cultural Chaos.” The course is offered live via Zoom, with a time for instruction, followed by a time for questions and answers. All who register will receive a slink to the recording and resources of each session, so if you must miss a live session, you won’t miss any of the content.

Come to BreakPoint.org to register today.

Oct 14, 2020
The so Called “Virginia Values Act” Undermines Religious Freedom
04:46

On July 1, the state of Virginia enacted the “Virginia Values Act,” which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. A companion law requires employers to include coverage for sex reassignment and “gender affirming” surgeries in their health plans. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, who has filed a pre-enforcement challenge, the Virginia Values Act requires “churches, religious schools, and Christian ministries to hire employees who do not share their stated beliefs on marriage, sexuality, and gender identity.”

Though the Act provides an exemption for religious schools “owned, supported, controlled, or managed” by denominations or churches, that exemption is severely limited. First, it’s limited to instances in which the curriculum “is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.” In other words, a Catholic school could insist its religion teachers agree with Catholic doctrines but, as written, likely not its math and science teachers.

Second, the exemption applies only to religious groups that do not restrict their membership on account of sexual orientation or gender identity. In other words, a church that operates a school could require its teachers to be members of the church, but membership in that church cannot require adherence to historic Christian teaching on sexuality and marriage.

The Virginia Values Act runs afoul of current law in all kinds of ways. For starters, it ignores what the Supreme Court confirmed this past term about the “ministerial exemption,” which bars the application of anti-discrimination law in cases involving churches and their ministers. In Our Lady of Guadalupe School, the Court, under the U.S. Constitution, ruled that churches and other “religious organizations have the freedom to set their own internal policies and codes of conduct about life, marriage, and sexuality.”  Just a month after that ruling issued, the Virginia General Assembly and Governor Northam decided to ignore this freedom and the Supreme Court’s decision.

If the exemptions to the Virginia Values Act barely protects religious institutions, individual Christians in Virginia receive none at all. Which means that the Virginia Values Act violates Virginia’s own RFRA law, which clarifies that a “substantial burden” on a person's free exercise of religion is only legally acceptable if it meets two criteria. First, there must be “a compelling governmental interest,” Second, it must be “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

In short, the Virginia Values Act, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, violates the U.S. Constitution, the Virginia state constitution, and existing state laws. Other than that, it’s great!

So far, since the Virginia Values Act went into effect, the state has not taken action against any religious organizations or individuals. But, the Alliance Defending Freedom isn’t waiting for that to happen. On behalf of two churches, three schools, and a pregnancy care network, ADF has filed suit in state court. In addition, a federal suit was filed on behalf of a wedding photographer who is worried he will be forced to violate his beliefs or face the loss of his business.

According to ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, “The faith of many Americans inspires them to act for the good of their neighbors and also requires them to abide by its teachings… Our clients offer spiritual guidance, education, pregnancy support, and athletic opportunities to their communities because of the religious beliefs that motivate them. But Virginia’s new law forces these ministries to abandon or adjust their convictions or pay crippling fines. Such government hostility toward people of faith has no place in a free society.”

Time and time again, the Alliance Defending Freedom and other legal organizations are forced to go to court to defend the crystal-clear rights of religious organizations and individuals. Even more often, they are clarifying the rights of Christians in private appeals, clearly-worded letters, and open threats of litigation. I wish we weren’t here as a nation, but we are. As a Virginia-born native, I mourn the open hostility toward the unborn and to people of faith that now regularly pours out of the governor’s mansion.

Virginians must demand better from their elected officials.

Oct 13, 2020
Inventors of CRISPR Win Nobel Prize, but should we “rewrite the Code of Life?”
05:06

The awarding of this year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry to Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier has been heralded as an incredible step forward for women. For the first time, two female scientists have been honored for an accomplishment without being accompanied by a man.

Also being heralded is the incredible potential of Doudna and Charpentier’s gene-editing technology, CRISPR. Announcing the award, the Secretary-General of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science gushed, “This year’s prize is about rewriting the code of life.”

Doudna has used similar language to describe CRISPR technology, stating “the genome would become as malleable as a piece of literary prose at the mercy of an editor’s red pen.” And, so far, congratulations and praise from fellow scientists includes predictions and speculations that CRISPR will offer humanity new potential to combat all sorts of illnesses and make the world a better place.

Not covered in all the press announcing the award is the danger that CRISPR poses us all. For the example, the incident in which a Chinese scientist uses CRISPR to edit the genome of embryos before implantation, a move that drew international criticism and gave the world a glimpse of just how this whole thing could go very wrong, was barely mentioned, if at all.

CRISPR has been likened to a computer mouse or pair of genetic scissors. One researcher described, “You can just point it at a place in the genome and you can do anything you want at that spot.” Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Still, the statement reveals the kind of hubris behind the drive to make this technology available, with virtually no ethical guidelines in place.

There seems to be this assumption that, of course, scientists and researchers will “play nice” with the power CRISPR offers. History, of course, tells us that it’s nearly impossible to resist the temptation to “play God” instead. And that never ends well.

Earlier this year, a team of researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London used CRISPR to edit 18 donated human embryos, supposedly to study “the role of a particular gene in the earliest stages of human development.” The Crick Institute team did everything by the book. Still, despite their best efforts, around half of the embryos contained what researchers called “major unintended edits.” “Major unintended edits” is newspeak for serious genetic damage, the kind of damage that can lead to birth defects or future medical issues, like cancer.

How did this happen when researchers were so careful to play by the rules? One genetics researcher put it this way: “You’re affecting so much of the DNA around the gene you’re trying to edit that you could be inadvertently affecting other genes and causing problems.”

If these sorts of problems come with researchers playing by the rules and acting out of good intention, what might happen when research is driven by greed or is done in some unregulated environment? Seeing the results from the Crick Institute researchers prompted one molecular biologist to call for “a restraining order for all genome editors to stay the living daylights away from embryo editing.”

Now, a few months later, the Nobel Prize committee has put its official stamp of approval on the technology and its promise to “rewrite the code of life.” Absent regulations with real teeth, there will be no restraining order coming.

There’s an ironic connection here to historic origins of the Nobel Prize. Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite. He hoped and intended for his invention to be used for blasting rocks apart. Instead, it was used to blast people apart.

When Alfred’s brother died, a French newspaper, mistakenly believing that it was Alfred who had died, proclaimed “The Merchant of Death is Dead!” Appalled by the reputation his invention brought to him, Nobel established the Nobel Prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize, hoping his legacy would be a better world instead of death and suffering.

By awarding the prize to the inventors of CRISPR, the committee is repeating Nobel’s history and turning his intentions on their head. Like dynamite, whatever legitimate potential CRISPR holds will operate alongside of even greater potential for harm. And, it’s not regulated anywhere near the degree that dynamite is.

Oct 12, 2020
The VP Debate, the Supreme Court, and Religious Freedom
44:52

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss the vice-presidential debate, its tone, the issues addressed . . . and the fly. They also talk about the remarkable statement by Supreme Court Justices Alito and Thomas on how the Court's decision on same-sex marriage has damaged religious freedom. It's a problem, the justices say, "that only the Court can fix."

Also on today's episode: Netflix is indicted on child porn charges for "Cuties," and John and Shane's recommendations for the week: A new audio bible by actor David Suchet, and ... the Sabbath rest.

Resources:

Oct 09, 2020
Why Progressive Christianity is “Another Gospel?”
04:57

According to recent survey, nearly a third of self-described evangelicals do not believe that Jesus Christ is truly God. Arianism, as it turns out, is a heresy that plagues multiple generations of the church, not just the one of the third century.

Well, over and over the church has, in various times and ways, ruled that some beliefs are not acceptable alternatives within Christianity. Adherents are, in fact, outsiders to the faith. For example, nearly 100 years ago, in a book entitled Christianity and Liberalism, Presbyterian scholar J. Gresham Machen argued, in an extensive scholarly treatment, that liberal Christianity was not a version of the one, true faith handed down once and for all to the saints. Liberalism was, he argued, a completely different religion from Christianity.

The Liberal Christianity of Machen’s day focused on a social-reform agenda, fueled by feelings and informed by secular thought, barely draped in religious language. The God it preached was not sovereign over creation and providential over the affairs of men; did not really come in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, who did not really perform miracles or physically rise from the dead. The Bible was not really the fundamental and decisive revelation of God, nor the final authoritative source for morality, but must be understood according to our evolving scientific knowledge and political agendas.

Today, there is also an effort to update Christianity, to adapt and re-form it according to the spirit of the age. From church pulpits to the Christian blogosphere, from once-reliable Christian publishing houses to the campuses of Christian colleges that are Christian in name only, from beautiful and historic churches decorated with gay pride flags and pastored by ordained ministers who “bless” abortion clinics to the “exvangelicals” who become self-styled spokespersons for “what Jesus would really say and do,” there is, in our day too, a Christianity that is no Christianity at all.

Devoid of the truth claims and moral teachings of historic Christianity, what is today called “progressive Christianity” is not another side of the same coin. It is a different religion founded on a different worldview.

Machen’s crucial insights were presented in a largely academic book written for a largely academic audience. Since the progressive Christianity of our day is far more populist than the liberalism of his, I am pleased that a new book, theologically robust and very accessible, is now available to address the ideas deceiving so many Christians. The book is titled Another Gospel: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity.

Alisa Childers grew up in the church and eventually became a member of the very successful Christian pop group “Zoe Girl.” Despite that pedigree, as she told my colleague Shane Morris on his Upstream podcast, she was completely unprepared when she learned her pastor was a skeptic, and confronted her with questions and counterclaims about the reliability of Scripture, the morality of the atonement, whether God answers prayer, or cares about our sexual choices, or even exists.

Flailing in doubt Childers went to work to find answers, studying Scripture, church history, great apologists for the Christian faith (past and present), and critiques of the claims of progressivism. In the process, she found that her beliefs had rock-solid foundations, and answers to the toughest questions. A “progressive Christianity” that denies the divinity of Christ, treats His incarnation and resurrection from the dead as myths, and reimagines human nature away from God’s created design and according to sexual libertinism isn’t just another take on the faith. It’s another gospel entirely.

Childers’s book Another Gospel is an incredibly valuable resource. Every week it seems, I talk with pastors, youth pastors, parents and grandparents watching the next generation buy into a false gospel and questioning the historic truth claims of Christianity. Using the framework of Childer’s story, Another Gospel provides a thorough, rigorous, and entirely readable take-down of progressive Christianity, and a reliable introduction to the non-negotiables of the Christian faith.

During October, we’ll send you a copy of that book, “Another Gospel,” with your gift of any amount to BreakPoint and the Colson Center. Come to BreakPoint.org to get your copy.

Oct 09, 2020
The Ballot Initiatives of 2020
05:10

Presidential candidates get all the love. Just kidding. “Love,” of course, is the wrong word. What presidential candidates get is all the attention.

The presidency matters, of course, and voters should know as much as possible about the character, the party, the policies, and the likely people each candidate will bring to the highest office in the land. At the same time, for almost all of us, this election features incredibly important decisions all the way down the ballot. For example, Amy Coney Barrett might have a new appreciation for the importance of Senate races. Or, ask Colorado State Troopers if their lives have changed since a particular ballot initiative passed in 2016. Or, ask the parents of Loudon County (VA) school children if school board elections make a difference.

At a time when, as Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse observed in his book Them, ”our natural appetites for community, belonging, and meaning are increasingly being satiated by politics instead of religion, Americans are voting on a wider spectrum of issues. At the local level, our ballots decides more than just what taxes we pay, what resources schools receive, which roads are fixed, and the size of the police force. Today, our votes determine what behavior is incentivized by the state, what worldview is taught as fact in our schools, and in some places, which laws police will enforce.

More and more, state by state, these decisions are going directly to citizens, to be determined by ballot initiatives. For example, in 2016, after years of failing to legalize doctor-assisted suicide through the Colorado legislature, the issue was put directly before the people and decided on the ballot. More initiatives appear on ballots in presidential election years because more voters turn out for presidential elections.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nearly 110 ballot initiatives will be decided by voters across the country in next month’s election. Seventy-six involve making permanent changes to state constitutions.

While some are more technical or procedural measure, a handful have important cultural implications. In Colorado, a “yes" vote on Proposition 115 would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, putting an end to the more than 200 later-term abortions committed here every year. Opponents of Proposition 115 have argued that, at 22 weeks, the preborn are just “11 inches long” and weigh about a pound, as if the size of a human being changes whether or not it should be killed. Voting yes on Colorado Proposition 115 could save lives.  My fellow voters, not legislators, will decide.

In Louisiana, voters have an opportunity to amend the state constitution, explicitly declaring there is no legal right to an abortion or for state funding of abortion. Proponents call Amendment 1 the “Love Life Amendment.” Though it would not ban abortion outright, it could lay important legal groundwork for a ban in the future. 

In Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota, residents will vote on ballot initiatives to legalize either recreational or medical marijuana or, in a few cases, both. 

In Nevada, a ballot initiative called Question 2 would amend the state’s constitution and explicitly recognize marriage as a contract between any two people regardless of gender. South Dakota voters will decide whether to legalize sports gambling. Utah voters will consider the rather bizarre proposal to make the language of its state constitution “gender-neutral.” 

A somewhat confusing ballot measure in Washington State will directly impact the safety and well-being of school children. Back in March, the Washington State Senate voted to mandate comprehensive sex education for all public schoolers, starting in Kindergarten, with explicit conversations about sexuality and sexual behavior to start in fourth grade. Supporters said that, since kids are getting sex ed from the internet anyway, they might as well learn it in the classroom. The confusion is that passing Referendum 90 would approve the sex-ed mandate. So, Washington parents and anyone else who thinks 10-year-olds should not be taught a so-called “LGBTQ-inclusive” sex ed curriculum, should vote no on Referendum 90.

As the Washington State issue illustrates, it is essential for voters to learn about the initiatives in their own states and study the wording of each one carefully. For Christians who are American citizens, it is a way by which we can love our neighbors. For Christians who are citizens of Colorado and Louisiana, it is a way to love our preborn neighbors.

Oct 08, 2020
Our Young Daughter Told Us She Is Bisexual . . .
34:11

Some tough questions rolled in this week, two of them dealing with family issues. What's a Christian mother to do when her 12-year old daughter announces she's "a bisexual," and the non-Christian father wants to support the daughter in her "identity"? And one Christian couple has differing opinions of whether to implant or adopt out the embryos they created through IVF.

And then, when it comes to voting next month, how do we weigh the personal character of the candidates and the policies they support.

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris tackle these tough ones from a Christian worldview perspective.

Resources:

Oct 07, 2020
Our Tax Dollars Still Fund the Destruction of Embryos
04:54

In 2001, President George W. Bush limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research to already-existing lines of embryonic stem cells. While it wasn’t a complete ban on the research itself, it did prevent any further federally funded destruction of human life, and instead prioritized funding for research into adult stem cells.

At the time, he was accused of everything from being on the wrong side of science to banning all stem cell research to standing in the way of miracle cures. A central issue of the 2004 election, Bush’s Democratic opponent John Kerry even promised to change the Bush policy, so Christopher Reeves would be able to walk again.

To be clear, President Bush did not ban stem cell research. He didn’t even embryo-destructive research, or the private funding of embryo destructive research, or the funding of embryo-destructive research by states. He did not even ban federal funding of research on stem cell lines created from embryos that had already been destroyed. He only banned the federal funding of stem cell research that required destroying new embryos.

President Obama, almost immediately upon taking office and by executive order, reversed Bush’s decision. Since 2009, the number of embryonic stem-cell lines approved for federally funded research has grown from 60 to 484. Embryos were destroyed to create those new stem cell lines, and our federal tax dollars paid for it.

Of course, even if all the wild dreams of life-saving treatments were realized by this research, it would not justify the taking of innocent life. Still, a decade later, not a single therapy has been derived using the stem cells from embryo destructive research. Dozens of therapies have been derived using the stem cells from non-embryonic sources, and well over one million patients have benefitted from adult stem cell treatments.

As it turns out, the promise that embryonic stem cells would be more effective because they have the potential to turn into a greater variety of cells, was simply false. What’s called “pluripotency” did not mean “more effective,” as was widely assumed. And that’s before a Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in turning adult skin cells into pluripotent stem cells. In other words, we are now able to derive cells with the same pluripotency as embryonic stem cells without destroying a single embryo.

Why then, has federal funding continued for embryo destructive research? Why has the current administration designated funding for the creation of one hundred and six new stem cell lines acquired from the destruction of embryos? Since 2017, between $250 and $300 million of federal tax dollars has been designated to embryo destructive research. The amount this fiscal year is projected to rise to $321 million. This isn’t what pro-life citizens expected from an administration that has been, in so many other ways, so pro-life.

In early September, 94 members of Congress joined Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) in a letter urging President Trump to “issue an Executive Order to end taxpayer funding” for human embryonic stem cell research.  “Ending federal support for [embryonic stem-cell] research,” the letter states, “would not reduce NIH’s lifesaving research by one dollar, but would instead free up scarce resources for NIH to put toward promising research on adult and induced pluripotent stem cells.”

The fact is President Bush got this one exactly right. President Obama got this one exactly wrong. Reversing his reversal on the funding of embryo-destructive research should’ve been among the first orders of business in early 2017.

Come to BreakPoint.org to see Senator Wicker’s full letter to President Trump. Then, contact the White House and your congressional leaders. Let them know we must stop funding the destruction of human life. 

Oct 07, 2020
Protecting Females in Sports and Just Telling the Truth
04:38

Since 2015, World Rugby, the international governing body of a sport with a lot of hitting but little protective gear, has allowed biological males who identify as female to compete in women’s leagues. They were early adopters in what seems to be a growing trend of sports officials who pretend biological and physiological realities no longer exist in light of new ideas from social science and activist groups.

But they do. Canadian kinesiologist Linda Blade, writing at Quillette recently, summed those realities up this way: male athletes are, on average, 40 percent heavier15 percent faster30 percent more powerful, and 25–50 percent stronger than their female counterparts.”  Especially in a sport like rugby, such physiological differences not only spell unfair advantages for the male athletes who choose to compete against females, they spell danger for the female athletes forced to compete against males. As one female player said, “I have to play or forfeit my place [on the team] even when I know its unsafe for me.” 

In the face of serious injuries and potential financial liability, World Rugby is now reconsidering its “trans-inclusion” policy. They are, according to the Quillette article, “the first sport to bring to the table experts on all sides of the eligibility issue, including sociologists, biologists, kinesiologists, and those with a background in human rights.”  And, word is, that World Rugby will propose a comprehensive ban on males competing in women’s rugby.

My old friend from Tennessee might say, “this ain’t rocket surgery, you know.”

Whether men should compete with and as women isn’t just a dilemma for rugby. Across the United States, female athletes in a number of sports, at the high school and college level, find themselves competing against biological males who are typically bigger, stronger, and faster because, well, they are males. The results of such “inclusion” include lost competitions, lost opportunities, and lost scholarships for female athletes.

Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler is seeking to address the issue once and for all with a new bill called the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act.” Just recently introduced in Congress, the bill stipulates that allowing biological males to participate in girls’ sports violates Title IX, which bars sexual discrimination in schools that receive federal funding as a way of protecting female sports. Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma is another of the bill’s sponsors. “Permitting biological males to participate in women’s sports,” says Lankford, “rejects the very spirit of Title IX, which was intended to create an equal playing field for women and girls.”

So called “transinclusion,” especially in competitive sports, makes the playing field unequal. In Connecticut, for example, two boys who identify as female have won a combined 15 state track and field championships in just the last two years.

To be clear, it is unlikely this bill will pass into law. Still, it’s a necessary bill, even if it doesn’t. Loeffler and Lanford, as well the bill’s other co-sponsors Mike Lee (R-Utah), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and Tom Cottom (R-Arkansas) are, by just introducing this bill, are forcing a debate that has been largely pre-empted by fear, intimidation, and a few selective stories. Also, the bill can serve as model legislation for states that wish to protect high school and collegiate female athletes.

And, to be clear, the bill is important simply because it reaffirms what is true: that biological men and women actually exist, are different but equal, but not interchangeable. It’s never ok for a government to peddle in things not true, especially on something as obvious and basic to our humanity as our given sex as male and female.

George Orwell famously said that, at times, the “restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” That’s what Senators Loeffler, Lankford, Cotton, Lee and Blackburn are doing by introducing “The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act.”  Let your Senator know you support it.

Oct 06, 2020
Protecting Females in Sports and Just Telling the Truth

Since 2015, World Rugby, the international governing body of a sport with a lot of hitting but little protective gear, has allowed biological males who identify as female to compete in women’s leagues. They were early adopters in what seems to be a growing trend of sports officials who pretend biological and physiological realities no longer exist in light of new ideas from social science and activist groups.

But they do. Canadian kinesiologist Linda Blade, writing at Quillette recently, summed those realities up this way: male athletes are, on average, 40 percent heavier15 percent faster30 percent more powerful, and 25–50 percent stronger than their female counterparts.”  Especially in a sport like rugby, such physiological differences not only spell unfair advantages for the male athletes who choose to compete against females, they spell danger for the female athletes forced to compete against males. As one female player said, “I have to play or forfeit my place [on the team] even when I know its unsafe for me.” 

In the face of serious injuries and potential financial liability, World Rugby is now reconsidering its “trans-inclusion” policy. They are, according to the Quillette article, “the first sport to bring to the table experts on all sides of the eligibility issue, including sociologists, biologists, kinesiologists, and those with a background in human rights.”  And, word is, that World Rugby will propose a comprehensive ban on males competing in women’s rugby.

My old friend from Tennessee might say, “this ain’t rocket surgery, you know.”

Whether men should compete with and as women isn’t just a dilemma for rugby. Across the United States, female athletes in a number of sports, at the high school and college level, find themselves competing against biological males who are typically bigger, stronger, and faster because, well, they are males. The results of such “inclusion” include lost competitions, lost opportunities, and lost scholarships for female athletes.

Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler is seeking to address the issue once and for all with a new bill called the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act.” Just recently introduced in Congress, the bill stipulates that allowing biological males to participate in girls’ sports violates Title IX, which bars sexual discrimination in schools that receive federal funding as a way of protecting female sports. Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma is another of the bill’s sponsors. “Permitting biological males to participate in women’s sports,” says Lankford, “rejects the very spirit of Title IX, which was intended to create an equal playing field for women and girls.”

So called “transinclusion,” especially in competitive sports, makes the playing field unequal. In Connecticut, for example, two boys who identify as female have won a combined 15 state track and field championships in just the last two years.

To be clear, it is unlikely this bill will pass into law. Still, it’s a necessary bill, even if it doesn’t. Loeffler and Lanford, as well the bill’s other co-sponsors Mike Lee (R-Utah), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and Tom Cottom (R-Arkansas) are, by just introducing this bill, are forcing a debate that has been largely pre-empted by fear, intimidation, and a few selective stories. Also, the bill can serve as model legislation for states that wish to protect high school and collegiate female athletes.

And, to be clear, the bill is important simply because it reaffirms what is true: that biological men and women actually exist, are different but equal, but not interchangeable. It’s never ok for a government to peddle in things not true, especially on something as obvious and basic to our humanity as our given sex as male and female.

George Orwell famously said that, at times, the “restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” That’s what Senators Loeffler, Lankford, Cotton, Lee and Blackburn are doing by introducing “The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act.”  Let your Senator know you support it.

Oct 06, 2020
Questions to Ask the Candidates
05:01

The beginning of every Christian citizen’s civic duty is to vote. Chief among the reasons Christians should vote is that it is an opportunity to love God, by loving what He loves, and an opportunity to love our neighbor, by advancing those policies that lead to moral and personal goods.

At the same time, voting is about more than who is on the ballot at the top of the ticket. Of course, the Presidential race is incredibly important, but so are the other races from the federal to the most local ones. Ballot initiatives matter too.

A few weeks ago, a friend and listener asked what questions Christians should ask candidates. Because, there is no perfect candidate but so many issues, casting an informed vote requires research. Since most of us will never get the opportunity to question presidential candidates (apparently, even if we were moderating the debates), we should be able to know how they might answer the questions based on the statements of public record. At the same time, candidates running for Congress or for state and city offices are, perhaps, more accessible.

Either way, the key thing we must get at in our questions and research is worldview. Values matter. Behavior matters. Party matters. But at the root of each of these things for all of us, including political candidates, are our most deeply held beliefs about life and the world. Here’s how G.K. Chesterton put it in an essay entitled “Introductory Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy,” from his book Heretics:

But there are some people, nevertheless–and I am one of them–who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether their theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them.

Recently I asked our Colson Center staff and a few others to submit questions they’d ask candidates to get at what Chesterton called “their view of the universe.”

Several offered the question, “What makes human life valuable?” It doesn’t get more fundamental than this. Does our value come from what we can contribute to society, which group we do or don’t belong to, or whether we are wanted or dependent on others? Do only some humans have value, or do all humans have value simply because they are humans?

Another question is What is the basis for moral judgments? Does morality evolve over time, or is it based on knowable and unchanging principles? This question gets to the heart of what a candidate believes about the fundamental principles established in our nation’s founding documents, and whether or not they will look to the Constitution or some other source in carrying out their responsibilities.

A third question offers insights about how a candidate understands the scope and limits of government: What are the most significant problems we face as a society, and whose job is it to solve them? Any candidate that points to the state as the only answer to every problem not only is wrong, they will undermine the God-given role of pre-governmental institutions such as families, churches, religious organizations, business, voluntary associations, etc. Whenever these intermediate institutions are bypassed or even worse, intentionally weakened, the society is weakened. Not to mention, unchecked power provides the greatest potential for state corruption.

There are also important questions of definition. Most battles for a culture are fought over the definition of words. Here are two words that matter in our cultural moment:

  1. The “common good.” You might remember from civics lessons (or at least the song from Schoolhouse Rock) that our Constitution was developed to, among other things, “promote the general welfare.” What does that mean? What does a good, flourishing society look like? How might it be achieved?
  2. Religious freedom. The free exercise of religion is the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights for a reason. However, many candidates have replaced “free exercise” with “freedom to worship.” They are not the same thing.

On today’s BreakPoint Podcast, we offer a special episode of the Focus on the Family broadcast, in which I joined Tim Goeglein and Jim Daly of Focus on the Family to discuss the importance of voting. A special thanks to Focus on the Family for allowing us to air this broadcast. Come to BreakPoint.org or subscribe to the BreakPoint Podcast wherever you get your podcasts. 

And then, please, vote.

Oct 05, 2020
The Importance of Voting
26:31

Today we have a special episode for you courtesy of Focus on the Family. John Stonestreet and Tim Goeglein join Focus on the Family president Jim Daly to discuss the  importance of voting—and for Christians to make informed decisions about the candidates and issues at every level of government, from the presidency down to your city council and school board. How do we vote according to our Christian worldview, and how do we engage others in civil discussion in this heated election season.

Our thanks to Focus on the Family!

Resources:

Oct 05, 2020
The "Debate"
38:20

The morning after John Stonestreet and Shane Morris recorded this episode of "BreakPoint This Week," the nation learned that President Trump and the First Lady had tested positive for COVID. All of us at the Colson Center are praying for their health and speedy recovery.

John and Shane discuss the presidential debate: It says more about the state of our nation than it does about the individual candidates. Also, a new survey reveals that 20-some percent of self-identified evangelicals do not hold to a biblical understanding of sex and gender. How is this, and what are the implications?

They also discuss the stunning pro-China propaganda puff piece published this week by the New York Times, which asserts that Communist China's crackdown on protesters for freedom was good and necessary. Really? This is the same New York Times, you may remember, that forced an editor to resign because he ran an op ed by Sen. Tom Cotton discussing the use of military force to quell violent protesters here at home.

John and Shane wrap up the show with their recommendations of the week.

Resources:

Oct 02, 2020
How to Say No to the Sexualization of Children
05:43

The most common response we received to Wednesday’s commentary, in which I argued that the sexual revolution is progressing to the next stage involving children, was “So, what can we do?” It’s exactly the right question for Christians to ask, and one to which we were already committed to answer. Never should Christians talk about the fall, even the worst of human depravity, outside of the context of the victory Jesus Christ, who has overcome the world.

While the cultural indicators do point, I believe, to the further mainstreaming of pedophilia, a Christian worldview places even the most chaotic and distressing of moments within a larger Story. Christ has risen from the dead. He is Lord. And, He is making all things new. Thus, as Christian philosopher Alvin Pantinga reminds us, whenever we talk of evil, we are talking about a very real foe. But a defeated foe. 

Christians join what theologians call the “already-but-not-yet” work of the Kingdom, in what St. Paul called “the ministry of reconciliation,” in a number of ways: by championing what is good, innovating what is missing, restoring what’s broken or, especially in this case, confronting what is evil. 

In this case, social media and the internet play an outsized role in the exploitation and sexualization of kids. An honest look a nearly every metric available of the broad outcomes of widespread social media use, especially for kids, it’s clearly a net negative. It may very well be time to consider getting off of social media or, at the very least, keeping our kids off of social media. As a minimum, children should never be left to social media or, for that matter to any use of the internet, unsupervised, especially if they lack the maturity to understand it and self-govern.

I will say this a different way: It’s stupid, in the Proverbial sense of “foolishness,” to give students unfettered, unaccountable access to the apps, games, videos, or online communities of the internet, especially in the privacy of their bedrooms. To stop that intrusion into our families is a way to resist the evil of the increasing sexualization of children.

From a larger perspective, child exploitation and the normalizing of pedophilia must be understood as one of the consequences of the sexual revolution’s worst ideas. Two years ago, in an interview for the BreakPoint podcast, I discussed this with Helen Alvare, a Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. As the sexual revolution has barreled onward, she observed, the emphasis in U.S. law has subtly but definitively shifted. Once broadly favoring the rights of children, the law increasingly prioritizes the “rights” and “freedoms” of adults over the rights of children.

Same-sex marriage is the prime example. Once the state proclaimed an intentionally sterile union is socially identical to a man-woman marriage, a child’s inherent right to their mother and father was erased. As Alvare put it, “The idea used to be that parents only have rights when it comes to children because they first have responsibilities. Now there’s a demand that children are something that must be given to you.”

Because my conversation with Helen Alvare is even more important today than it was two years ago, we’ve re-aired it on the BreakPoint Podcast. You can find it at BreakPoint.org, or subscribe  to the BreakPoint Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.

Alvare is among a few who are innovating and advocating an important and brilliant strategy which, I believe, is part of the answer to the question, “so what can we do?”  We must launch a children’s rights movement, demonstrating how the so-called progress of the sexual revolution has put children at risk.

Another leader in this movement to reprioritize children is Katy Faust. Her organization, Them Before Us, is specifically dedicated to advocating for children’s rights at both the state and federal levels, and also to telling the stories of the victims that aren’t supposed to exist: the children borne from sperm donors deprived of their right to know their biological father’s name and medical information; the children raised by persons in same-sex unions who have no biological relationship to them but claim legal parentage merely because of romantic feelings and sexual choices; the children birthed by surrogates and detached from their biological mom. Katy advocates for children’s rights in a culture solely fixed on adult happiness.

T.S. Eliot once said all attempts to form a civil society without Christianity will fail. Before the collapse, however, we must “meanwhile redeem the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us, to renew and rebuild civilization.”

Our Enemy is a defeated enemy. God will restore and rebuild. It’s an opportunity and a blessing to be a part of that.

Oct 02, 2020
The Best Analysis on Tuesday’s Debate Was Given 42 Years Ago
05:18

There are no highlights from Tuesday night’s presidential debate. There are, however, plenty of “lowlights”: name-calling, untruths, anger, vitriol, interruption. It was a debacle on every level.

During the debate, my friend Trevin Wax tweeted, “Neil. Postman. He saw this coming forty years ago,” referring to how the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death, who described what happens in societies when societies entertainment replaces truth and celebrity-ism replaces virtue.

In addition to Postman, a speech called “A World Split Apart,” given at the Harvard University commencement on June 8, 1978, by Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn has proven to be the best decoder of our cultural moment. Today, we live downstream from, in the wake of, what Solzhenitsyn attempted to describe to his booing audience.

For example, Solzhenitsyn described how the West had replaced the pursuit of happiness by virtue with a pursuit of happiness by stuff: 

“Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness … however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprint many Western faces with worry and even depression … The majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this, why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values?”

When the pursuit of virtue is undone by materialism, words are redefined. Specifically, Solzhenitsyn suggested, freedom:

“Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the … misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people's right not to look or not to accept…Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil …[was] born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature; the world belongs to mankind and all the defects of life are caused by wrong social systems which must be corrected.”

Solzhenitsyn then specifically points a finger at the press:

“The press too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. But what sort of use does it make of this freedom? … How many hasty, immature, superficial and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification. The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus, we may see terrorists described as heroes, or secret matters pertaining to one's nation's defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: ‘Everyone is entitled to know everything.’ But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era. People also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable [right]. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information. …In spite of the abundance of information, or maybe because of it, the West has difficulties in understanding reality such as it is.”

At the root of all of this, Solzhenitsyn suggested, is what he called “spiritual exhaustion”:

“The human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music… There are meaningful warnings that history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen. There are open and evident warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden, crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, and the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

There is only one solution with which Solzhenitsyn left his audience:

“Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction …If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.”

And then he concludes:

“No one on earth has any other way left but -- upward.”

God help us.

Oct 01, 2020
Are We Talking about Christian Worldview, or a Biblical Worldview?
34:25

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris tackle a tough question: The Colson Center always talks about a Christian worldview. Given that many theologically liberal churches hold positions we wouldn't call Christian, their worldview is not the same. Wouldn't it be better to call it a "biblical worldview?" But even then, there are many interpretations of the Bible. How do I talk about worldview with friends?

The second question refers to John's recent BreakPoint commentary in which he claims all the furor over the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett all stems back to the issue of abortion. One listener challenges, "Isn't it really about hypocrisy?"  That is, the hypocrisy of the Republicans voting on a nominee before the election now, but not in 2016 when Obama was in office.

Resources:

Sep 30, 2020
Sliding toward Pedophilia
04:55

Each chapter of the sexual revolution has featured an updated version of the same myth: “Don’t worry, the kids will be fine.” Sex with anyone anywhere? The kids will be fine. Separate marriage from procreation? The kids will be fine. No-fault divorce? The kids will be fine. Graphic sex education in schools beginning in kindergarten? The kids will be fine. Same-sex marriages eliminating either a mom or a dad from the picture? The kids will be fine. 

They weren’t. Growing up in families without married parents, their well-being sacrificed for the sake of adult happiness, the kids have been the primary victims of our sexual experimentations. To cover our tracks, we’ve resorted to indoctrination, attempting to convince them of other myths, such as the idea that biological sex and their physical bodies are fully malleable. Kids today are literally taught to be skeptical of how they were made.

The kids are not fine. They’ve never been fine, in fact, not throughout this entire history of sexual redefinition. And I’m afraid, that the next chapter just began.

Even before Netflix released “Cuties,” that French movie about an 11-year-old girl who joins a twerking dance group to escape her conservative Muslim family, it received wide-spread backlash. Many critics, including all of us here at the Colson Center, were horrified to think that a movie featuring pornographic footage of very young actresses would be permitted to air. But it was. 

Even worse, once the director wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post attempting to explain her intentions, she and her film have been defended in mainstream media outlets such as the Washington Post and on NPR. She was warning us about the sexualization of children through online technology, we were scolded, even if in the process, she sexualized actual children. The lead character, who is sexualized throughout the film, is played by an actual 11-year-old girl.

At the risk of sounding like the old man who yells “get off my lawn” to the enlightened minds at NPR, no 11-year old girl should be sexualized for any reason. Their defense of this film makes me think we’ve entered new territory.

Every stage of the sexual revolution has progressed the same way. A morally questionable activity enters our culture, not through moral argument, but through the imagination, typically via entertainment or some form of “artistic expression.” I’m old enough to remember how controversial “Beverly Hills 90210” was, as it skirted the edge of our cultural moral boundaries, depicting teenagers talking about sex but never actually doing it.

In the end, the characters mostly came down on the right side of the moral question, but not because of any appeal to a stable moral framework. Rather, the teen just “weren’t ready to take that step.” Just a few years later, say, on an episode of “Friends,” the teenager is having sex, with a teacher even. This time, it’s supposed to be funny. Before long, it’s Glee, and the teens aren’t just talking anymore. They’re doing, and they’re in Ohio, not LA. (We could trace the history of homosexuality from the “not that there’s anything wrong with that” days of “Seinfeld” to “Will and Grace” to “Modern Family.”)

At the end of “Cuties,” I’m told, the lead character leaves behind her twerking dance crew and returns to her conservative family. Her decision, of course, does not come from any moral framework, much less a condemnation of the pedophilia the film both portrays and commits.  The crisis is resolved through some weak notion like “self-discovery,” or “being true to yourself.” This means that in the next “Cuties” (and there will be a next one), the ending will be different. Maybe her fundamentalist parents learn to flex a little bit. Maybe in the one after that, she doesn’t go home at all. Before long, none of us are alarmed by pornographic portrayals of children.

What happened with sexual promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, and currently, with transgenderism is happening with kids. We’ve already told them to determine their sexual identities. At the same time, the only ground left sexual morality is the flimsy notion of “consent.” Is it that much of a leap, really, from here to kids self-determining sexual behavior?

Just two weeks ago, California’s Governor signed a bill decriminalizing homosexual activity between an adult and a minor 14 or over, as long as there’s less than a 10-year age gap between the two and “consent” was given. Lawmakers said the bill was necessary for the equality of LGBT people, because heterosexual sex between a minor and an adult has already been decriminalized along the same lines.

I hate to say this, but the train of pedophilia has left the station. The kids definitely won’t be fine.

Sep 30, 2020
Why the Left Is Attacking Amy Coney Barrett (It’s not Just Because Trump Nominated Her)
05:16

In a Sane World,” suggests Kathryn Jean Lopez, “America Would Have Just Fallen in Love with the Barrett Family.” After all, Amy Coney Barrett’s scholarly brilliance is recognized by legal minds on both the left and the right. Plus, she’s the mom of seven children, including two that were adopted from Haiti. Her youngest child, who has Down Syndrome, is the favorite of everyone in the family, she revealed in a truth said in jest when she accepted her nomination.

As Lopez asks, “what’s not to love?”

It’s a good question, even for those on the other side of the political aisle. Barrett is, after all, literal proof that women really “can have it all,” a line that, apparently, more people say than actually believe. As NPR’s Nina Totenberg admitted in a recent profile, “Barrett’s busy schedule and her many roles leave people… scratching their heads and asking, ‘How does she do it?’”

Critiques of Barrett have, so far, run the gamut. Some are understandable, such as the complaints about how this process is proceeding in an election year or the questions rooted in fundamental disagreements about judicial philosophy.

Other critiques have been uncharitable, even evil. For example, a tweet issued over the weekend suggested that adopting children from Haiti could mean that the Barrett family are white-supremacist colonizers.

The stupidest critique award goes to the person who suggested that a religious group Barrett was connected to was the inspiration for Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.” Turns out, it wasn’t. Though, to be clear, this falls under the category of “irrelevant and pointless even if true.” 

And, some critiques reflect a straightforward anti-religious bigotry, as if Catholics who believe what Catholics have always believed are somehow disqualified from public service. The irony of these critiques is that they are often coming from the same voices who’ve spent the last four years telling Christians they weren’t Christian enough. It’s hard to keep up.

At root, there’s more to this hatred than the legitimate disagreements and debate inherent to the nomination process. There’s even more to it than being potentially the third appointee of a President despised by so many. The savage incivility already being directed at Barrett can be traced back to Roe v. Wade. As Kim Colby, legal scholar for Christian Legal Society suggested last week on the BreakPoint podcast, the decision to legalize abortion has poisoned our political system and escalated court nominations to literal life and death issues.

Like the horrible Dred Scott decision on slavery, Roe deals with the very heart of what it means to be human. And, just as in Dred Scott decision, the Court got Roe wrong. More than 160 years later, America is still paying the price for the Court getting Dred Scott wrong. In the case of Roe, the national cost in terms of lives lost, families destroyed, and a deeply poisoned, dysfunctional system mired in a culture war are nearly incalculable.

Roe is why Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the fierce protector of legalized abortion in all forms (including later-term, sex-selective, and disability-targeted abortions) was a hero to the left; and, Roe is why Amy Coney Barret is the left’s latest villain. More specifically, Barrett represents a new kind of feminism; one that doesn’t come at the expense of children; that doesn’t require rejecting the inherent goodness of a women’s procreative nature. Barrett’s career has been built on her judicial genius, while fully embracing who she is as a woman, a wife, and a mom.

By joining five other pro-life votes on the Supreme Court, four of which seem reliable, a Justice Amy Coney Barrett may indeed spell the end of Roe v. Wade. However, it is unlikely that even if her confirmation means the end of Roe, it would not be the end of legalized abortion in America. Rather, it would be the end of federally imposed abortion on all states. In states such as California, New York, Colorado, Virginia and the many others that either have or are trying to enshrine abortion as an unalienable right, the deadly practice would almost certainly continue. Pro-lifers, then, would continue their very important work: persuading hearts and minds, loving scared young women and their partners, adopting precious children, etc.

At the same time, as Kim Colby suggested on the BreakPoint Podcast, overturning Roe would be huge. It could put an end to the kind of brutal, divisive, and cruel confirmation hearings we have all become used to. The furor over the president nominating a justice 40-some days before an election has nothing to do with constitutionality. Nothing to do with precedent or principle. It has everything to do with politics. And our politics have been deeply poisoned by the evil of abortion. 

What Amy Coney Barrett is about to endure at the hands of Senate Democrats is living proof of that.

Sep 29, 2020
Life on Venus and Why ‘Settled Science’ Is Often Hot Air
04:19

Hope for E.T. springs eternal, despite the definitive lack of evidence for his existence. After decades of peering through telescopes, listening with giant radio antennae, and hurling probes to distant worlds, astronomers have yet to find even a hint of life beyond earth.  So, instead of looking for actual evidence of life, some scientists have begun looking for conditions that could theoretically be associated with life. And when they find that, they hold press conferences.

When scientists discovered that liquid water may once have existed on Mars, it was reported with the excitement we’d expect if probes had found Martian guppies. The discovery of a probable ocean under the ice of a Jovan moon is reported as if alien life forms had already been filmed doing backstrokes in there. Just this year, the discovery of an earth-sized exoplanet orbiting a distant red dwarf star was reported by most articles as if Kepler-1649c were a perfect potential host for life.

The latest episode of astrobiological hype involves our nearest planetary neighbor. Venus has long been dismissed in the search for extraterrestrial life due to its hellish climate. After all, it’s wrapped in sulfuric acid, with a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead.

Then, just a few weeks ago, an international team of scientists from MIT and Cardiff University published evidence of phosphine gas high in the atmosphere of Venus. On Earth, the only two known sources of phosphine are human industry and microscopic life. So, according to this team, the presence of large quantities of this gas on Venus can only be explained by living things.

The press’s reaction was predictable. Every headline featured the word “life.” Clamor to divert space exploration resources to Venus mounted so quickly that NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine had to issue a statement in which, while praising the insight of these astronomers, he noticeably downplayed Venus, pointing instead to other, more promising missions already on the space agency’s docket and in their budget.   

Other critics were more measured: “[T]his can hardly be taken as a biosignature,” one biologist said to the New York Times. “…only for anomalous and unexplained chemistry.”  Another professor of planetary sciences who was quoted in the Financial Times sounded even more skeptical: “The scientists can’t think of a way of getting these phosphine levels without it being a byproduct of life,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t another way, and it is a long way from proving that there’s life on Venus.”

So much of the fanfare of stories like this follow a familiar script: scientists rush through the peer-review process and go straight to the press with speculative conclusions. Along the way, “anomalous chemistry” becomes “alien life.” Later, once cooler heads prevail, the same newspapers and websites carrying the fantastical headlines, print a retraction with a less exciting explanation for all that phosphine gas … usually in small print on a back page somewhere.

Of course, proposing and challenging theories is what science is all about. Where science goes wrong is in treating these findings—especially in the early, speculative stages—as if anything is “settled,” much less announcing the speculations as settled conclusion with breathless news reports and demands that NASA rework their budget.

In one of our latest “What Would You Say?” videos, my colleague Brooke McIntire takes on the myth of “settled science.” Proposing and overturning theories is an ongoing part of the process. Even longstanding scientific consensus is vulnerable to new and contrary evidence, and scientists are fallible and biased human beings too. It’s a great video, especially one to share with your kids and grandkids. To watch and share it, just go to whatwouldyousay.org.

None of this means, of course, that life on Venus is impossible. What it does mean is that a pair of papers slinking the presence of a particular gas to life doesn’t amount to all the hype it generated. Without more and better evidence, speculation about little E.T.s on Venus is like its sweltering atmosphere… so much hot air.

Sep 28, 2020
The Myth of the Sexual Revolution: "The Kids Will Be OK"
31:23

The controversy over the sexualization of young girls in the Netflix-aired film "Cuties," is the latest incarnation of the pervasive myth of the sexual revolution: "The kids will be ok."

No-fault divorce? The kids will be ok. Graphic sex education at a young age? The kids will be ok. Letting kids determine their own gender identity, same thing.

Well, the kids are not ok. Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, we re-air an interview John Stonestreet conducted with Helen Alvare of the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School. She is the author of Putting Children's Interests First in US Family Law and Policy, and discusses the catastrophic consequences of the law shifting from protecting children and families to catering to adult sexual preferences. 

This interview first aired May 9, 2018.

Resources:

Sep 27, 2020
Louisville Erupts Over Grand Jury's Breonna Taylor Decision
41:30

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss the news of the week from a biblical worldview perspective. As expected, riots broke out in Louisville and across the country in the wake of the grand jury's decision in the Breonna Taylor case. Are we caught in a self-perpetuating cycle of violence and injustice--real and perceived?

John and Shane also discuss a new bill in Congress to protect women from having to compete against biological male athletes--even if it doesn't pass, it opens a debate that transgender activists insist on shutting down.

They start the show, however, with a discussion of the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the implications of replacing her before the election.

Resources:

Sep 25, 2020
Dutch Euthanasia Doctor Warns Britain Against . . . Euthanasia
03:55

Until his death in 2011, Dr. Bernard Nathanson was a champion of the pro-life movement. His 1979 movie “The Silent Scream” helped dispel the idea that the fetus was only a clump of cells, and his pioneering work with ultrasound technology paved the way for its widespread use by the pro-life movement.

Part of his authority came from his personal history. A co-founder of NARAL, Nathanson had worked alongside people like Betty Freidan to liberalize abortion laws. His eventual change of heart was big news.

A new Bernard Nathanson may have just stepped onto the world stage. Dutch physician Bert Keizer was euthanizing patients nearly 20 years before it became legal in the Netherlands. In fact, he played a significant role in its legalization. As Al Jazeera put it, “When somebody wants to die in the Netherlands, Bert Keizer is often the man they call.”

Like Nathanson, Keiser seems to be having second thoughts about the deadly system he helped create. He is especially alarmed at the developments in Great Britain, where Conservative member of parliament Andrew Mitchell predicted that euthanasia could be legal there by 2025.

Mitchell, a Conservative MP who chairs an “all-party” commission looking into the issue, told Sky News that he wasn’t talking about “a massive change,” but, instead, “very, very tight reform.” The law he would propose, says Mitchell, would contain “very strong safeguards,” such as limiting euthanasia to those with less than six months to live. Patients would also have to get permission from a high court judge and two doctors before proceeding.

Of course, everywhere euthanasia has been legalized also had “very strong safeguards,” which are eventually ignored, violated, or even discarded. Dr. Bert Keizer, having witnessed this up close and personal, is now warning British lawmakers to think twice before legalizing assisted suicide.  Writing in the Dutch Medical Journal, Keizer admitted that his British colleagues were correct two decades ago when they warned that countries like the Netherlands, “who embark on euthanasia, venture down a slippery slope along which you irrevocably slide down to the random killing of defenseless sick people.”

Far from being confined to the terminally ill, Keizer admits that the practice, for the Dutch, has expanded to include older people who “find that their life no longer has content.” Eventually, Keiser predicts, the Dutch will expand euthanasia to include disabled children and prisoners serving life sentences. In his own words about his own country, “every time a line was drawn, it was also pushed back.”

The same lines have also been eliminated in Belgium. In Canada, doctors have advocated expanding that country’s “Medical Assistance in Dying” law to include children, even without parental consent. At least eight U.S. states have some form of so-called “death with dignity” laws, and abuses, like in Oregon, are well documented. Inevitably, what starts as legalized suicide ends in legalize homicide.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s change of heart about abortion eventually led him to become a Christian. Perhaps God has something similar in store for Bert Keizer. Let’s pray He does.

In the meantime, however, let’s pray his warnings are heeded. The honesty Keizer brings to the discussion about euthanasia is scandalously lacking in the debate, starting with his use of the word “euthanasia.” Phrases like “physician-assisted suicide” and, especially, “assisted dying” are Orwellian euphemisms that only obscure what is really happening: the taking of an innocent human life based on someone’s judgment that it’s no longer worth living. The Third Reich called it: lebensunwertes Leben, “lives unworthy of life.”

Dr. Keizer has given the world some much needed clarity. Let’s pray the world listens.

Sep 25, 2020
Repentance Sunday
04:49

Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck gave, perhaps, the most fundamental reason that, as God’s people, we should prioritize prayer: not just because we are Christian but because we are human. Bavinck said:

Prayer is fitting for us because God is God, because of all his attributes: faithfulness, grace, omnipotence, goodness, and so on. Furthermore, we also depend on him for everything; having nothing from ourselves we need to receive everything from him. Prayer is therefore deeply grounded in human nature...a necessity for its being…

The idea here is of course the dependence creatures have, by definition, on their Creator. And, another aspect of our creatureliness spoken of in Scripture is not only that we exist, but when and where we exist. God has, according to Paul’s teaching found in Acts 17, placed each and every one of us in particular times and particular places. The chaos of the cultural moment is all the reason we need to pray that we could possibly need.

Each Wednesday since early August, the Colson Center has hosted a National Prayer Webinar, via Zoom and Facebook Live, to pray for our country and the Church. Thousands have joined us.

When Focus on the Family President Jim Daly led our prayer time a few weeks ago, he said, “When it gets rough [in times] like this, it’s time for Christians to show the confidence we have in what we believe. And as the body of Christ, we must bring true hope to the world – using the best “weapons” we could ever have – the fruits of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The kind that only comes through prayer.

Since we’ve started to pray together, I’ve sensed with many others that God most wants to reform, not the culture, but His church. He is graciously stirring His Church to action, especially by calling His people to repentance.

This Sunday, September 27, hundreds of churches throughout America will be participating in a time dedicated to prayer and repentance. What’s being called “Repentance Sunday” has been organized and endorsed by the leaders from more than 50 churches and ministries. I know this is somewhat late notice, but repentance is always a good thing to do, isn’t it? You can still join in.

This Sunday is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, among the most sacred days of the year in the Jewish calendar. For the church, it’s an opportunity to practice what Revelation 2 and 3 require, a return to our first love, seeking forgiveness for personal and corporate sins (by the way, that’s a theme that has come up repeatedly in our Wednesday prayer times). Scripture is clear that the best next step for a nation experiencing division and calamity can only be taken by the Church. The first step for us is repentance, something we often talk about but, outside of liturgical services, rarely actually do.

To learn more about Repentance Sunday and request resources, just come to BreakPoint.org and we’ll slink you to them. And, please, join us for prayer each Wednesday between now and the day after the election. Again, you can register at BreakPoint.org. This week, we will be led by Pastor Bob Fu, founder of China Aid.

Though as Bavinck said, prayer reflects our creatureliness, it is also the means by which we participate in God’s ongoing work in the world. As American theologian and philosopher Johnathan Edwards said, “so [it] is God’s will, through His wonderful grace, that the prayers of his saints should be one great and principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world.”

What an astounding thought. We so often say things like, “but other than pray, what can we do?” Praying is doing something.

Prayer changes our hearts, aligning us with God’s will and love. Repentance is offered to us, Scripture says, out of God’s kindness so that realignment is possible. As Peter Kreeft said, “For those on the edge of the moral abyss, the best way forward is backward.”  Prayerful repentance is that opportunity to turn around and realign.

Gaby Lyons who’s been the driving force organizing Repentance Day told many of us recently, “Something is surely afoot. God is on the move.” I’ve sensed that too.  Please, come to BreakPoint.org to find out more about Repentance Sunday and to register for our weekly National Prayer Webinar.

Sep 24, 2020
Justice Ginsburg's Legacy; the Difference Between Freedom of Speech and Expression
28:38

Why have so many Christians taken to social media to praise legacy of Justice Ginsburg--a monumental figure no doubt, but a person who championed many causes contrary to what Christians know to be good?

And what is the difference between freedom of speech and freedom of expression? More fundamentally, what is freedom itself?

John and Shane tackle readers questions from a Christian worldview.

Resources:

Sep 23, 2020
How Abortion Poisoned Our Politics (and Everything Else)
05:25

President Trump has promised that his nomination to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be announced on Saturday. And, now that Senator Mitt Romney has committed to support the process, it looks probable, perhaps likely, that Mitch McConnell could succeed in seating a new justice before the November election. Democrats will, of course, fight against this with, to quote Nancy Pelosi, “every arrow in their quiver.”

The death of Justice Ginsburg raises an incredible number of questions on a ton of issues, from the rules and norms of Supreme Court nominations to the legacy of this historic member of the Court to just how a Justice becomes a pop-culture icon to the future of Roe v. Wade. Earlier this week, Kim Colby, director of the Center of Law and Religious Freedom for the Christian Legal Society, joined me on a special edition of the BreakPoint Podcast to talk through each of those questions. Come to BreakPoint.org to listen or subscribe to the BreakPoint podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

Justice Ginsburg was truly an historic figure as a pioneer for women’s rights and women’s equality. A towering intellect who relentlessly followed her worldview, she was also among the political left’s most effective champions. As Dr. Albert Mohler put it recently on The Briefing, This is for the left as big a loss as was several years ago experienced by the right with the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia.”

Her legacy, however, will always be, to quote Kim Colby, “very much tarnished by the fact that she equated women’s advancement” with abortion, something “not good for women or the little girls who are aborted.” Deeply committed to the sexual revolution’s version of feminism, in which the procreative capacity of women is seen not as a good to be celebrated but as a problem to be solved, Ginsburg fiercely protected legalized abortion, including later-term, sex-selective, and disability-targeted abortions. In 2019, she even chided Justice Clarence Thomas on the topic, saying “(A) woman who exercises her constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy is not a ‘mother’.”

Ginsburg was very much a protector of the dark and destructive legacy of Roe v. Wade, at least part of which has become the kind of brutal, divisive, and cruel confirmation hearings we are all now bracing for. As the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson has said, not only are abortion and Roe great evils against children, but they poison our entire political and judicial systems. Like the dreadful Dred Scott decision on slavery, Roe is a decision that deals with the very heart of what it means to be human. And like Dred Scott, the court got Roe wrong. This country, especially African American communities, are still paying the price for getting Dred Scott wrong, as we’ve seen even this summer. And, this country is still paying the price for the Court getting Roe wrong, both in terms of millions of lives lost and families destroyed, as well as our deeply poisoned political system.

Both Republicans and Democrats will appeal to “principle,” selective histories, and suddenly important so-called “norms” in order to blame the other side for the awful vitriol called “Senate confirmation hearings.” But make no mistake, it wasn’t about principle in 2016 when Republicans refused to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland, and it’s not about principle now when Democrats wish they could refuse to consider the nomination of Ginsburg’s replacement. There’s nothing unconstitutional about bringing a nominee before the Senate 40-some days before an election, any more than changing the 60 vote rule to 50, or refusing to consider a nomination in an election year. 

It’s never been about principle. It’s always been about politics. And our politics have been deeply poisoned by abortion. 

Amy Coney Barrett, thought to be among the finalists for the nomination, already experienced just how poisonous the nomination process is, when her Catholic faith was attacked by Senator Diane Feinstein during her confirmation hearings for the 7th Circuit Court. “When you read your speeches,” said the liberal Senator from California, “the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.”

At a 2006 speech to the graduating class of Notre Dame’s law school, Barrett said, “Your legal career is but a means to an end, and . . . that end is building the kingdom of God. . . . [I]f you can keep in mind that your fundamental purpose in life is not to be a lawyer, but to know, love, and serve God, you truly will be a different kind of lawyer.”

That’s the kind of loudly living dogma that alarms her critics.

Catch my conversation with the Christian Legal Society’s Kim Colby on the BreakPoint Podcast. And pray for the nominee whoever she is, as she will face personal attacks and blistering opposition. But most of all pray for our nation--and for the lives at stake.

Sep 23, 2020
The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Roe v. Wade, and the Future of the Court
31:46

Kim Colby, Director of the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom, joins John Stonestreet to discuss the legacy of a truly historic figure, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As Colby tells us, Ginsburg was a champion of women's equality, who, sadly, equated women's advancement with abortion.

What happens next with the Court? What are the precedents for Supreme Court nominations so soon before a presidential election? And why does abortion and the Court's disastrous ruling in Roe v. Wade loom over every judicial appointment?

Resources:

Sep 22, 2020
Why (and How) Christians Should Vote
05:14

In the 2016 election, only about 61% of voting-age Americans cast a ballot. The percentage of self-identifying Christians who voted, both evangelical and non-evangelical, was pretty similar. In other words, though faith does seem to greatly influence the voting decisions of American Christians who vote, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in whether or not American Christians vote.

Of course, if our faith should make a difference in every aspect of our lives (and it should), it should shape how we think about and live out citizenship, too. To put it bluntly, Christians have both a civic and a Christian responsibility to vote. As my friend Tim Goeglin, vice-president of external and governmental relations for Focus on the Family, put it recently, to vote is the beginning of our civic duty of Christians.

Here are three reasons why:

First, voting is an act of obedience. Both Jesus and St. Paul described our responsibility to defer to the governing authorities, and to “render to Ceasar” what is due to Caesar. Both Jesus and Paul navigated the realities of the various political authorities they faced differently, depending on the nature of their political authority and their rights as citizens. For example, Jesus never went to Rome, but He often confronted Jewish political powers and structures. Paul claimed and appealed to Roman citizenship when he was arrested.

In our context, the people are the political authorities. We don’t submit to political authority, we grant political authority to the representatives we elect. So, in our context, voting is the most fundamental way there is to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

Second, Scripture describes sin not only as doing wrong, but also failing to do the good we can. Voting is an opportunity to do some good. Christians should see voting as an opportunity to steward what is good.

Finally, voting is a way to fulfill both what Jesus called the greatest commandment, and “the second one like unto it.”  To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength means, to some degree, loving what God loves: justice, righteousness, truth, and hospitality are all things that God loves, and they can be reflected in law and policy.

And, to love our neighbors as ourselves means more than person-to-person niceness. Voting in ways that will limit or end abortion is a way to love our preborn neighbors. Voting in ways that will uphold the family and stop sexual experimentation on children is a way to love kids. Voting for policies that provide real opportunities for the poor and needy is a way to love them.

Of course, fulfilling our civic and Christian duty involves not only voting, but voting in a right way. While I don’t think there’s just one right way to vote in every election, on every race, about every issue, there are certainly wrong decisions to be made.

Because voting between candidates, whether for President or for dog catcher, will always involve choosing between the better of imperfect options, the best we can do is make comparisons. First, we should compare their worldview, because that is the basis of both their personal character and their public policy.

A candidate’s worldview, by the way, is not the same as their professed faith. For too many candidates, faith is not only personal, it’s private. A candidate’s worldview, on the other hand, reveals those beliefs fundamental to how they will govern, specifically, what they think needs to be fixed and whose job they think it is to fix it.

Second, we should compare their company, because every candidate comes with others. In particular, every president comes with a few thousand others: appointees who run departments, advisors who offer counsel, and judicial nominees who will be on the bench for decades. And just about every candidate comes with a political party, which has their own set of rules and expectations not to mention a platform that party intends to advance.

Finally, we should compare candidates’ stated policies, because policy matters. Policies are based on ideas. Ideas have consequences. Bad policies built on bad ideas have victims.

Of course, most Americans will not just choose who will be President. We won’t just be choosing between Congressional candidates. Choosing on ballot initiatives is every bit as important is choosing between candidates. In Colorado, we’ll be choosing whether to end the over 200 later-term abortions that occur in this state every year.

Finally, while it is critical and necessary, Christian involvement in the public square cannot stop at voting. The issues we face, such as abortion, assisted suicide, religious freedom, loneliness, and so many others, cannot be solved by government alone. The Church has plenty of work to do upstream from politics, in communities and families, not to mention plenty of praying to do too.

Though our responsibilities certainly include more than voting, they certainly do not include less.

Sep 22, 2020
Life, Liberty, and the Supreme Court
57:50

On today’s episode, we  present a recent panel discussion held by the North Carolina Family Policy Council examining the Supreme Court’s most recent decisions dealing with religious liberty, abortion, and gender identity. What are the implications for the Church, for law, for our culture?

The host is John Rustin of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, with panelists John Stonestreet, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation and Matt Sharp of the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Our thanks to the North Carolina Family Policy Council

Resources:

Sep 21, 2020
Why Forgetting the Holocaust is Disastrous
05:11

Millions of religious and ethnic minorities—men, women, and children—herded on to trains, hauled away to concentration camps for “reeducation,” used for slave labor, their heads shaved and hair used for products sold to support the government. Women forcibly sterilized, babies forcibly aborted. All of this sounds familiar doesn’t it?

It should, but according to a survey released last week, it likely will not.  A significant number of U.S. adults under 40 lack "basic" knowledge of the Holocaust, which left 6 million Jews dead during World War II, as well as millions of members of other ethnic and social groups. This 50-state poll, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found that 63 percent of U.S. adults between 18 and 39 years old did not know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Forty-eight percent could not name even one of the more than 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos operating in Europe in the 1930s and '40s.

In other words, for a growing number of Americans, the words “Auschwitz” and “Dachau” don’t ring a bell, much less what happened behind their gates.

Does it really matter that a generation has emerged lacking basic history? After all, it actually makes for some pretty funny man-on-the-street interviews on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Of course, it’s a bit more serious than that. Just in the past several months, for example, among the statues torn down and defaced by rioting mobs include statues of Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment statue in Boston. The 54th Regiment, by the way, was a Union Regiment in the Civil War made up of African Americans, many of whom gave their lives fighting for freedom and the end of slavery.

In other words, the ignorance of history means the inability to distinguish between heroes and villains. But it’s even worse than that. Earlier, when I was describing trains and camps and forced labor and torture and death, I wasn’t talking about Germany or Poland from the 1940’s. I was talking about China’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs and other religious minorities right now.

Historical ignorance not only prevents us from learning from the evils of the past, we risk not even being able to recognize the evils of the past when they reemerge in our time.  In Nigeria, for example, tens of thousands of Christians have been and, as recently as last week, are still being abducted, raped, and murdered by militant Islamists. The word that describes this is genocide, historically coined along with the phrase “never again.” Yet, in China and Nigeria genocide is happening again.

Last week, at a media-awareness event sponsored by the International Committee on Nigeria, former U.S. Representative Frank Wolf called on President Trump to create a special envoy on Nigeria, to coordinate with other nations and NGOs to bring pressure to bear on the Nigerian government to put an end to this hideous persecution of Christians by Boko Haram and Fulani militants.. This is the sort of external pressure that can put an end to the suffering of Christians there.

Simply put, there is a connection between our national ignorance of history and the lack of a public outcry about the attempted genocides in Nigeria and China.

The refusal to learn history, at least in our case, is a form of arrogance that C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” This idea we moderns are morally superior to our forebears and have nothing to learn from the past can be clearly seen in the certainty so many young people have that they certainly would’ve been on the right side of history. Princeton Professor Robert George has noted that his students, particularly the more progressive ones, are nearly certain that they would never have supported slavery or remained silent about Adolph Hitler.

That, of course, is nothing but hubris.  Hannah Arendt, at the trial of Adolph Eichmann in 1961, noted just how ordinarily human he was. And, at the Nuremburg trials after WWII, Nazi war criminals were quick to point out that many of their eugenics ideas came from American intellectuals, and that the country sitting in judgment over them practiced their own eugenics experiments, such as forced sterilizations. (That story is told in Edwin Black’s masterful book, The War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race.)

Just last week, a disturbing, horrifying accusation was leveled against a private ICE facility in Georgia, about an unusually “high rate” of hysterectomies performed on women without their understanding and consent. On its face, the story seems unbelievable. In truth, it’s only unbelievable if you ignore history.

And if history is ignored, we are doomed to repeat it.

Sep 21, 2020
Christians Under Attack in Ethiopia and Nigeria
39:20

John Stonestsreet and Shane Morris discuss the murders of hundreds of Christians in Ethiopia--one of the most ancient of all Christian lands--at the hands of militant Muslim youth, as well as the growing awareness of genocide against Christians in Africa's largest nation, Nigeria.

They also discuss the disturbing lack of basic knowledge about the Holocaust among Americans--especially those 40 or younger.

Also on today's episode, the dark history of eugenics in America, President Trump's foreign policy success as Israelis and former Arab enemies sign agreements normalizing relations. John and Shane also give their recommendations for the week.

Resources:

Sep 18, 2020
Benjamin Watson, Tulsi Gabbard and Frank Wolf on the Slaughter of Christians in Nigeria
05:09

On Wednesday of this week, I was honored to participate in a media event, along with former U.S. Representative. Frank Wolf, current U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, former Super Bowl star Ben Watson, and Stephen Enada, President of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON). The targeting of Christians in Nigeria, for persecution, abduction, and death, is so dire, it’s been labeled “genocide” by observers both inside and outside the country.

Especially in northern Nigeria, Christians are under a sustained, brutal assault by two groups bent on their destruction: The Islamist terror group Boko Haram and Fulani militants motivated by a mixture of Islamist ideology and greed for land. On any given day, Christians are killed, raped, and kidnapped.

An interactive calendar on the ICON website offers a documented summary of how many Christian have been victimized each day since December of last year. As I mentioned in my comments for the panel, this campaign against believers has been going on for years, but the calendar offers a visual picture that the persecution of Christians in Nigeria is as recent as last week. For example, just last week, over 20 Christians were killed and over 60 abducted.

As Stephen Enada, leader of ICON and host for Wednesday’s panel, told me recently on the BreakPoint Podcast, Nigerian Christians are in the midst of an “existential crisis.” In addition to those killed, there are more than 3 million displaced Nigerians. Women and children are being trafficked to Europe.

Yet the Nigerian government has embraced a policy of indifference, if not complicity. At most, they arrest a few perpetrators, declare them “de-radicalized” after a short while, and send them back into the community. Many continue to prey upon their Christian neighbors.

This is why every member of Wednesday’s panel called for external pressure. The Nigerian government must be pressured by the international community, especially the government of the United States of America. Creating that pressure is the mission of ICON. Their comprehensive report, “Genocide in Nigeria,” offers the full, heartbreaking picture of what is happening in Africa’s largest country. You can get a copy on their website.

Wednesday’s event was designed not only to inform media about ICON’s activities and resources, but to press for action while offering possible ways the U.S. might pressure the Nigerian government to act.

After pointing out that more Christians have been killed in Nigeria than Islamists have killed in Syria and the rest of the Middle East, Former Representative Frank Wolf urged the Trump Administration to appoint a special envoy for Nigeria. In addition to working with the U.N. and NGOs to coordinate all efforts to confront the crisis, a special envoy will send a signal that the United States is serious about the problem and is willing to put its sizeable weight to work in order to address it.

Enada seconded Wolf’s recommendations, saying that “it’s more important than ever that the U.S. government act to resolve this crisis. A special envoy,” he said, “with the full backing of our federal government, would have the power to hold perpetrators accountable.” Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Hindu, voiced her support for these kinds of efforts as well. Too often, she said “these attacks go unnoticed,” but Americans must “join our voices against the systematic slaughter of Christians.”

Former Super Bowl Champion Ben Watson struck perhaps the most inspirational note of the event. “If we are silent about [what’s happening in Nigeria] we are in some way complicit.”  He then slinked the campaign for justice in Nigeria to the campaign for racial justice here at home: “This shouldn't be limited to our shores . . . we must raise a voice against violations around the world.”

Please, come to BreakPoint.org, for a slink to the video of the event. We urge you to share it widely on social media and send it to your representatives in Congress.

And please, pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. As I said at the event on Wednesday, and I’ll say it again, praying is doing something. Primarily, prayer aligns our hearts with the heart of God. And, make no mistake, the heart of God is aligned with our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted. The more we pray the less we will tolerate silence about their persecution.

Sep 18, 2020
This Isn’t a “Lost Year”
05:13

Buzzfeed News is running a series of feature stories this month called “The Lost Year,” featuring profiles of how six people, of different ages and backgrounds have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The stories range from challenging to even, in some cases, devastating.

Still, the title of this series is, I think, misleading. Is this really a “lost” year? Is there even such a thing?

In the 17th Chapter of Acts, Luke describes what looks like, at first glance, a pause in Paul’s missionary efforts. After being run out of, first, Thessalonica and then Berea, Paul is stuck in Athens, waiting for Silas and Timothy to catch up. However, Luke describes Paul not as “impatient,” but as “greatly distressed” by the pornographic, violent, and quite extensive idol worship all around him in the city of Athens.

His initial attempts to share the Gospel confuse his Epicurean and Stoic listeners, and so, given a chance to present in a moral formal setting, Paul goes back to square one. There is only one God, Paul proclaims, one alone. He created everything. He wasn’t created by some sculptor, nor does He live anywhere made by human hands.

The two opposing philosophical camps in Paul’s audience hold differing views, particularly about the relationship between the gods and history. The Stoics believed the gods determined and controlled everything about our time and place, leaving no real room for human free will. The Epicureanson the other hand, believed that after the gods created the world, they tired of it and lost interest, leaving human beings to their own devices. With no one watching, so to speak, people were left in a sort of moral free-for-all. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” as the saying goes, “for tomorrow we die.”

It is in the context of these competing philosophies that Paul offers a fascinating and important insight about the one true God: “From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth. And He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their dwelling place. He did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.” (emphasis added)

In other words, to both the fatalist Stoics and the hedonistic Epicureans, Paul describes a God who is intimately involved in time and place so that we can find Him. In other words, it is no accident that we find ourselves in this time and this place. The God who created you intended the right now of every single human life. 

What a crucial insight in a world that, since the pandemic, feels like it’s suspended in time. We’ve so much to mourn these last several months, especially the hundreds of thousands of people who have died, and the loved ones forced to miss funerals, as well as many weddings and births. We’ve watched as suicide rates have gone up, and the elderly and vulnerable have suffered in isolation. 

But God wasn’t surprised by this. This is hard, but if Paul is correct, this time in history isn’t an interruption. It’s not a lost year.

In one of the Buzzfeed “Lost Year” profiles, a mother describes mourning the loss of certain childhood experiences. Her young son missed playing basketball with his friends this year or walking to school. I understand her disappointment at these “missed” experiences. At the same time, the pandemic and these shutdowns and all the chaos surrounding them are also childhood experiences, because there are children experiencing them. This is where God has placed them and us; and, like Paul told the Athenians, this present moment is where we can seek Him, find Him, and do what He’s asked us to do.

Throughout the pandemic, there are many stories of Christians finding innovative ways to seize the opportunities in front of them. Samaritan’s Purse set up an entire temporary hospital in New York City to treat the sick. Many churches pivoted to online services and never stopped reaching out to their neighbors. A few weeks ago, we shared about churches opening their doors for kids whose schools are closed, given them a place to do online schoolwork during the day while their parents work. None of these good works are done by those who shrug shoulders and chalk up inconvenience, tragedy, and challenge as “lost time.”

At the same time, many families are re-discovering shared meal times, learning, hiking, playing and praying together. And make no mistake this is an opportunity for parents to help kids cultivate something they will desperately need for the rest of their lives, especially in a culture like ours: resilience. A resume of happy childhood experiences  isn’t necessarily the best way to cultivate that.

This moment God has determined for us is challenging and chaotic. But He also determined us for this moment. And He’s with us.

This is no lost year.

Sep 17, 2020
If "Cuties" Highlights Exploitation, Why Are You All So Against It?
33:59

John Stonestreet and Shane tackle this question from a listener: "The director of "Cuties" was trying to highlight the sexualization of girls. Why are we condemning this movie when that was her intention and the film so clearly portrays what happens to girls in a highly sexualized culture?"

John and Shane give an impassioned response, one that ends up tying directly into the second question about human dignity: "You always say that every human [including pre-teen actresses in "Cuties"] is made in the image of God . . . but God is a spirit, we are all humans. How do you explain 'in the image of God'?"

Resources:

Sep 16, 2020
The First Step Act, Chuck Colson, and the Church’s Work of Restoration
04:37

I’m old enough to remember that time, way back in 2018, when Democrats and Republicans worked together. Really, it did happen and resulted in a major, bi-partisan criminal justice reform bill called “The First Step Act,” which sought to reduce the number of people in overcrowded federal prisons and improve conditions for those behind bars.

When he endorsed the bill, President Trump said, “We’re all better off when former inmates can receive and re-enter society as law-abiding, productive citizens.” At last month’s Republican National Convention, Ivanka Trump called the First Step Act "the most significant criminal justice reform of our generation." That’s not an overstatement.

A major feature of the bill is that it reduces mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, especially “low-level, nonviolent offenders.” For those already serving time for crack cocaine-related offenses, the reductions were retroactive.

In its first year, the First Step Act has literally changed thousands of lives. According to a recent report from the United States Sentencing Commission, the sentences of more than 7,000 federal prisoners, deemed able to safely return to their communities, were reduced.

As the libertarian publication Reason rightly noted, the First Step Act is a modest, but very real, “first step” towards comprehensive criminal justice reform. I’d add that, as part of the legacy of Chuck Colson and the very good work of Prison Fellowship, the bill is an example of the Church’s work of restoration.

God used Chuck Colson to transform the way many of our political leaders, in particular conservatives, think about criminal justice. While in prison, Chuck learned how empty and even counterproductive the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” rhetoric that he once espoused really was. The call God placed on Chuck’s life to bring the Gospel to prisoners and their families through Prison Fellowship quickly expanded to include prison and criminal justice reform. He quickly realized that being “tough on crime” was pointless unless we were first “smart on crime.”

Being “smart on crime” led Chuck to campaign against the “three strikes and you’re out” laws that swept the U.S. during the 1990s. He knew that such laws would only lead to overcrowded prisons, unaffordable system building and maintenance, and eventually the court-ordered releases of thousands of prisoners from political pressures rather than prudential wisdom.

God used Chuck’s solid conservative, Christian, and law-and-order credentials to advance this message. People who may not have given other activists the time of day respectfully listened. Many hearts and minds were changed, not only by Chuck Colson’s passion or ability to articulate, but because he took people back into the prison with him to see for themselves what he saw. To borrow a modern phrase, Chuck moved the “Overton Window,” i.e. the acceptable “range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population.”

And so, decades later, years after Chuck Colson’s death, at a time of deep and painful political divisions, the First Step Act garnered bipartisan support.

Chuck’s legacy of giving people the moral permission and intellectual justifications to do the right thing is something Christians should seek to emulate in every aspect of culture.

Of course, in order to do this, we must first know what the right thing is. And, we must learn to talk about issues in ways that can be heard. About a year ago, this vision drove us to launch What Would You Say?, a video resource designed to help Christians converse on our culture’s most challenging questions.

Our stories may not be as dramatic and consequential as Chuck Colson’s, but we can strive for the same humility, credibility, preparation, and willingness to be used by God, if not in prison then in whatever sphere of influence He gives us.

To learn more about the First Step Act and Prison Fellowship’s excellent work to bring the Gospel and restoration prisoners and their families, come to BreakPoint.org.

Sep 16, 2020
Heading into the Election, What Would You Say About the Tough Issues of 2020?
04:55

A year ago, the Colson Center launched an ambitious project that would equip Christians with answers to our culture's toughest questions, the kind of questions that tend to generate more heat than light whenever they come up. The type that many Christians tend to shy away from. With this resource, we hoped to see Christians running into those conversations about God, morality, truth, and culture, not running away from them.

The What Would You Say? project is a video series, with each video answering a single, difficult question with answers that are trustworthy, credible, understandable, and most importantly, shareable. Among the questions we’ve tackled in the past year: Are science and religion opposed to one another? Is critical theory biblical? When does life begin? Does rape justify abortion? Does the existence of intersex people prove there are more than two genders? How about this one: Was Jesus a Socialist? Does porn improve relationships? Do the crusades prove that Christianity is a violent religion? (You know, all the easy questions Christians get…)

These videos can be found either at WhatWouldYouSay.org or by going to the What Would You Say channel on YouTube. While there, hit the subscribe button and join the over 23,000 others who’ve joined the What Would You Say community. So far, the videos have been viewed over a million times.

Over the next 12 weeks or so, with election season in full gear, we’ve planned a set of videos to to tackle the various political and policy questions and issues that are front and center on people’s minds. These videos will not only equip Christians for conversations about the presidential campaign and the place of faith in the public square, but also about those issues central to state and local ballots, including abortion restrictions, education, economics, race, and civic responsibility. 

For example, two videos already available address questions many young people have about economics, questions that lead them in a socialist direction. “Is Socialism the Answer?” and “Does Capitalism Only Benefit the Rich?”

Over the next few weeks, we will release videos that tackle two political questions having to do with abortion. First, how should you respond when someone says, “I Don’t Like Abortion, but It Shouldn’t Be Illegal?” According to a recent study, a significant number of Americans who think abortion is wrong are reticent to make any legal changes, including to horrific practices such as later-term abortions. This is an issue on the Colorado ballot this year. Shamefully, my state is one of only nine that remain in which later-term abortion is allowed. Our state’s most famous late-term abortionist kills more than 200 so-called “viable fetuses” a year. (That’s why we’ve also scheduled a What Would You Say video on the issue of later-term abortions.)

In early October, a series of What Would You Say videos will tackle questions about voting: “Why Should Christians Vote?” “Should I Vote if I Don’t Like Any of the Candidates?” and, of course, how to respond to that old line “My Vote Won’t Make a Difference Anyway.”

Each What Would You Say video is short and shareable, only about 4 or 5 minutes long, animated and interesting, well-researched, and solidly grounded in Scripture and a Christian worldview. Each What Would You Say video will leave you with 3 or 4 memorable points to help you wade confidently into tough conversations.

Also, to help you prepare for the craziness of the next several weeks, we’ve created a downloadable, full-color What Would You Say booklet. Based on the videos and entitled, “Your Guide for Talking About the Tough Issues in 2020,” this resource walks you through hot-button issues such as abortion, Critical Theory, whether Christians should avoid politics and why voting is the beginning of our civic responsibilities.

This booklet is available with any donation to BreakPoint and the Colson Center. Simply come to BreakPoint.org/September. Your gift will help us continue to produce What Would You Say videos, equipping Christians with answers to our culture’s toughest questions. When you give here, you will be automatically taken to a page where you can download the PDF “Guide to Talking about the Tough Issues in 2020.”

Again, that’s at BreakPoint.org/September.

Sep 15, 2020
Self-constructed, Build-a-Bear, Buffet-Style Christianity Is No Christianity at All
05:17

In a pair of tweets that recently made rounds on social media, a young progressive woman issued her doctrinal creed: “I am a Christian and I believe proselytizing is violence…I am a Christian and I believe LGBTQ+ ppl are divine and should lead us…I am a Christian and I don’t go to church. I am a Christian and I don’t believe the Bible is the word of God.”

One wonders why one who already rejects church, evangelism, Christian morality, and Scripture would still want to keep the title Christian, this tweeter is merely a more extreme example of a very common approach to faith, including Christianity.

To be clear, think kind of self-constructed, Build-A-Bear, buffet-style belief acquisition works fine for some worldviews, especially the Westernized, New-Agey offsprings of Eastern pantheisms (pan=all and theos=god, so literally those religions that believe everything is god and god is everything).

“Christianity,” however, as a revealed worldview, has an objective definition. Christianity centers ultimate reality and, therefore, ultimate authority, outside (not within) the created order, locates it in a Divine Personal Being who has made Himself known through what He has made, through Holy Scripture, and ultimately made known Himself through Christ Jesus.  One might doubt that there is a God who has revealed Himself or that God has revealed Himself in these ways, and therefore reject Christianity. But because Christianity is a worldview that comes already carefully defined, it’s not open to mass-scale revisions.

Last month, Arizona Christian University released a study called “The American Worldview Inventory, it’s a project led by George Barna. According to the report, nearly two-thirds of Americans believe having “some kind of faith” is more important than the specific faith a person chooses. And, almost seventy percent of those who gave that response identified as Christians.

The same survey found that a slight majority of self-identified Christians think a person can attain salvation by “being or doing good,” a belief contrary to the New Testament’s claim that salvation comes “by grace…through faith,” and “not by works…”

The results of another survey, jointly sponsored by LifeWay Research and Ligonier Ministries found that over half of Americans and nearly a third of evangelicals agree with the statement that Jesus was a “good teacher, but he was not God.” And yet another recent survey, conducted by the Barna Group with World Vision, found that nearly half of young adults globally say that the church can’t answer their questions or spiritual doubts.

The sample size of the Barna study, over 15 thousand respondents from 25 countries and nine languages, suggests that theological literacy and worldview clarity are not just American deficiencies. Christian identity is at risk on a global scale, including what the word “Christian” even means, and whether Christian truth claims are distinct, knowable, and reliable.

Confronting this widespread confusion requires at least two things. First, following Ryan Anderson’s example of bringing clarity to the debate over same-sex “marriage” (“Sorry, marriage is a thing, and same-sex relationships just aren’t marriage”), we must be willing to definitively say when necessary, “Sorry, Christianity is defined, and that’s just not Christianity.”

Second, and more importantly, we need to abandon the self-constructed, Build-A-Bear, buffet approach to religion that is so pervasive in our own hearts and our own churches. A great place to start in clarifying “the faith that was delivered once for all to the saints,” as Jude says is, of course Holy Scripture. For a trusted guide, check out what may be Chuck Colson’s most important book, The Faith: Given Once for All.

Also, our outreach and church growth strategies must conform to what Scripture reveals. Too often, perhaps to make Jesus more palatable to nonbelievers, we elevate personal preference and give the impression that much of the faith is negotiable. That strategy inevitably ends with the Church, the Bible, morality, and even Jesus Himself becoming negotiable.

And to close, let me say this: We shouldn’t worry whether what the author of Hebrews calls “the first principles of God’s Word,” can survive the scrutiny, doubt, and disdain of the modern world. Christian truth will most certainly survive. It’s survived until now, and it will survive, because, after all, it’s True.

Sep 14, 2020
9/11 and Cultural Memory
43:46

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris reflect on the nineteenth anniversary of 9/11. How has 9/11 shaped a generation's cultural memory? And what events are shaping the cultural memory of today's younger generations--and what effect will that have on the culture itself?

Also in this episode: Dinsey's cozy relationship with the genocidal Chinese Communist government; is it really possible that people will fall for the idea that looting is not only permissible, but liberating for the oppressed?; thoughts on critical race theory, and the culture's schizophrenia when it comes to on the one hand condemning the sexualization of children while at the same time creating cultural artifacts--films, novels, etc.--that glorify the sexualization of children.

They wrap up the show with their recommendations for the week: Shane's praise for the Christian folk duo Gray Havens; John on Katy Faust's upcoming book Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children's Rights Movmement.

Resources:

Sep 11, 2020
International Panel Warns Us to Tap the Brakes on Gene Editing, but That Won’t Stop Us
04:52

While natural disasters are mostly, by definition, unavoidable, we can often take basic steps to mitigate damage, such as not building in flood zones or on top of major fault lines. Man-made disasters, on the other hand, are almost entirely avoidable, but quite often, we become victims of ideologies and collective pride.

For example, last week a panel of genetics experts issued a direct, stark warning against editing genes of human embryos destined for implantation. The panel, which consisted of experts from 10 different countries, was jointly convened by the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.K. Royal Society.

The present state of gene editing, said the panel’s report, is simply too risky, for both individual embryos and the human race as a whole. While technologies such as CRISPR are “fairly precise” in targeting and editing certain genes, recent ventures have demonstrated that “fairly precise” isn’t nearly good enough. 

For instance, when researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London used CRISPR to edit 18 human embryos., in order to study “the role of a particular gene in the earliest stages of human development,” around half of the embryos contained what they called “major unintended edits.” The phrase “major unintended edits” is a euphemism for “harmful mutations” and “genetic damage,” of the kind that could lead to birth defects or life-threatening medical problems like cancer, not to mention could permanently enter the gene pool.

Two other studies were cited in the same report. In one, researchers attempted to correct a gene mutation that causes blindness. In the other, the attempt was to prevent certain heart defects. However, researchers found that, in both experiments, a significant percentage of treated embryos suffered chromosomal damage.

One genetics expert described these failures to Nature this way: “If human embryo editing for reproductive purposes or germline editing were space flight, the new data are the equivalent of having the rocket explode at the launch pad before take-off.”

Once again, this new report focused only on the technical failures of gene editing. Once again, any discussion or even acknowledgement of the many ethical questions inherent to the very idea of gene editing were avoided. So now, in what’s become far too typical of the scientific culture of our age in which philosophy and ethics are divorced from technology and science, research proceeds with an ethical framework of utilitarianism built on a philosophy of scientism. (Or, to put it far more bluntly: gene editing continues because, you know, science is our only real hope and if we can do something we should).

And so, even though this panel admits that it could be years before the “technical difficulties” of gene editing are “ironed out,” experiments will continue, and should continue though “initially limited to serious genetic disorders that are caused by DNA variants in a single gene” and should be used “only when the alternatives for having a biologically related child that is unaffected by the genetic disorder are poor.”

Scientific hubris is, indeed, a tough train to stop. Certainly, an international panel of “experts” admitting that gene editing is dangerous and often unnecessary, but should proceed anyway with caution won’t stop the eager scientists around the world or the governments and corporations who fund them.

The sincere desire to eradicate dangerous genetic diseases is understandable, and even noble. The longing to heal reflects God’s image in us. Ethically sound and medically safe treatments should be pursued, but we should never proceed without full awareness of the human temptation to “become like God” as Genesis 3 tells us, “determining good and evil.” After all, couples are already genetically screening donor sperm to create “designer babies,” and governments (like, say, China) have already demonstrated their willingness to experiment on entire ethnic groups. We are a world and, too often, a church who proceeds with the most invasive and inhumane technologies without adequate or, in some cases, any serious ethical reflection.

There is time to prevent the potential man-made catastrophe of gene-editing. Time, however, won’t be enough without the will to say no.

Sep 11, 2020
Trafficking Children
05:11

In just the past two months, authorities in Michigan, Ohio and Georgia rescued 58 children, ranging in age from three to 17, who were either missing or were victims of sex trafficking. In Ohio and Georgia, United States Marshals led the rescue missions. In 2005, a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children launched operations like these all across the country. In addition to the children who were rescued, more than two dozen predators were arrested.

Terms such as “sex trafficking” or “human trafficking” evoke a certain made-for-Hollywood image, of high-tech cartels in big cities run by wealthy criminal masterminds. While those operations exist, the truth is often less flashy and more common. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child sex trafficking includes the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining or advertising of a minor child for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” Of the roughly 24-thousand endangered runaways reported last year, estimates are that one in six were victims of sex trafficking. 

Traffickers aren’t always the shadowy strangers nabbing girls in an airport or shopping mall. Often, they are family members or family friends, such as parents who’ve lost custody or guardians looking to profit. Runaways are particularly vulnerable to people who are willing to take them in with intent to use them.

In other words, trafficking in some form or another could be happening in most of our communities.

That’s what is happening. The question is, how did we get here?

A few weeks ago, Netflix found itself at the center of a scandal over a French movie that it still intends to release this month. “Cuties” tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who joins a “twerking dance crew” to “explore her femininity” and gain independence. Those are Netflix’s words, not mine. When Netflix ran an ad for the film showing young girls with bare legs and midriffs, a widely circulated petition demanded they remove the movie. Instead, they removed the ad. The movie’s still a go.

In other words, there is a culture-wide disconnect between the overt sexualization of young children and sex trafficking. The same culture that celebrates when kids are rescued from sex slavery promotes a movie about young girls twerking. A few years back, just two weeks after we celebrate the greatest exploiter of young women in our lifetime, Hugh Hefner, we arrest Harvey Weinstein for exploiting young women. We agree, at least for now, that young kids can’t actually consent to sex, while the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children barely out of toddlerhood should determine their own gender.

I could go on and on. The inconsistency is dizzying.

Still, these things are examples of one of our culture’s most insidious evils: how we steal childhood in the name of sexual progress. Allowing teenagers to get abortions during school hours without notifying parents steals childhood. Fetishizing adolescence by idolizing teenaged political activists or pre-pubescent movie and music stars steals childhood. I’ve long thought that the jump to pedophilia is smaller than we think. In a world where sexual autonomy is dignity, consent is morality, and kids are encouraged to determine their gender identity regardless of DNA, chromosomes, or bodily realities, it’s a short jump to suggesting, as some on the cultural margins already have, that kids can consent to sexual relationships.

Two years ago at Buzzfeed news, a couple reporters suggested that our culture’s obsession with ending child sex trafficking is overblown and “based on myths.” Some young teens, they wrote, are simply searching for independence and are able to find it in sex work.

Sexual exploitation, however, can never bring freedom. No young person, even at 17 years old, can consent to a sexual encounter that they’ve been told, ironically, will offer them some sort of safety or independence. There is no freedom in lost childhood, just as there’s no freedom in being ruled by twisted sexual desires.

The success of these rescue missions in Ohio, Georgia and Michigan are worth celebrating. If we ever hope to end sex trafficking, however, we’ll need to be more honest and more holistic in our approach to the problem.

Sep 10, 2020
Questions about Conspiracy Theories and Eschatology
34:32

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris tackle a couple of tough questions today on the BreakPoint Podcast. Responding to our recent commentary on QAnon and conspiracy theories, one reader asks what's the difference between someone like Sophie Scholl, who alerted people to Nazi atrocities, and those who are labeled conspiracy theorists? Don't they both want to expose evil?

The second question: How, if at all, does one's eschatology--view of the end times--affect how we engage culture?

Resources:

Sep 09, 2020
Disney’s Mulan and the Backdrop of Genocide
04:50

Disney’s newest live-action movie “Mulan” was released Friday. So far, reviews have ranged from mostly positive to absolutely glowing: "an exciting, well-crafted action movie,” a “robust” and “family-friendly, live-action Disney fantasy,” and an “epic-scale tribute to female empowerment.”

However, the feedback on Mulan has chilled considerably after reports that Disney filmed substantial portions of the movie in China’s Xinjiang province, with the blessing and cooperation of the Chinese Communist government.

Xinjiang is the home province of some 12 million Muslim Uighurs that live in China. According to the U. S. State Department, over one million of them have been moved to concentration camps where, and I quote, “they are starved, abused, tortured, electrocuted, raped and even killed.”  Uighur women have been “forcibly sterilized . . . [and] made to use intrusive birth control methods.” There have even been reports of forced abortions and even infanticide.

Yet, not only did Disney choose Xinjiang province, “ground zero” for China’s savage persecution of the Muslim Uighur population to film “Mulan,” in the closing credits, they thanked four Communist Party propaganda departments and a public security bureau in Xinjiang—the very organizations, as the Washington Post reports, “that are facilitating [these] crimes against humanity.”

Calling the treatment of the Uighur population in China “crimes against humanity” may sound harsh, but it is fitting. In fact, what’s been happening in Xinjiang fits the United Nations’ official definition of genocide: the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This can include “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction,” and “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

To be clear, Disney has chosen to cozy up to the Chinese government for years. In 1997, a Disney film that cast the Dalai Lama in a positive light so upset the totalitarians in Beijing, they “restricted the studio’s ability to work in China.”  Disney’s then-CEO Michael Eisner quickly issued an apology and promised not to insult Disney’s “friends” in the future.  Appeased, Beijing opened the doors for Shanghai Disneyland, which opened in 2016. “Mulan” has handed Beijing a propaganda victory.

Given their strong stands on behalf of progressive causes such as LGBT issues and abortion, Disney seems more guilty of a bad worldview than spinelessness.  In 2016, for example, Disney threatened to stop filming in the state of Georgia after the legislature passed a bill protecting religious liberty in the wake of same-sex marriage. And, Disney’s current CEO said he would find it “very difficult” to continue filming in Georgia after the state passed a fetal heartbeat bill to protect the lives of the unborn. Many don’t realize just how lucrative film and television is in Georgia, much less the tax and other financial incentives Georgia now has in place for studios, directors, and others in the industry. In 2018 alone, the state reported about $9.5 billion in revenue from the film and television industries.

Why then, would Disney be willing to put the economic screws to a U.S. state over abortion and LGBT rights, but not to a Communist dictatorship over human-rights violations and even genocide?

While Beijing clearly doesn’t care about world opinion, too much world opinion cares about China… especially China’s money. Having propped up its authority for so long on economic promises, the only pressure China is likely to take seriously is financial. Nations like Japan and India, and even some corporations like Apple, have taken a stand and moved business out of China. Disney, on the other hand, gave China a great big PR win instead.

I’m usually not much for boycotting as a strategy, but my family will not be watching “Mulan.” In fact, the boycott of “Mulan” seems to be spreading, especially in Asia. I hope it spreads in our country too, as a way of putting action to all of our words about human dignity, human value, and human rights. No amount of money will ever make acceptable the treatment that Muslim Uighurs face at the hands of the Chinese government.

Sep 09, 2020
Tik Tok Mocks Those With Disabilities, One Woman Responds with Faith and Dignity
04:42

Imagine logging onto social media and discovering that your picture was being used to scare young children. Not by cruel teenagers, mind you…by adults.

That happened recently to Lizzie Velasquez. Velasquez was born with a rare genetic disorder that leaves her unable to gain weight. Now 30, she has never weighed more than 62 pounds.  The disorder has left her with deformed facial and skull bones. In 2006, a cruel You Tube video dubbed her the “World’s Ugliest Woman.”

Instead of crushing her spirit, Velasquez has used the bullying and mockery to become a champion for the disabled and for others on the receiving end of internet-enabled cruelty. After graduating from college, she has become an author, writing several books to bring hope to those who have been abused because of their looks or disabilities.

Velasquez is not shy about what is behind her remarkable response to all of this adversity. Her Christian faith, she says has been her “rock through everything, just having the time to be alone and pray and talk to God and know that He's there for me.”

Tragically, as our culture’s disregard for human dignity worsens, so has the ridicule and abuse. The controversial app TikTok recently launched what it called a “New Teacher Challenge.” In it, adults “pretended to FaceTime their child’s new teacher.” Nothing wrong with that. The problem lies in the pictures some so-called “adults” chose to represent the “new teacher.” Some posted police mugshots, likely without the permission of the person in the photo.

The really cruel posted pictures of Velasquez and others with disabilities. When their kids cried out in shock or fear, the parents laughed laughed and posted it all on TikTok.

Courageously, Velasquez confronted these TikTok users, pointing out that what they were teaching their kids is that it’s okay to mock and laugh at people with disabilities. “If you are an adult who has a young human in your life,” Velasquez said, “please do not teach them that being scared of someone who doesn't look like them is OK, please . . . Because we are humans. We have feelings.”

Velasquez is right to appeal to our shared humanity and human dignity, and as a Christian knows that our human dignity is based on the fact that each and every one of us is created in the image and likeness of God. Everyone, regardless of what we look like or how able-bodied we are or not, are eternally valuable, from the moment of our conception to the moment of our natural death. Tragically, our society jettisoned that belief decades ago.

Abortion is, of course, the most obvious and pervasive example of what happens when certain human lives are considered disposable. Another is our increasing acceptance of physician-assisted suicide, which is based on the idea that some lives are not worth living and some people are not worth keeping alive. This is why disability-rights activists like Joni Eareckson Tada and my New Zealand friend John Fox, both of whom have disabilities, spend so much time and energy opposing abortion and physician-assisted suicide.

Our culture’s disdain for and impatience with the disabled is just another example of what happens when life is devalued.  Sometimes, it’s overt and cruel, like the mockery and bullying Velasquez and others have endured. Other times, it takes the form of regarding those with disabilities as burdens and annoyances. Parents of children with cognitive disabilities are far-too-acquainted with the impatient looks and even hostility from people who resent the disruptions at grocery stores, movie theatres and elsewhere. Chuck Colson’s daughter Emily, who has raised her autistic son Max, can tell you all about that.

From abortion clinics to social media apps, the loss of the belief in the imago dei has resulted in the denial of the sanctity and dignity of every human person. The world, as a result, has become a crueler and less humane place.  Ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have victims.

Thank God for Lizzie Velasquez and people like her, whose faith and endurance show the world what true dignity looks like. In fact, let’s learn from her and never tolerate for a second the mistreatment of people with disability.

Sep 08, 2020
Jonathan Edwards and the Call to Prayer
04:44

Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel observed that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Hopelessness, like so many of us feel amidst this perfect storm of pandemics, injustice, political unrest, and rioting, can lead us to indifference. After all, what can the typical person do about any of the crazy stuff going on these days?

Christians cannot succumb to hopelessness. We are never allowed to retreat into indifference. To love is the first and greatest commandment, first God and then others. We are, Peter wrote, “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3) We may not feel like this is true, but it is.

The great Jonathan Edwards, a leading theologian and perhaps America’s greatest Christian philosopher, served in pastoral ministry in the 18th century, during the height of the Enlightenment. In an essay entitled “A Call to United, Extraordinary Prayer: An Humble Attempt,” (how’s that for a title), Edwards argued that for the Christian to maintain this love for God and others, defined by hope while avoiding despair, regular prayer was essential.

However, Edwards was clear that prayer does not bring hope to believers by guaranteeing that God will line up with our requests. Rather, prayer aligns the believers, and our requests, to the Kingdom of God in at least three ways.

First, prayer teaches our hearts and minds to long for God’s power and glory. Here’s Edwards:

“There is much in what we have seen of the glorious works of God’s power and grace, to put us in mind of the yet greater things of this nature that he has spoken of in his word, and to excite our longings, and our hopes of their approach.” The “experience of His presence” that is, knowing and believing the one true God of the universe, is meant to excite us towards greater prayer for the “continuance, increase, and greater extent of such blessings.”

Second, prayer is the principal means by which Christ’s kingdom advances. Again, quoting Edwards, “so [it] is God’s will, through His wonderful grace, that the prayers of his saints should be one great and principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world.” That’s an astounding thought. So often, we ask “but other than pray, what can we do” as if praying isn’t doing something. But it is. It is effectual, says St. James in his epistle.

Finally, our prayers are not merely that God would save our nation, but that He would pour out His Spirit on it through the church. “…but that God would appear for His church,” Edwards wrote, “and in mercy to miserable men, carry on his work in the land, and in the world, and fulfill the things he has spoken of in his word, that his church has been so long wishing, and hoping, and waiting for.” 

This restoration we long for is not for some past “good old days” as a country, but rather a restoration to God’s purposes. We pray for God to heal our nation and revive the church even as we long for and await the day when the Lord will return, restoring creation (Revelation 21) and making all things news.

These words of Edwards describe, at least in part, why a few thousand of us have been gathering virtually the last few weeks, each Wednesday morning between now and November 4 (the morning after the 2020 election) for a national prayer time, via webinar. Each prayer time features prayers from Scripture and from church history, as well as a devotional challenge and prayer. So far, Pastor Rick Warren, Os Guinness, and Bishop Garland Hunt have led our times together. This Wednesday, Heritage Foundation President Kay Cole James will lead us in prayer.*

Due to Zoom capacity, there are limited live spots each week available to all who register. However, we have unlimited seats on Facebook live, and each week’s recording is sent to everyone who signs up. Go to BreakPoint.org for more details and to register.

Jonathan Edwards wrote:  “When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people.” Amen. Join us in prayer tomorrow. And again, you can sign up at BreakPoint.org

 

*Editor's Note: Kay C. James led the prayer webinar on September 2nd, previous to this recording. This coming Wednesday, September 9th, will be led by Focus on the Family President, Jim Daly.

Sep 07, 2020
Will Evangelicals Return to Church?
47:46

Stories from across the country reveal that even as church doors are opening once again, many evangelicals may not be returning to worship. What does that say about our understanding of worship, of church itself?

Also on today's episodes, stunning survey results about Christians approval of sex outside of marriage; tough and insightful questions to ask candidates for political office--for example: What are our most pressing problems, and whose job is it to solve them? Or, What is your definition of religious freedom and what is its place in our society?

They wrap up the episode talking about the passing of Chadwick Boseman, an outspoken Christian and star of "Black Panther" and "42," NBA star Cliff Robinson, and legendary Georgetown U basketball coach John Thompson.

And don't miss John and Shane's recommendations for the coming week.

Resources:

Sep 04, 2020
Abortion and Planned Parenthood Exposed
06:15

If I told you I had an exodontia appointment today, during which my bicuspid would be extracted from my alveolar bone, you may not know what I’m talking about. In fact I’m not sure I even pronounced those words correctly. If, however, I said I’m having a tooth pulled at the dentist, you would.

We use language to soften reality all the time. We might say that someone “passed away” instead of “died” to come across as more sensitive and caring. We might use the phrase “let go” rather than “fired” for the same reason. 

Euphemism and jargon can be useful in certain situations, but we should never use language to hide evil, especially when it comes to something as important as abortion. For years, advocates within the abortion industry have obscured and misled, dodging the consequences of their actions by both euphemism and deception. Now, thanks to a new round of videos released by pro-life activist David Dalieden and the Center for Medical Progress, at least a handful of abortionists have been forced into brutal honesty.

In 2015, Dalieden first released a series of videos, taken undercover, of multiple Planned Parenthood executives bragging about how lucrative the practice of selling body parts from aborted babies was. One executive, Mary Gatter, famously said, on camera, that she hoped to sell enough body parts to buy a Lamborghini.

The videos released last week add yet another dimension, showing these same Planned Parenthood executives forced, under oath, to watch the incriminating footage of themselves from 2015 and answer for what they said.

It was an exercise in linguistic gymnastics.

Back in 2015, Tram Nguyn, the vice president of abortion access for Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast, told Daleiden that aborted babies were, at times, delivered from their mother “a little too intact.” Because partial birth abortion is a federal crime, such an admission would create quite a problem for Planned Parenthood. On the other hand, to make enough money for a Lamborghini, they need to deliver body parts as intact as possible. 

During deposition, when asked to clarify this comment, Nguyen admitted that sometimes aborted babies were, in fact, delivered with limbs still attached to the torso. Sometimes, she said, the fetuses may even be delivered with the “calvarium” attached. “Calvarium” is Latin for head

What she is describing is partial-birth abortion. Even that, however, is a euphemism for what is, really, a live dissection. Tram Nguyen can use all the Latin she wants, but she still admitted under oath that Planned Parenthood partially delivered babies and then killed them to sell their body parts.

Believe it or not, that’s not the only legal question created by this sworn testimony. Planned Parenthood execs also seem to admit violating a portion of its own patient protocol, the part in which the patients are promised that abortionists will never alter the procedures in order to obtain sellable parts. Under oath, however, Dr. Deborah Nucatola admitted that sometimes abortionists turn babies around to be delivered feet-first, in order to keep as much of their little bodies in-tact as possible.

Also in the video, Lamborghini enthusiast Dr. Mary Gatter makes a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to use a language distinction to obscure how serious a violation of patient’s rights this is. After confirming that changing procedure to harvest body parts would violate policy and ethics, she assures us they didn’t actually change the procedure, only the technique used during the procedure.

Why do abortionists and those who profit from abortions so often hide behind euphemism? Why the secrecy and sleight-of-hand? Even before Roe v. Wade right up until now, people and politicians have hidden behind jargon like “fetus” and “products of conception” and “calvarium.” Now, even words like “procedure” and “technique” are used as if they have no real meaning.

Everything good and right and true exists in the light, according to Ephesians 5. Evil tries to hide itself, and hidden evil flourishes. Everything this industry tries to hide, including the humanity of the fetus and the reality that this “procedure" kills, and just how brutal it is, we must expose. 4:56 We will continue talking about abortion here on BreakPoint in plain language, until we don’t have to anymore. 

And we will do our best to train every Christian to make the case for life, including through our next 4-week Short Course, “Champion Life: How to Oppose Abortion and Protect the Unborn,” which begins this coming Tuesday. Come to BreakPoint.org to register, and tell your friends and family about it.

I do believe there are signs that the tide is turning on abortion in the United States. And I believe the light shines on the darkness, the better off we will be in defending the unborn. Even though many Americans still support legal abortion, a wide majority now favor certain safety measures: such as requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and stipulating that a doctor must first conduct and show mothers an ultrasound before performing an abortion.

We must not grow weary. Each day that exposes abortion for what it is, is better than the day before. And remember, sign up for our short course, “Champion Life” at BreakPoint.org

Sep 04, 2020
QAnon, Conspiracy Theories, & the Church
05:39

At a press conference a few weeks ago, a reporter asked President Trump about the conspiracy theory QAnon. Started a few years ago by an anonymous user on the message site 4chan, QAnon claims, among other things, that a ring of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is running the government, Hollywood, the media, and the Democratic Party.

The president’s response when asked about this emerging online “cult” was not helpful: “I understand [QAnon followers] like me very much, which I appreciate,” he said, and then added: “I’ve heard these are people that love our country…” 

America has long been fertile ground for the creating and spreading of conspiracy theories. Sadly, however, this particular fear-based narrative is finding fertile soil in churches. In a recent piece at Religion News Service, Kaitlyn Beaty quoted pastors from around the country who say QAnon and other obsessions have gained influence in their congregations. Not only are these pastors worried about their members’ credibility and witness, it’s a particular challenge when it comes to reaching the next generation.

QAnon isn’t the first conspiracy theory to attract followers in certain segments of the Church. In fact, as Joe Carter writes at The Gospel Coalition, QAnon is similar to the Satanic Rituals panic that swept American Christianity in the 1980s. In fact, it may be that conspiracy theories are more believable by Christians during heightened seasons of cultural alienation and moral decline. Blaming clandestine networks of powerful, shadowy, and demonically inspired conspirators is an attempt to make sense of moral decline and offers someone to blame.

Often, conspiracy theories come wrapped in biblical language, twisting a theological term here or a Bible verse there. QAnon messages and videos, for example, are often packed with references to God, demons, and prophecy.

Some followers attempt to match Q’s predictions with passages from the books of Daniel and Revelation. Of course, large segments of the American church have long been fascinated with ends-times prophecies, confusing the clear biblical mandate of “watching and waiting for the return of the Bridegroom” with attempting to retrofit geo-political events into the Bible’s figurative prophetic language.

Still, the simplest explanation for the success of conspiracy theories like QAnon among a Christian audience is the simple, black-and-white explanation it offers for the problems in the world around us: It’s the bad guys fault. And the bad guys are them.

Now to be clear, there certainly are enemies of Christ and enemies of the good in our world, but that’s no reason to assume some vast, powerful conspiracy of power. The far easier explanation is that, in times of triumph and in times of chaos, people resort back to their worldview. Their understanding of right and wrong, of good and evil, and how to best order society is shaped by their deeply held beliefs about life and the world.  And, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously said, the line between good and evil doesn’t run between the so-called good guys and so-called bad guys, but right down the center of every human heart.

Of course, it’s also true that government leaders, the news media, the entertainment industry often given conspiracy theorists more ammo than they need. The recent despicable ad floated by Netflix to promote the pornographic “Cuties” movie was enough to convince anyone that media elites actively promote pedophilia.

Still, Christians can discern between what’s true and good, and what’s false and nefarious, without being swept away into conspiratorial thinking. An important place to start is good old-fashioned fact checking, but of course, many conspiracy claims are by nature un-checkable, which often only deepens the hold these beliefs have on the believers. If a claim is unverifiable, our default position should not be to always believe it.

A former colleague of mine, Kevin Bywater, offered the following formula to identify cults. I always found the formula, which might be called “Do the Math,” helpful. First, addition: does the theory add to the word of God? Second, subtraction: does it subtract from the deity or sovereignty of Christ? Third, multiplication: Does it multiply the requirements for salvation or acceptance by God? And finally, division: Does it wrongly divide the Body of Christ?

Those questions can also be helpful to discern conspiracy theories, along with two clarifying worldview questions: Does it truly and accurately identify what is wrong with the world as the Bible describes it, and does it truly and accurately identify the solution?

Finally, these conspiracy theories often inspire unhealthy fear. The fear of God, Scripture says, cast out all other fears. To be paralyzed by fear, or to be so outraged by fear that we no longer are able to love our neighbor, is not of Christ.

Ultimately, any conspiracy theory is going to rob its followers of all that Christ offers. That’s the biggest threat of all.

Sep 03, 2020
Christians and Elections . . . What Do We Do?
32:35

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris tackle tough questions from BreakPoint listeners about the upcoming election and the role of Christians in a democracy. The first deals with a controversial article by Christian writer and thinker David French entitled, "Do Pro-Lifers Who Reject Trump Have Blood on Their Hands?"

How much do national and local elections truly matter? What impact do they have on our daily lives? Is it OK for Christians to sit an election out, or is it imperative that we vote, no matter how difficult the choices? What about a constitutional amendment for Life? Does how Jesus lived among us give any guidance?

Resources:

Sep 02, 2020
China Uses Forced Labor to Produce Laptops, and We’re Buying Them
04:17

In his new book, “Unbelievers,” British historian Alec Ryrie observes that the only moral standard people agree on these days is “don’t be like Nazi Germany.” Since firms such as Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, and Bayer used forced labor from concentration camps during World War II, that should mean we could all agree that forced labor is bad.

Tragically, at least if it involves new laptops in time for the new school year, it doesn’t.

Recently, the Intercept reported that Lenovo, the world’s largest manufacturer of laptops, “has imported an estimated 258,000 laptops” built by a certain Chinese manufacturer named Hefei Bitland. Through this manufacturer, Lenovo “participates in a Chinese government program that provides factories with cheap labor from persecuted Uighurs.” “Cheap labor,” in this case, means “forced labor.” The Uighurs providing the labor are concentration camp inmates who cannot refuse the work assignment. 

The U. S. government has singled out Hefei Bitland for violating human rights. Still, even after Hefei Bitland was placed on a government list restricting trade, some of the computers reached American consumers. Lenovo removed a portion of the laptops from distribution, but others were still shipped.

It’s tempting to rationalize using products from forced labor. According to the Associated Press, there is a significant shortage of laptops for American students this school year. Companies like HP, Dell, and, of course, Lenovo blame U.S. sanctions on Chinese suppliers for the shortfall. Some school administrators have adopted a less-rigorous approach to human rights.

One administrator described the situation as “a tough one.” “I’m not condoning child slave labor for computers,” he said, “but can we not hurt more children in the process?”

Is going without a computer for a few months the moral equivalent of child slave labor?

Of course, a shortage of laptops, especially during pandemic-caused education at home, creates serious problems. However, as the Intercept pointed out, this one of many moral pitfalls caused by China’s role in the global supply chain, given their use of forced labor. Global dependence on Chinese manufacturers creates powerful incentives to overlook China’s abysmal treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, such as the Uighurs.

One million Uighurs have been put into concentration camps, “separated from their children, prevented from exercising their religion, and subjected to political indoctrination.” Some have also been “forcibly sterilized . . . [and] made to use intrusive birth control methods.” More reccently, there have been reports of forced abortions and even infanticide., something members of the American press rightly decried, despite the 600,000+ babies killed each year here in our country is considered women’s rights.

The Chinese campaign against the Uighurs meets the criteria of Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide. But, as in the 1930s and 40s, the temptation for companies and consumers to rationalize doing business with the perpetrators of genocide is proving too great to resist. The only real way to avoid global complicity in China’s atrocities is to reduce global dependence on China—just as Japan and India are doing and corporations like Apple are doing.

“Don’t be like Nazi Germany” is good advice, but it is not a firm enough foundation to ground human rights, especially when the atrocities are hidden behind accounting and business practices.

Human rights can only be safely grounded in the Christian idea of the imago dei, which teaches us that we are indeed our brother’s keeper, even if our laptop delivery is delayed.

Sep 02, 2020
The Church’s Role in Racial Healing
05:17

The shooting by police of 29-year-old African American Jacob Blake, who was shot in the back seven times after a domestic disturbance report, has ignited the kinds of protest and riots in Kenosha Wisconsin, as we’ve seen in  Ferguson (MO), Baltimore, Louisville, Minneapolis, and elsewhere.

As details surrounding this shooting continue to emerge, violence continues to escalate. In Kenosha, a 17-year-old boy from Illinois shot and killed two protesters. While the boy has been charged with murder in the first degree, his attorney says he acted in self-defense. Over the weekend in Portland, a city that’s been on edge for weeks upon weeks, a Trump supporter was shot and killed after a conflict with antifa protestors.

As the Washington Post reports, “people on both sides of the United States’ political and cultural divide have been filmed exchanging punches, beating one another with sticks and flagpoles, or standing face-to-face with weapons, often with police appearing to be little more than observers.” One Anti Defamation League historian described the state of the union this way: “We are not just a polarized society — we are increasingly a confrontational society...”

Last Wednesday, while leading our weekly prayer webinar for the church and our nation, Bishop Garland Hunt tackled a question most of us have, “Is it even possible to find racial healing in a nation so deeply divided?”

His answer to that question was about as Biblically grounded as any I’ve heard thus far. (Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and I’ll slink you to a video of his presentation.) Only the church, he said, has the path to healing.

Or, another way to put what should be obvious by now, no other institution offers an real way forward for the sins of our past and the conflict of our present. Only the church. If not the church, than who?

We start, Bishop Hunt said, by mourning with those who mourn. “The African American community,” of which Bishop Hunt is part, “is in mourning,” he reminded us. Racism in all of its forms, Bishop Hunt also reminded us, is rooted in pride, which makes it fundamentally a spiritual battle. As Paul told the Ephesians, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Those forces are at work anytime there is dehumanizing injustice, in any form, including when peaceful protest becomes indiscriminate violence, as we have seen so often in recent months.

And that’s why the Church must be the church, Christians must have a worldview big enough to understand that, in this case, neither politics nor policy offer long-term solutions.

Only the Church has the resources of reconciliation. In particular, the church carries the effective weapons of prayer and repentance.

Approaching God in prayer, as Bishop Hunt reminded us, begins with dying “to our [own] agenda… to what we think we know… to whatever would give us a superior attitude over another person.” Echoing Paul, Bishop Hunt said, “we have all sinned, black and white—in our attitudes toward one another, our hatred, our unforgiveness.” 

The black community is mourning and, he said, must appeal to the Lord to get rid of unforgiveness, get rid of hatred, release people from the past, and love unconditionally. The white community should repent, he said, for a “lack of sensitivity, a lack of willingness to even care what’s going on in the black community . . . unwillingness to even speak out on racial justice.”

And in the most important thing I think he said, Bishop Hunt said, “This [racial] thing is not going away unless the Church grabs hold of the cross like never before.” As he prayed, his words sounded so much like Nehemiah’s: “We’re so sorry because the Church has not been the example it should be. We’ve been a part of the problem, we’ve allowed ourselves to not care …We’re sorry for the sins of our nation, we’re sorry we haven’t forgiven.” And then, echoing the words of Jesus in John 17, “Lord, let it be … that the Church can be one, even as you and the Father are one.”

The Colson Center established these prayer times, which you can join, because we need to pray more than anything else right now. We need to pray more than we need our narrative confirmed or our side vindicated. We need to pray right now even more than we need a particular result in the November election.

This Wednesday, at 10:30am Eastern, we will virtually gather again, asking God to heal our nation and revive the Church. Leading us this week will be Kay Cole James, President of the Heritage Foundation. Come to BreakPoint.org to register. That’s BreakPoint.org

Sep 01, 2020
Introducing Our Newest Podcasts: "Strong Women" and "Upstream"
45:54

On this special edition of the BreakPoint Podcast, ,John Stonestreet welcomes the hosts of the Colson Center's newest podcasts:  Erin Kunkle and Sarah Stonestreet, co-hosts of "Strong Women," and Shane Morris, host of "Upstream."

Erin, Sarah, and Shane discuss the motivations and ideas behind these new podcasts, upcoming guests, and what they hope to accomplish along with their weekly guests and subject matter experts.

Resources:

Aug 31, 2020
You Can Oppose Abortion and Defend Life. You Must.
05:30

Last Wednesday, during a new segment on the BreakPoint Podcast in which Shane Morris and me field questions from listeners, we tackled the following question / lecture: “If abortion is so evil then why does God abort millions of fertilized eggs every day? With you folks, almost everything is black and white. No nuance. If a Fetus has deformities to prevent it from living a few hours after birth, then why put the mother through this trauma?”

Questions like this, especially in light of the incredibly strategic cultural moment we are in right now when it comes to defending innocent preborn life, is why we called an audible for the next Colson Center Short Course. Four Tuesday nights in a row, beginning September 8, you can be trained to be a pro-life advocate by the best. The course is called “Champion Life: How to Oppose Abortion and Defend the Unborn.” by Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Institute, you will leave each week’s teaching prepared to do just what the subtitle says: oppose abortion and defend the unborn.

In fact, the first week’s class will enable you to navigate conversations we often find ourselves in, not dissimilar to what Shane and I heard from our listener: a flurry of questions mixed with an accusation or two. We have to start by defining exactly what abortion is.

My friend Greg Koukl often will use the following helpful scenario to do just that: Imagine your 10-year-old son walks up behind you, and asks, “Hey, Mom! Hey, Dad! Can I kill this?” Every parent knows that the only right response is a question: “What is this?” If it's a cockroach, sure. If he’s holding his little brother by the neck, he’s going to need counseling.

Medical science, embryology, and technologies like ultrasound have settled, beyond a doubt, that abortion takes a human life. Neither a male sperm cell nor a female egg cell are human beings, but once they unite, there is a different kind of entity: a distinct human life.

From this starting point, we can tackle our listener’s first question: why is abortion wrong when embryos naturally die by miscarriage every day? The answer is found by applying the same rules to these preborn humans as we would to humans outside the womb. Millions of people die every day, so why should we be so against murder?

The difference between millions of people dying every day by natural causes and those who die by murder is intent. It is wrong to take an innocent human life… any innocent human life. Fertilized eggs, embryos, fetuses, newborns, teenagers and adults are all human beings.

Assuming that different rules apply as long as the human is in utero is a category mistake.

On this same foundation, we can address the question of fetuses with life-threatening diseases or deformities. Suppose Grandpa is found to have a terminal illness and will die in weeks. He’s suffering and his medical expenses will place enormous financial burdens on his family. Should we kill him? Should we, as in the case of abortion, kill him without his consent?

Of course not. Why? Because it is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.

Of course, when pro-abortion advocates offer this scenario, it’s often a red herring, a distraction that’s offered as an argument. Consider that about 70 percent of American children diagnosed before birth with the non-life-threatening condition Down Syndrome are killed in the womb. Even if we were to grant that it’s OK to abort babies in rare cases where deformities are life threatening (and I won’t grant that), would our listener be for protecting those babies with non-life threatening deformities?

Or consider those who argue abortion should be allowed in cases of rape and incest. Again, it is wrong to take any innocent human life, but ninety-eight percent of babies are not conceived this way. The extremely rare exceptions of rape, incest, and life-threatening deformities have nothing to do with taking the life of babies that are simply not wanted.

We shouldn’t be stumped by these kinds of questions. We must know how to define terms, how to ask the right questions back, and how to identify category errors. This is why the upcoming short course is so very important. Every Christian needs to be prepared to oppose abortion and defend the preborn.

If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned at the Supreme Court, the legal battle for life would shift to the states. So, I repeat, every Christian needs to be equipped to oppose abortion and defend the unborn. Please, sign up for our Champion Life Short Course at BreakPoint.org. And again, it starts Tuesday, September 8.

If you can’t join us on a particular week, we record each session, so you won’t miss a thing. Week 1 we will teach you how to defend life in one minute or less. Week 2 we will talk about the wrong ways to talk about abortion. Week 3 we will equip you to answer the common pro-abortion arguments. And week 4, we will enable you to launch a plan to join the pro-life movement.

Oh, and don’t forget to listen to our weekly question and answer session each week on the BreakPoint Podcast. You can listen in wherever you get your podcasts.

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Aug 31, 2020
BP This Week: If not the Church, Then Who?
39:31

After another tough week in a tough year--another police shooting, riots, hurricane--John Stonestreet and Shane Morris talk about something every American should be able to agree on: We are not OK as a nation. Not only that, but with campaign season now in full swing, we will be bombarded with how this candidate or that candidate, this party or that party, will save us. Won't happen. Politics, important as they are, won't save us. If anyone or any entity can become a catalyst for healing and reconciliation, it is the Church. If not the Church, then who?

Also on today's broadcast: Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s fall from grace--and its impact on Liberty University and on evangelicals; videotaped court depositions uncover yet more evil on the part of Planned Parenthood; and, as every week, John and Shane's recommendations for the week. One recommendation includes . . . a TV reality show?

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Aug 28, 2020
The Call to Be Countercultural
04:14

Two years ago, when Jackie Hill-Perry, a talented writer, poet, and speaker, spoke at a Wilberforce Weekend, she had the entire room leaning forward in their chairs. A powerful speaker with a powerful testimony about following Christ out of a lesbian lifestyle--no one in the audience wanted to miss a word.

Recently, Perry shared her testimony on a YouTube interview with Christian comedian KevOnStage. After leaving a long-term relationship when she gave her life to Jesus and after years of discipleship and deep involvement in the Church, Jackie married Preston Perry, a poet and apologist. They have two daughters, with a third baby on the way.

When, in the YouTube interview, Jackie shared she still struggles with same-sex attraction, her host was noticeably surprised. So was his audience. Many commenters accused Jackie of “suppressing her true self” and “denying the humanity” of others with same-sex attraction. After days of social media pressure, KevOnStage decided to take down the video.

The anger directed at the Perrys reflects a sad fatalism that permeates both the LGBTQ movement and the so-called “gay-affirming” Christians. Their critique is rooted in a bad idea, that our sexual desires fundamentally define us. Therefore, anyone with same-sex attraction will be, ultimately, powerless against it. No other temptations or sins are thought of this way.

The Perry’s addressed this double standard on their own podcast. After all, they mused, no one asks Preston whether he’s still attracted to other women. He isn’t accused of “denying his true self” by his fidelity to Jackie.

The Perrys also addressed the accusation that for Jackie to marry a man and have children is a betrayal of “who she really is.” Her response reveals just how important worldview is when thinking about anything, especially those areas of culture so hotly contested:

Here is what Jackie said: 2:10 “If you don’t understand the reason you were created, and then you don’t understand how sin has corrupted that, then when we talk about denying self, you don’t understand that your self is broken. We were created for glory, we were created to love and honor God… When sin came into the mix, it perverted and twisted our affections and our desires where now, we desire things that go against God’s original intention for our body and our creation. So to say that we’re denying ourselves is to say that we are attempting, through the power of the Spirit, to restore our bodies and our minds back to its original intention, which is to honor God with it.”

The Perrys’ story offers a different and better narrative about humanity, sexuality, and marriage, one that makes no sense to a culture that has defined sex and marriage down to acts of pleasure and self-fulfillment. If however, sex and marriage offer something more, as part of a divinely orchestrated plan in which a lifelong union becomes a life-creating act, and if love extends us beyond merely seeking pleasure to living in friendship, fidelity, and self-giving for the good of another, then the Perrys’ marriage points to something remarkable.

C.S. Lewis said that “we are far too easily pleased. We are half-hearted creatures… like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

Anyone struggling daily against sin and temptation and attempting to live faithfully to another may not describe their life as holiday at the sea. Jackie describes her own road as difficult, but she’s accused all the time of denying herself the right to a happy life. Sadly, it’s her accusers and anyone who believes we are powerless against temptation, that settle for something less than God offers.

 

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Aug 28, 2020
Public School… In a Church?
04:36

Most public schools across the country are either attempting to hold school remotely or, in some hybrid way, brings kids back in the classroom in a limited way, keeping the numbers low. And that’s just for now. The plan has already changed in many districts and will likely change again before all said and done. The only sure thing, when it comes to this school year is that it is not going to be a normal.

For a group of churches and ministries in Ohio, this is an opportunity to, in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, seek the welfare of the city. A few months ago, public school districts in Columbus asked local churches to provide additional space for students who have working parents, and whose school would not be opening for in-person instruction. Looking for places where students could access tech devices and the internet, be under adult supervision, where food could be provided, churches in Columbus opened their doors.

Spearheaded by a faith-based group called Catalyst For Columbus, churches are opening “Learning Extension Centers”, where kids can do their online schoolwork with help from tutors. Dozens of churches have signed up, all on their own dime. One local ministry called The Dream Center plans to open 20 Learning Extension Centers across Columbus.

A friend of mine was helping a local pastor think through the logistics of setting up a center, including volunteer tutors, food, supplies, maybe transportation. At the end of their conversation they just laughed. “Pastor,” my friend said, “I think we’ve just invented school!”

What makes all of this more interesting is that in Ohio, the relationship between public schools and the church has not always been cordial. Two months ago, Ohio lawmakers passed a bill clarifying the rights of students to express their religious faith at school. Sponsors of the bill said schools were treating Christian clubs differently than other clubs, not allowing them to meet in school buildings, and students were being told they couldn’t express their Christian beliefs in school assignments or projects.

The fact that this bill, which the governor quickly signed into law, was even necessary is cause for concern. And frankly, there’s frustration that, after such hostility, the schools would now turn to churches for help. The churches, however, set all that aside to seize an opportunity to offer Christian generosity as a powerful witness to the City of Columbus.

The Church should help like this, wherever and whenever it can, whether or not it’s getting paid, and whether or not it’s ever thanked. Families scrambling to figure out what to do about school and work are our neighbors. School administrators and teachers are our neighbors. “Love your neighbor,” Jesus said, and “Give to the one who asks you.”

What these Ohio churches are doing is an example of something Rick Warren encouraged all of us to think about during our first Wednesday prayer call. Like God asked Moses, Rick encouraged us to ask ourselves, “What’s in our hand?” Moses had a staff, and through it, God freed His people and accomplished great wonders.

These Ohio churches took inventory and are offering what they have: space, technology, volunteers, and internet. Suddenly, the state isn’t fighting about whether Christian groups should be allowed to be meet in their secular space, or whether some imaginary interpretation of the Establishment Clause is being violated. Rather, they are asking if students can be allowed on a property dedicated to Christ and served by volunteers dedicated to Christ.  Sounds like a win to me.

Now these churches will not only be able to provide extension learning centers, they will be able to show families, teachers, and school districts the love of Christ. Maybe some of these churches will discover they have what they need to start their own school long-term. Maybe this tenuous relationship between church and school districts will outlast the pandemic.

Throughout history the church has been known for innovation, especially when it comes to education. The church has also been known for prayer, and I hope you will join the Colson Center family each Wednesday morning, at 10:30 eastern, as we pray together for the church and the nation. 4:15 So far, the theme each Wednesday has been that this opportunity for the church  is greater than what is happening in the government. It’s time for the church to be the church. May God bless these churches in Ohio as they show us what that can look like.

 
 
Aug 27, 2020
God, Fertilized Eggs, and a Tough Question About Abortion
33:42

One listener writes in and asks: “If abortion is so evil then why does God abort millions of fertilized eggs every day? With you folks, almost everything is black and white. No nuance. If a Fetus has deformities to prevent it from living a few hours after birth, then why put the mother through this trauma?”

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris tackle this one as well as a question about the differences between worldview, philosophies, and ideologies and a question about the history behind slavery and Christianity.

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Aug 26, 2020
WAP and "Cuties"
04:45

Though Americans remain a morally serious people, at least in our quickness to condemn each other as “Hitlers” for various misdeeds, we are clearly not concerned with moral consistency. We demand churches close to stop the spread of COVID, but not Wal-marts, bars or casinos. We protest police violence with acts of violence. We celebrate Hugh Hefner as some great liberator of women, and weeks after his death, condemn Harvey Weinstein. We say “character counts” when it’s their guy in office, but not when it’s our guy.

Then, last week, after three plus years of the #MeToo movement protesting the objectification and abuse of women, the most objectifying song in history, one that reduces women to nothing more their private parts, hit #1 on the charts. I couldn’t possibly share with the lyrics of this song… any of them. Please, do not look them up. The two women rappers who perform this song repeatedly call themselves prostitutes, although not using that word, and beg men to treat them as such.

By any definition, legal or otherwise, America’s most popular song and its accompanying video are best called pornography, and available everywhere to anyone of any age.

Also last week, Netflix announced that a new film to be carried on its platform called “Cuties,” a French film about an 11-year-old Muslim girl who liberates herself from the oppressive morality of her family and her religion by joining an all-girl dance crew. The image Netflix used to advertise the film on social media featured a group of pre-teen girls in sexually suggestive poses. The trailer featured the dance crew of young girls twerking, among other sexually suggestive dance moves.

In 1964 Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said that though he could not give a precise definition of pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Thankfully, the public outcry to the movie poster was loud, consistent, and incredulous. What the public saw was child pornography. In response, Netflix apologized and pulled the ad but, so far, not the movie itself.

As one Facebook meme put it, if conspiracy theorists needed ammo that government and media elites are behind international pedophile rings, Netflix just gave it to them.

As morally monstrous as both of these cultural artifacts are, they reveal a great deal about the society that produced them, one that considers self-determination, self-actualization, and absolute freedom from any restraint as the highest human goods. This sort of view emerges only by rejecting the idea that the universe is created and ordered for some determined purposes. In turn, such a society embraces a profoundly tragic misunderstanding not only about what’s right and wrong, but also of what it means to be human, and of what freedom truly is.

To teach this important foundational truth, I’ve long used an analogy with students.  Imagine I’m an airplane pilot and, feeling quite free one day, I decide I don’t want to fly my plane, I want to drive it. So, I get to the end of the runway and turn left. Who’s going to stop me? I’m in a 747.

 I’m cruising down the road, and then I decide I want to see Pike’s Peak. So, I start up the curvy, windy drive and get stuck. My expression of freedom actually limited my freedom. If I want to see Pikes Peak in a plane, I should fly it. A plane is most free not when I drive it, but when I fly it. That’s what is designed for.

The same is true of human sexuality. We are not most free when we do whatever we want, but only when we are what God created us to be. A view of freedom that denies accountability or consequences will only, always, enslave us to our own passions. As St. Paul wrote in Romans 6, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

From the very beginning, the Sexual Revolution promised the wrong kind of freedom. What it delivered instead, reimagining not only sexual morality but who we fundamentally are as human beings, was slavery. Women and children are disproportionally victims of these bad ideas.  Our two most recent cultural artifacts retell these lies. It’s no accident that one is aimed at women, and the other is aimed at children.

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Aug 26, 2020
COVID Is Causing Increase in Suicidal Thoughts and Decrease in Mental Health
04:38

According to recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, “40 percent of American adults have reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse” during the COVID-19 pandemic. One-third reported feelings of anxiety and/or depression, and one-quarter said that they were struggling with trauma-related issues. One in eight reported either developing or increasing substance-abuse problems.

Worst of all, 11 percent reported that they seriously considered suicide in the last few months.  Two years ago, by comparison, that number was just one in twenty-five. And, the CDC study revealed that certain segments of the population have struggled more than others. For example, one in five “essential workers” reported suicidal ideation, as have one in three unpaid caregivers for adults, and one in four 18- to 24-year-olds. And of course, there are others who don’t fit into categories like these, but who were already struggling with mental health issues before the pandemic.

As one mental health counselor told Business Insider, “When you think about the building blocks of stress, it fits . . . helplessness and hopelessness is what shows up in all of these categories, and that’s what leads to [suicidal] ideation . . . anxiety and depression.” Think of those who, for months, ran to provide care and help for others while risking infection themselves. Or think about those already dealing with the stress of caring for loved ones who have significant physical or mental disability, only having to do so without the typical public services that have been suspended?

These are just a few of the “pre-existing conditions” exacerbated by COVID-19. Like the pre-existing physical conditions triggered and complicated by COVID, this CDC report is suggesting that there are psychological conditions of co-morbidity as well.

For years now, experts have warned of the so-called “deaths from despair,” describing the increased rates of mental illness, depression, and addictions among many population segments in our country. In addition to these, however, there’s another pre-existing condition that often goes unmentioned: American hyper-individualism.

A particularly poignant meme going around aptly describes what happens when these complicating conditions converge. In the image, the word “I’m” is followed by other words that are crossed out, such as “depressed,” “unloved,” “broken,” and “dying inside.” The only descriptive word not crossed out is “Fine.”

This CDC report confirms what were already knew. Americans are far too quick to give and to accept “fine” as an answer to the question, “How are you doing?”  Prior to COVID-19, this was tragic. Mixed with the stress and isolation of COVD-19, it’s potentially lethal.

If ever there was a time for the Church to be the Church, this is it. Not only is the church able to identify, reach out, and help those who are struggling, but every other institution we’ve become used to relying on is not able. We are truly in a situation that if not the Church, then who?

Of course, this requires that churches become communities where people feel free to share struggles. While Christians have come a long way in their attitudes towards mental illness, too many of us still view depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide as weaknesses, or even sin.

Of course, we cannot wait for others to admit struggles. Christians must become proactive in seeking out others, checking on them, and when necessary, asking the follow-up questions when we hear the answer, “fine.”

For example, unpaid caregivers for adults shouldn’t have to tell us that they face enormous struggle and stresses that have only been made worse during COVID. It should be obvious to us. Young people who are struggling to find work or who are fearful because of the pandemic shouldn’t be mocked. We need to encourage them, reach out, and help them.

And, we should reach out first. That’s the church being the church. In fact, maybe the most important and practical lesson to take from this pandemic is to stop asking, “How are you doing?” and instead ask, “How can I help?”

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Aug 25, 2020
Break the Silence, Stop the Slaughter in Nigeria
05:28

According to the United States Institute of Peace, Nigeria, “as Africa’s most populous country, largest economy, and biggest democracy,” is a “bellwether for the continent.”  In fact, by 2050, Nigeria will likely have the fourth largest population in the world, behind India, China, and the United States. According to former Representative Frank Wolf, as “goes Nigeria so goes western Africa.”

The persecution of religious minorities anywhere is a terrible thing, but Nigeria’s growing status in the world makes the ongoing persecution of Christians there even more troubling.

For years now, Boko Haram and Muslim Fulani militants have killed, raped, kidnapped, and sought to cleanse parts of northern Nigeria of its Christian population. All the while, the government of Nigeria has embraced a policy of indifference, if not complicity, in what is rightly called “genocide” by observers both inside and outside the country.

Still, tragically, what the world continues to hear about Nigeria hasn’t been enough for alarm to become action. That makes the “Nigeria’s Silent Slaughter” campaign, a project of the International Committee on Nigeria, so very important. The International Committee’s report, “Genocide in Nigeria” is the most comprehensive account available of the atrocities there. Please, if only to better pray for your brothers and sisters in Nigeria, read it. It’s available at SilentSlaughterNigeria.com.

While you are on that site, click on the interactive Calendar, which tracks the number of Nigerian Christians killed, injured, or abducted day by day over the last 10 months. Seeing the numbers listed, day after day, visually transforms these tragedies from isolated headlines to ongoing and systemic persecution.

For instance, on 4 July 2020, five Nigerian Christians were killed and another six were abducted. That was, relatively-speaking, a good day for Nigerian Christians. One week later, 29 were killed and 90 were driven from their homes. But worst day in July was the 19th, when 44 were killed, 31 were injured, and 1 person was abducted.

Though the extent of violence directed at Nigerian Christians can seem unreal, it is, to borrow a line from the movie “Armageddon,” “…as real as it gets.” The resources available at silentslaughterNigeria.com should convince anyone of that words like “genocide” or “crimes against humanity” are not being used for mere effect, but are, rather, the only appropriate terms that can be used. Even more, I pray these resources convince all of us to stand up for our Nigerian brothers and sisters.

First, direct your friends, family members and pastors to the interactive calendar at silentslaughterNigeria.com. We’ll also slink to it at BreakPoint.org. From this calendar pray for the Christians at risk there.

Second, let your elected leaders know that what is going on in Nigeria is very much “our problem.” At minimum, countries like the United States must be willing to admit refugees from genocidal violence. This is something that the Trump administration has promised, but now refuses to consider. On the contrary. As WORLD Magazine’s Mindy Belz has pointed out, the flow of refugees, including Christian ones which both the President and vice-President vowed to help, has come to an almost complete halt.

Another thing we need to do is stand for religious freedom. The plight of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria is not the only reason, but all the reason we need, for American Christians to care about religious freedom in our country. You see, we have the capacity to care for the persecuted around the world and the ability to pressure to countries that persecute religious minorities. As Stephen Enada, Director of the International Committee on Nigeria told me on today’s BreakPoint Podcast, its precisely our commitment to religious freedom that gives the United States a distinct “edge” over other nations. 

You can hear my conversation with Stephen Enada at breakpoint.org. Born in Nigeria himself, Stephen offers a full picture of what I’ve introduced by this commentary.

And finally Each Wednesday morning between now and the day after the election, at 10:30 eastern time, we are praying for our nation, for the revival of the church, and for the most vulnerable among us, which includes the persecuted Christians of Nigeria. This week, we will be led by Pastor Garland Hunt. Please join us. You can register at BreakPoint.org. Again come to BreakPoint.org

As the International Committee on Nigeria says, Break the silence. Stop the slaughter.

Aug 24, 2020
Nigerian Christians Need Our Help
29:11

It’s the genocide no one is talking about. Across Northern Nigeria Boko Haram terrorist and Islamist Fulani herdsman are killing, raping, and kidnapping thousands of Nigerian Christians, while the Nigerian government is doing precious little to stop the carnage.

John Stonestreet interviews Stephen Enada, director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) about ICON’s dramatic new campaign “Nigeria’s Silent Slaughter” to raise awareness and bring pressure to bear on the Nigerian government.

Enada and Stonestreet implore American Christians in particular to go to the ICON website (slinked below), to pray, and to spread the word for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

 

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Aug 24, 2020
BP This Week: Are We Putting too Much Stock in Politics?
42:14

With the conclusion of the Democratic national convention, John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss just how much Americans look to politics and political solutions to solve our societal problems--and the certainty of left and right that should the other side win the election, it's game over for America. Where are we placing our trust?

They also discuss the QAnon conspiracy theory, along with Americans' (and perhaps especially American Christians') predilection to fall for conspiracy theories in general.

Also on today's broadcast: Netflix's disgusting sexualization of young girls, the Colson Center's upcoming short course on making the case for life, and John and Shane's recommendations for the week.

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Aug 21, 2020
Germany to Honor Sophie Scholl
04:53

In February of 1943, German university student Sophie Scholl was convicted of high treason against the Nazi regime and executed by guillotine. Last week, Germany announced it will honor this Christian martyr with a €20.00 sterling silver commemorative coin. Scheduled for circulation in time for her 100th birthday, which is in 2021, the coin will bear Sophie’s likeness with her words, “A feeling for what is just and unjust” along the edge.       

Sophie Scholl was raised, along with her older brother Hans, in a nominal Lutheran household. Like most German children at the time, she was a member of the League of German Girls and her brother, a member of the Hitler Youth. However, as they grew up, they became more and more disillusioned by the Nazification of virtually every area of German life and Hitler’s tyrannical opposition to much they believed to be good, such as works of art and music considered to be non-Aryan.

As students at the University in Munich in the early 1940s, they began to seriously consider, partly due to the influence of Christian professors, what their faith was demanding of them. Finally, the slaughter of Polish Jews and Russian POWs pushed them to act against Nazi atrocities. Hans founded an underground resistance group called The White Rose and began, with a few friends, to write, publish, and distribute leaflets advocating passive resistance to Hitler’s policies and for the eventual overthrow of National Socialism.

When Sophie, having arrived at University after her brother, was introduced to his friends, she insisted on joining the group. They acquired a typewriter and a mimeograph machine to produce their leaflets and bought paper and stamps in small amounts from different sources so as not to arouse suspicion. They would mail them anonymously to nearby homes and distribute them secretly around their university campus.

While distributing their sixth group of leaflets at the university, Hans and Sophie, along with friend Christoph Probst, were discovered, arrested and charged with treason. Within four days, they had been accused, tried, condemned, and executed. Sophie was 21.

According to several witnesses, Sophie died as she had lived, with grace and courage, and without regret. As she was led to the guillotine, Sophie reportedly said, “Such a fine sunny day and I have to go …. What does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

As Brett Kunkle and I wrote in our book A Practical Guide to Culture, Christians often talk about what we are saved from, things like sin and death and judgment. And that is good news indeed! But as Sophie and Hans Scholl grew in their faith, they we forced to wrestle with what they were saved for.  God had called them to a particular moment in German history. The intersection of their dual citizenships, in heaven and in Germany, clarified for them their responsibility to love and act.

As Hans once wrote to a friend: “Should one go off and build a little house with flowers outside the windows and a garden outside the door and extol and thank God and turn one’s back on the world and its filth? Isn’t seclusion a form of treachery—of desertion? …. I’m weak and puny, but I want to do what is right.”

The Scholl siblings refused to flee from their culture, as we are tempted to do today, to seek safe shelter for ourselves and our children from the depravities around us. Safety, however, is never the goal of the Christ-follower. Faithfulness is. As the prophet Jeremiah described, faithfulness to God requires we seek the welfare of the city, of the nation to which we are called. If we are to be, what Paul called, ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), we have to figure out what it means to be in the world, but not “of” it.

Few, if any of us, will face a guillotine for our faith. We will, it seems, face lesser challenges and persecution. Like Sophie Scholl, we will need a courage and a commitment that only comes from understanding that we are called by God to this time and this place. We’ll have to know now only what we are saved from and what we are saved to, but what we are saved for. We’ll have to learn to speak the truth in love, not because it will necessarily “work” but because it is our Lord’s command. We’ll need to strive faithfully to educate and catechize our children, even as we seek to protect the most vulnerable among us, and proclaim God’s vision for human flourishing.

We may have to risk our friendships, our reputations, and even our careers but, to quote Sophie Scholl one more time, what does that matter, “if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

Aug 21, 2020
No Christianity, No “Human Rights”
05:47

In July, the U.S. State Department’s “Commission on Unalienable Rights” released a draft report that attempted to provide a grounding for our country’s commitment to human rights. Fundamental among those rights, the report declared, are freedom of religion and the right to private property.

The Commission sought comments from the public, and they’ve gotten them. While the part about property rights garnered little response, the insistence on religious liberty has sparked a firestorm of protest, including from a “group of academic and religious leaders.”

Most Americans take the existence of human rights for granted. We see them, to borrow a phrase, as “self-evident.” We can’t really imagine a world without them, or we look at places like China or North Korea with incredulity, as if it’s obvious that their way is clearly wrong. Instead, what these countries demonstrate is that there’s nothing “natural” about the idea of human rights. Rather they are the products of Judeo-Christian beliefs about the intrinsic dignity of the human person.

After all, as the State Department report points out, “more than half the world’s population suffers under regimes where the most basic freedoms are systematically denied, or under regimes too weak or unwilling to protect individual rights, especially in the context of ethnic conflict.”

Most countries don’t deny the idea of human rights outright. However, because they lack adequate moral grounding for them, human rights become a kind of buffet. Those in power pick the ones they like, for the ones they like, and ignore the rest. Again, to quote the Report, “human rights are now misunderstood by many, manipulated by some, rejected by the world’s worst violators, and subject to ominous new threats.”

Given these threats, it’s vital that we who take the idea of universal human rights for granted, ground them on something more permanent and transcendent than international consensus or “we’ve always done it this way.”

The only secure basis for human rights, of course, is the Christian belief that humans are created in the image of God. Think about that line from our founding documents: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” But it’s not self-evident that we are equal, if we only consider the external attributes humans have. We don’t all share those attributes. We don’t all share the same height, or weight, or IQ, or hair color, or skin tone. Thus equality must be based on some universal human quality that is intrinsic to our humanity. Christianity offers this in the idea of the image of God.

The report acknowledges this: “Protestant Christianity, widely practiced by the citizenry at the time [of the founders], was infused with the beautiful Biblical teachings that every human being is imbued with dignity and bears responsibilities toward fellow human beings, because each is made in the image of God.”

Even non-believers such as Tom Holland, the author of Dominion, have recognized that the West’s ideas about freedom and the dignity of the human person are the product of Christianity. Atheist philosopher John Gray has written that modern politics, with its idea of human rights, “is a chapter in the history of religion,” specifically Christianity. Another atheist philosopher, Luc Ferry, in his book A Brief History of Thought, observes that it is to the idea of the image of God that the “west owes its entire democratic inheritance.”

Without the Christian idea of the imago Dei, “universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated” human rights simply wouldn’t exist. In fact, even the guy who said “God is dead,” Frederich Nietzsche, said universal human rights, an idea he considered weak, came from a Christian view of the world.

Unfortunately, there are many, like that “group of academics and religious leaders” I mentioned earlier, who deny that connection. In a statement protesting the draft report’s emphasis on religious liberty, they said that the attempt “to elevate religious freedom above other human rights . . . will weaken religious freedom itself and undermine respect for and damage the protections of the universal values of human dignity.”

As you may have guessed, those most likely to be violated by the elevation of religious freedom are those “denied these [human] rights because of who they are or whom they love.”  In their minds, religious freedom is really code language for a “license to discriminate.” In a world where religious minorities increasingly face persecution and death, to trivialize religious freedom in this way is myopic. However, it is inevitable once rich concepts like “freedom" and “human dignity” are defined down to mere personal autonomy and self-actualization.

Our first freedom, like the rights that depend on it, are grounded in a Christian view of what it means to be human. They cannot be sustained otherwise. This new U.S. State Department Report is a welcome reminder.

Aug 20, 2020
Podcast: Should We Put Adjectives in Front of "Justice"? Or Is Justice Simply Justice?
31:12

If we put adjectives such as "economic" or "racial" in front of the word "Justice," are we in essence buying into critical theory? Isn't justice simply justice?

That's the first question John Stonestreet and Shane Morris tackle on this edition of the BreakPoint podcast.  John and Shane also tackle how we engage gracefully on social media (hint: Check out the book of Proverbs). And what about fathers when it comes to abortion--their needs and especially their responsibilities?

Finally, how should a truly Christian perspective on eternity affect and shape our worldview?

Resources:

Aug 19, 2020
How American Think About Abortion, and What Pro-lifers Must Learn
05:51

Recently, political scientist Michael J. New described the results of what’s being called “the largest known in-depth interview study of American attitudes on abortion” as “nuanced.” A better term would be “complicated,” or maybe even “not-at-all coherent.”

This new study out of Notre Dame, entitled “How Americans Understand Abortion,” not only sought to determine what American believe about abortion, but why they believe it and which factors influenced those beliefs. Anyone who opposes abortion and is committed to protecting the preborn can learn much from the results.

For example, I found it fascinating that, according to the study, most Americans are simply not “particularly knowledgeable about the details of abortion.” Those of us neck deep in the issue may find it unbelievable that anyone could be “unfamiliar with basic facts about fetal development or public policy,” or what Roe v. Wade actually did to America, or where state abortion laws currently stand. But many are, which makes the task of education, especially about the science and politics of abortion, a priority for pro-lifers. In fact, data suggests that many Americans would be shocked to learn how permissive our nation’s abortion laws are.

Another lesson to learn from this Notre Dame study is that we must do a better job publicizing the “life-affirming work done by the thousands of pregnancy help centers in the United States.” Much of the support for legal abortion is based on the fear “that children born after unintended pregnancies would be neglected,” and that “women would be adversely impacted by carrying an unintended pregnancy to term.” In other words, people are simply unaware that these old arguments, which date back to even before Roe itself (i.e., “who will care for these women and children”), have been substantially answered in incredible ways by pro-lifers everywhere. Easing concerns about whether help is available for women in unexpected or crisis pregnancies will be essential to any effective pro-life apologetic.

The most important lesson from this study, however, is just how deeply moral relativism is shaping the abortion debate. Though a large percentage of Americans dislike abortion, they are uncomfortable with making abortion illegal. The data is incredible. Even those who think that abortion should be legal know that something wrong with it. And yet, they simply can’t imagine an alternative to the status quo.

“Successful pro-life outreach to this group,” New suggests, “is the key to creating a durable pro-life majority that will restore legal protection to the unborn.”

In other words, in addition to the beautiful and brilliant work of caring for children and women in crisis, work the pro-life movement has excelled in for decades, we have to learn to make the case for life. By “we,” I mean “you” and “me.” We need to know the science surrounding abortion, so that “they” will know the science is on the side of life. We need to know how embryology and ultrasounds have only strengthened the case for the humanity of the fetus. The case is incredibly strong, in fact, but, as this study reveals, we can’t assume that Americans know. And if they know, we can’t assume they’ve connected the dots to the immorality of taking innocent preborn lives.

The case that abortion is wrong must be made alongside the case that abortion should be illegal, and not just by the “pro-life professionals.” If the Supreme Court manages to overturn Roe v Wade, and we should pray it does, the status and safety of preborn children will be decided on a state by state basis. Local law matters when it comes to abortion as much or even more than national law. After all, the law is a moral teacher. Many Americans think abortion should be legal simply because it is. That’s why pro-abortion forces oppose any restriction on abortion whatsoever as outrageous infringements on women. They must not allow a pro-life foot in the door.

Those of us who care about the unborn must help people know what they should know about abortion so they can make the connections they currently aren’t making.

The next Colson Center online short course, to be offered in September, will help you do just that. Pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorff will, over four successive Tuesdays, equip you to defend life and oppose abortion. Learn how to make the case for life with others in less than a minute. Learn the five bad ways people argue about abortion, how to answer objectives to the pro-life position clearly and persuasively, and how to take the next (or maybe even first) step to putting your convictions to action.

Come to BreakPoint.org to register for our next short course: “Champion Life: How You Can Oppose Abortion and Defend the Unborn.” All sessions are recorded for your review, or in case you need to miss a live class session. Again breakpoint.org.

Aug 19, 2020
Why We Support The Philadelphia Statement
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To paraphrase King Solomon, to the writing of statements there is no end. However last week, I was honored to be included among the original signatories of The Philadelphia Statement, an essential appeal at this important moment in our cultural history. Acknowledging the current crisis overwhelming speech rights, the Philadelphia Statement calls for it to be protected, as an essential condition for the survival and flourishing of self-governing people. 

The Philadelphia Statement is, in a sense, comparable to the Harper’s Letter, published just a few weeks ago and signed by dozens of influential, left-of center artists, scientists and others. As more than a few of us noted, a few of the original signatories of that letter had a hand in building the sort of cancel culture they were rebuking. The Philadelphia Statement is, in this sense, more intellectually honest. 

“Freedom of expression is in crisis,” the Statement begins. “Truly open discourse—the debates, exchange of ideas, and arguments on which the health and flourishing of a democratic republic crucially depend—is increasingly rare. Ideologues demonize opponents to block debates on important issues and to silence people with whom they disagree.”

This paragraph is an answer to the well-meaning Christians who, at times, ask whether it is appropriate to be involved in “political debates” over things like free speech or religious freedom. Part of the Christian’s calling is to steward and protect good things. Freedom of expression is one of those good things, and not just for us. 

After all, a free marketplace of ideas provides the best opportunity for people to discover the Truth. Only when bad ideas aren’t silenced but rather met with better ideas can we truly learn. The Philadelphia Statement says it this way: “Dissenting and unpopular voices… have often guided our society toward more just positions.”

For the Christian, supporting free speech is evidence of our confidence in the Gospel. We believe Truth always will win out, no matter which ideas oppose it. And, it’s only in the Gospel that we find any logical grounding for free expression in the first place. Again, here’s how the Statement puts it:

“If we seek a brighter future, we must relearn a fundamental truth. That our liberty and happiness depend upon the maintenance of a public culture in which freedom and civility co-exist. Where people can disagree robustly, even fiercely, yet treat each other as human beings, and indeed fellow citizens, not mortal enemies.”

Only the Gospel has been able to historically ground any real sort of universal human dignity and respect, including for those with whom we disagree. Only if we acknowledge that each person is independently related to God, created in His image, and uniquely valuable regardless of anything else about them, can we establish cause to respect and protect their freedom of expression, no matter how wacky.

Whenever the Church is silent or marginalized, other cultural forces step in as a de facto Church, playing its societal role, only without any crucial grounding for objective truth or human value. In such a world, those in power, whether state forces or Twitter mobs, claim the authority to decide which ideas, and which people, are acceptable. Those deemed unacceptable are dismissed from publishing, from academic research and other university settings, from media platforms, or, in extreme cases throughout history, from existing.

Not only does this kind of cancel culture devastate those individuals, it impoverishes the larger public. Even more, cancel culture is a wasteful deception, promising what it can never deliver. A twisted arm can never make a true believer.

To be clear, I signed the Philadelphia Statement, not because I think the Gospel can ever truly be cancelled. Let the Twitter mobs rage. God’s Word will continue to spread as He sees fit. I signed the Philadelphia Statement because I believe every person is created in the image of God, and to deny anyone’s freedom of expression is to deny their worth. Stewarding this very good freedom is, in my view, a way to love my neighbor.

Please a look at the Philadelphia Statement, which we’ll slink to at breakpoint.org. You can even choose to sign it yourself at thephillystatement.org. 

Aug 18, 2020
The Ongoing and Intensifying Persecution of Christians in India
04:23

In late July, the body of Pastor Balvinder Bagicha Bhatti was found on the side of the road in the Indian state of Punjab. Returning from a nearby village after a visit to a church member’s home, Bhatti was found beaten and bloodied, with tattered clothes and scraped shoes. The additional set of bloody footprints led his family to believe that he had been assaulted. Local police, despite the evidence of foul play, registered the case as an accidental death.

Bhatti isn’t the first Christian pastor in India to die under suspicious circumstances. In 2017, Pastor Sultan Masih was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding assailants outside his church in Ludhiana. In fact, Batthi is not even the first member of his family to die under suspicious circumstance. His brother was murdered just a few years ago.

Just a week after Batthi’s death, only on the other side of the country, Hindu radicals prevented a family in Jharkhand from holding a Christian burial for a loved one, told instead that they must conduct the funeral in accordance with the village’s majority Hindu faith as a way of preserving communal peace.

More and more in India, it seems that preserving “communal peace” means “keeping Hindu fanatics from attacking and/or killing their non-Hindu neighbors.” According to a new report by the group Persecution Relief, “Hate crimes against Christians in India [rose] by an alarming 40.87 percent” in the first half of 2020, “even despite the nationwide [coronavirus] lockdown in place since March 25.” 

According to the report, the “293 cases of persecution against Christians reported in the first six months of 2020 included five religious-motivated rapes and six religiously-motivated murders.” The vast majority of these hate crimes are committed by Hindu nationalists who wish to turn India into a Hindu state, and therefore oppose Christianity and Christian missionary work.

In places like Jharkhand, Hindu violence is often directed at Christian households. Around the same time the Christian family was forced to conduct a Hindu funeral, a mob of Hindu fanatics beat up the heads of three Christian families in another Hindu village, leaving the families homeless. When the police came to investigate, the village “head man” intervened on behalf of the attackers, forcing the families to sign a document promising they would not conduct any more Christian activities in the village.

In other parts of India, Christian persecution is taking the forms of anti-conversion laws and impediments to the building of churches. The cumulative result is that India now ranks tenth on Open Doors World Watch List, which tracks the persecution of Christians worldwide. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, advancing Hindu nationalism, India has consistently moved up on the World Watch List which, for the record, is the wrong direction.

Given the current political climate, it seems likely that the situation for Indian Christians will continue to deteriorate. Thus, it’s vitally important for us to pray for them, and to speak up for them wherever and however we can.

I invite you to join us as we pray together each and every Wednesday morning, from now until the day after the November election. One of the reasons we will be praying for the preservation of religious freedom in America is so we can continue to advance religious freedom, and work for the end of religious persecution, all around the world. Including in India. Come to BreakPoint.org to sign up and join us. We will be led this week by Os Guinness.

Modi and company must know that, eventually, they will have to pay for accommodating violent fanatics. While India casts itself as the “world’s largest democracy,” the blood of our brothers and sisters literally cries out from the ground.

Aug 17, 2020
BP This Week: Democrats Go Hard Left
39:17

With Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selecting  Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, the election season is in full swing. And as John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss, the Democratic Party is in full swing as well–to the left, especially issues such as abortion and transgender rights.

John and Shane also discuss the recently crafted “Philadelphia Statement” on civil discourse and strengthening liberal democracy; how Americans dislike abortion, yet are uncomfortable about making it illegal; a new study revealing that more than 90 percent of doctors in Belgium favor infanticide in certain cases; another study revealing those who follow social media for their news are less informed than those who don’t, except for their knowledge of conspiracy theories.

Resources:

They wrap up this episodes with their recommendations for the week.

Aug 14, 2020
“Thy Will Be Done”
04:40

Each Wednesday morning until the day after the November election, the Colson Center is hosting a virtual prayer gathering for the Church and for our nation. Not only are we praying together weekly, but I’ve asked a select group of leaders to help direct our prayers for the coming week. This past Wednesday morning, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life, offered a few critical reminders for Christians in this time of, as he called it, “virus and violence.”

First in times of tension and transition, like ours, the Church has always found unique opportunities to point people to Jesus. In the second and third centuries, even as plagues swept the Roman Empire, Christians ran toward the sick and suffering as pagans ran away. Through Christian love and hospitality, the faith grew. Not only did many people ultimately embrace Christ, but the world was ultimately blessed with hospitals, the name ultimately given to those places that showed this kind of Christian hospitality.

Though in our day, entire health care systems exist to deal with pandemics, illnesses, injuries, and diseases, only the Church is uniquely called and empowered to address what Pastor Rick called the dis-ease that people have, including the fears, tensions, emotional, spiritual, and certain physical needs.

In a terrific, practical example of this, Pastor Rick described that when many food banks and pantries shut down across Southern California during the pandemic, Saddleback Church stepped up and established pop up food distribution centers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they’ve reached a quarter of a million families with 2.5 million pounds of food. Even better, through this effort, over 9,000 people have professed faith in Christ for the first time, and over 1,000 new members of the Body of Christ have been baptized… in, he assured us, a COVID-safe manner.

The next opportunity for the church to, as Chuck Colson often said, “be the church,” is to parents and children as the school year starts. “The Church that figures out how to care for kids and parents,” Pastor Rick argued, “will have the ear of America.” I think he’s right, and even more, I needed to be reminded that despite all the chaos of this culture moment, the work of the Church cannot be stopped. The Church has out-survived movements and philosophies and nations and leaders and empires. It’s going to survive November also.

After all, as Pastor Rick prayed, our Hope is not found in who we put in the White House, but in Who we put on the cross. As far as election results, the safest and most sure prayer is the one Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy Will Be Done.” Because we know it will, even if we don’t necessarily like it.

As much as I hope for certain results in November and will work toward them on a national level and a local level, this week especially I will pray that God would strengthen, protect, and use His Church during this time, and that we, as His people, would place trust, not in horses or chariots or polls or strategies, but in Christ.

Next Wednesday, we will gather again, virtually. Os Guinness will guide our time and shape our prayers, reminding us of other things we must not forget as we appeal to the God of heaven and earth for forgiveness, for healing, and for mercy.

Due to limitation on our audience capacity, we are asking folks to register each week to join us live via Zoom. We will, however, send a slink to the recording of each prayer time and a prayer guide for the week, to anyone who registers. You can also join us on the Colson Center Facebook page or the BreakPoint Facebook page. In fact, come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary to get the recording of last week’s session with Pastor Rick Warren, as well as the prayer guide.

I will close with the prayer I prayed at the end of session Wednesday:

ALMIGHTY God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son’s Name; We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ears to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Aug 14, 2020
The Knowledge Lost in Information
05:15

Every single day, approximately 500 million tweets are tweeted, 4 million hours of video is added to YouTube, and 4.3 billion Facebook messages are posted. If a single person were to view all the information uploaded to the Internet just in the last 24 hours, it would take longer than the span of recorded human history.

The mistake is assuming that a deluge of information means that we are better informed. Not at all. In fact, a new report by Pew Research found that what they called “extremely online people,” meaning those who rely primarily on social media for their political news, are among the least-informed and most easily-deceived groups in America.

Reason.com described these findings this way: “Analyzing polls conducted from October of last year through June 2020…Pew found that just 8% of U.S. adults who get most of their political news from social media say they are following news about the 2020 election ‘very closely,’ compared with roughly four times as many among those who turn mostly to cable news (37%) and print (33%).” The Pew study also confirmed these self-reports. When evaluated on their current political knowledge, those who turned to social media for news scored lower than any other group, except those who relied mainly on local TV. Those who relied on a variety of sources, including news websites, cable and print news scored highest.

Interestingly, exclusive Facebook and Twitter users did score higher in their knowledge of conspiracy theories, such as 5G causes coronavirus or Bill Gates planning to inject people with tracking microchips. In other words, what someone finds illuminating vs. Illuminati largely depends on the amount of time they spend on social media.

All of which underscores the fundamental myth of the Information Age: that access to information is the same as knowing, and that knowing about something is the same thing as wisdom. In one of the choruses from the play “The Rock,” T. S. Eliot asked: “Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” He wrote that in 1934. What would he say about the information deluge of today?

How is it possible that, in an age when the answer to almost any question is only a few taps or keystrokes away, the least informed are those who do the most tapping and typing?  As Eliot suggests, we’ve confused information with knowledge, and knowledge with wisdom.

Unfortunately, shouting the truth more loudly or posting in all caps on social media is rarely an effective response. In fact, Christians who see their job as primarily telling the truth, rather than engaging people with the truth, are often just lost voices among all the noise. I’m painfully aware that, even with my own children, I am but one stop on the information bus of their day… and there are a lot of stops.

For example, it’s far too common for parents to find the faith or moral convictions of their students derailed by anti-Christian claims and pseudo-arguments that are just, well, silly. I mean by claims any apologist or theologian or coherent thinker could debunk in minutes. The answers are there, but they are convinced by a particular set of voices and they’re not hearing the others. Even more often, however, students are just preoccupied with digital diversions that replaced any hunger for finding truth with what Aldous Huxley called an “appetite for distraction.” 

These students, like all those identified by Pew as being “very online,” need more information like a drowning man needs more water. The only real antidote, as Brett Kunkle and I describe in the book A Practical Guide to Culture, is discernment, an ability to sort through the excess of information,  to identify what is true and good, and then to choose according to wisdom.

Of course, Developing discernment is a lifelong process but can begin with a few very simple but careful questions: “What is meant by this?” “Is this true?” “How does the Bible speak to this?” “Will God be honored?” “Will the image of God be respected?” “Is this source trustworthy?” “Is this intended for my good?” and “Is this helping love and care about the right things?”

We identify a series of useful questions for parents and offer other strategies for developing discernment in A Practical Guide to Culture and the new Student’s Guide to Culture. And to be clear, though I thank Pew for the revealing survey, discernment is about more than being better-informed voters. It’s about keeping our heads above water in an age drowning us with information so we can be people of truth, wisdom, and love.

Aug 13, 2020
If We're Fighting Cultural Skirmishes, What's the War About?
34:00

If there's a great cultural and spiritual war going on, what's it about, and against whom are we fighting? Is the war over truth? Over restoring America? John Stonestreet and Shane Morris remind us that we need to understand where we are in the arc of God's cosmic Story, and that the forces arrayed against Him and us are the principalities, the powers, world rulers of this present darkness, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12).

John and Shane also answer questions about the nature of Biblical truth (is it true for everyone, or just for Christians?) and the use of written prayers (do they run afoul of Jesus' admonition against "vain repetitions."

Resources:

Aug 12, 2020
Gender-Transition Surgery Does Not Improve Mental Health after All
05:18

Last fall, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a study entitled “Reduction in Mental Health Treatment Utilization Among Transgender Individuals After Gender-Affirming Surgeries.” According to the study’s authors, people with “gender incongruence” (that means they struggle to identify with their biological sex) have higher risk of mental-health disorders. In fact, they are “more than six times as likely to have been hospitalized after a suicide attempt” as others.

This study was not the first to highlight the significant rates of depression and suicidal ideation among those who struggle with gender dysphoria. In fact, the high correlation between mental health struggles and the transgender community is agreed upon by all sides. Incredibly contentious, on the other hand, is the best way to help these people. These authors in the American Journal of Psychiatry claimed that their research unequivocally affirmed the benefits of “gender affirmation” surgery.

To be clear, “gender affirmation” is a backwardly defined phrase. It does not refer to attempts to align one’s thinking to the biological realities of the body. Rather, “gender affirmation” affirms the dysphoria, seeking to realign one’s body to feelings, either by dress, counseling, hormone manipulation, or physical mutilation. Not only is this kind of “affirmation” assumed to be the correct response to gender dysphoria, in many circles, doubting it, especially as a medical or academic professional, is not tolerated.

For these researchers to claim that their study “supports the decision to provide gender-affirming surgeries to transgender individuals who seek them” was no surprise. It likely wouldn’t have been published if they had not. Nor was it a surprise when the study received significant media coverage, touted as confirmation of the benefits of “gender-affirmation.”

On the other hand, writing at The Public Discourse, Paul Dirks has noted that some of the best-designed, most-rigorous, and time-tested studies suggest otherwise, specifically the efficacy of medical transition. Especially in the case of male-to-female transitions, other studies reveal much higher mortality rates due to suicide, AIDS, drug abuse, and even cardiovascular disease. In other words, the best studies tend to show the worst results when it comes to transition surgery. These studies, however, never seem to generate the same media coverage as those that confirm our current cultural predeterminations.

And now we learn, months after their study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, these authors have issued a correction. Contrary to their earlier claim, “results demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care.”

In an explanatory note, the Journal called the 2019 study “promising,” and “exciting,” but admitted that there were “some issues with [their] interpretation” of the data. What kind of issues? The kind in which the data actually showed that “treatment for anxiety disorders was higher in persons …who had received gender-affirming surgery [than among those] . . . who had not received gender-affirming surgery.”

Another way to put it (in fact, the better way to put it) is that the initial report on the 2019 study was just wrong. As Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation bluntly put it, “So, the bottom line [is that] the largest dataset on sex-reassignment procedures—both hormonal and surgical—reveals that such procedures do not bring the promised mental health benefit.”

Like the other, better studies, this recent correction isn’t garnering nearly the same media attention as the original article. The neglect is not only misleading, it’s tragic given the incredible rates of mental and psychological suffering of those who struggle with gender dysphoria.  More committed to a narrative than helping people, this neglect subjects science, medicine, and cater to an ideology that tosses around phrases such as “gender-affirmation” and “gender incongruence” and “cisgender” as if made-up euphemisms could reconstruct reality.

Perhaps more evidence that transition surgery isn’t beneficial will, one day, open the eyes of educators, public health officials and legislators. Perhaps some will even have the courage to tell the truth at the expense of their careers, reputations, and Twitter feeds. Until then, I pray the rest of us would have the courage to say what is true, not out of anger and vindication, but from love and concern for those victims of our very bad ideas.

Aug 12, 2020
How the Sperm Donation Industry is Breaking Families
05:41

Last month, a WIRED Magazine story described a storm brewing in the world of sperm donation. As at-home DNA test kits become more popular, people all over the world are making unexpected family discoveries. These discoveries have a name, apparently: “NPE’s,” or “Non-Parental Events.” 

At-home DNA test-takers are discovering dads or half-siblings or dozens of kids they never knew about. And they’re mostly not happy about it. In fact, a growing subculture, complete with lobbying organizations, self-help literature, and support groups is emerging for people making these unwelcome genetic discoveries. One therapist, who has developed a podcast dedicated to walking people through these kinds of situations, told WIRED that people who uncover hidden family secrets through DNA testing often exhibit the classic cycle of grief. After the initial shock comes anger and depression. Their stories are all the reasons we need to take a sober-minded look at sperm donation, a practice that goes largely unquestioned in Western societies.

The 4-billion-dollar sperm donation industry is shockingly unregulated in the U.S. Children born from sperm donors are among the victims of the bad ideas of the sexual revolution. They do not have the legal right to request information about their biological fathers until they turn 18, which means that, in most states, these children don’t even have a right to their own family medical histories.

Anyone who opposes or questions assisted reproduction technologies, like sperm donation, are often called prudish, cast as the grumpy old grandpa huffing about a teenager’s blue hair. After all, we are told, it’s not really harming anyone. In reality, there are plenty of reasons to oppose sperm donation even if we don’t find the practice, well, icky.

First of all, the industry dehumanizes men. The God-given ability to procreate is transformed into a crude financial transaction. As is the case with egg donation, the way the “product” is marketed dehumanizes image bearers, reducing them to a list of so-called “desirable qualities, such as height, hair color; supposed athletic ability, or where they went to college. This isn’t some “enlightened” new way to make a modern family. It’s re-branded eugenics.

Sperm donation also dehumanizes children, robbing them of the right to know who their dad is and leaving them in the dark as to whether or not their dad even knows they exist. In fact, the industry relies on secrecy. The FDA places no rules on how many children a sperm bank allows to be born of just one donor. While some banks impose their own limits, the country’s largest sperm bank in California limit is 25 to 30 “family units” per man. A “family unit,” by the way, might include multiples, meaning a set of twins or triplets only counts as one unit.

While some activists have been calling for more regulation on the sperm donation industry for years, the problems inherent to a system that’s corrupt from the ground up cannot be regulated away. The corruption in the sperm donation industry is rooted in a warped view of human sexuality and family. God’s design for families is baked into the nature of reality, much like gravity. Children hunger for connection with their parents. Studies suggest that many adoptees do better emotionally and socially when they know who their biological parents are and understand the adoption process.

Of course, sperm donation doesn’t repair a fracture like adoption does. Rather, it creates a fracture, permitting and even incentivizing a view of children as products. In this country, eighty percent of customers who use sperm banks are either same-sex couples, who have intentionally chosen a sterile union only to demand children, or women intentionally pursuing single motherhood, despite the overwhelming scientific literature that shows kids do best with both a mom and a dad. Or as the headline of a New Yorker article put it years ago, Dan Quayle was right.

This WIRED article tells what is, in fact, an old story with new variables: of people who long for family but suffer in a culture where the family has become so broken. Whenever children and family-building are turned into big business, trails of grieving people are left, reeling from what we call “Non-Parental Events.”

The brokenness at the heart of the sperm donation industry begins with the man who views pornography to sell a genetic product and ends with a child shocked to learn his dad isn’t really his dad. All which serves to remind us that just because something is culturally normal doesn’t mean it should be. True moral clarity won’t come from whether or not we find something weird or icky, but only from God’s created intent for the world and for His image bearers which is, in His own words, good.

Aug 11, 2020
Announcing the “Worldviews and Cultural Fluency” Professional Development Program for Christian Educators
05:32

Last school year, educators were forced to pivot on the fly from in-person instruction to online planning and teaching, while still trying to get students to the end of the term and seniors to graduation. As this school year begins, they face the daunting task of communicating ever-changing plans and guidelines to students and families. To call it challenging is an understatement.

Christian educators, whether homeschool parents or teachers and administrators at private, classical, or charter schools, must navigate these challenges while still fulfilling their unique mission. T. S. Eliot maintained that this mission was training students “to think in Christian categories,” equipping them to see all of life through the lens of a Christin worldview, connecting the eternal truths of Scripture to the key issues and questions of a culture that seems to be morphing and devolving at incredible speed.

To be clear, truly Christian education is not just education with long skirts and short hair. It’s not just education with more rules. Or with chapel, or with Bible verses. It’s not, again to quote Eliot, the task of helping students learn to be pious. Christian education is a fundamentally different enterprise, educating students for eternity not for employment.

Of course, students must develop job skills, but Christian education begins with Christian assumptions about life and the world, aims for Christian goals, and is governed by Christian methodologies. In both their personal beliefs and their public lives, we hope to help students love God with heart, mind, soul and strength, and love their neighbors as themselves. It’s an enormous task. Like all of us, Christian educators need ongoing training and tailored professional development to serve the unique challenges of their vocation. 

To serve this incredibly important calling, the Colson Center has partnered with the Association of Christian Schools International and the International Alliance for Christian Education, two leading Christian education organizations, to offer a free, online, professional development program for schools and homeschool parents called “Worldviews and Cultural Fluency.”

The Association of Christian Schools International, the largest accrediting organization for K-12 Christian schools in the world, serves tens of thousands of schools in America and worldwide.  The newly formed International Alliance for  Christian Education connects Christian educational institutions, leaders, and teachers at every level of education, K-12 through seminary.

The Worldview and Cultural Fluency professional development program offers five modules for Christian educators in any context. Module 1 is “Worldviews for This Cultural Moment,” and equips teachers to address the most significant worldviews that have emerged in our world

The second module deals with the “The Imago Dei,” an essential Christian foundation for learning, especially in light of the challenges of our current culture. This module lays the groundwork for a completely different understanding of who we are, and especially who our students are as made in the image of God.

Building on this foundation, the third module addresses the “Cultural Flashpoints” of race, sex, gender, and technology. The fourth module, “Cultivating Christian Commitments in Students,” provides insights on worldview formation, offering the essential ingredients for forming students into confident and courageous followers of Christ.

The fifth module I find especially important: “Worldview Equipping for Elementary Students.” It’s critical that Christian educators who work with elementary age students learn to cultivate a strong Christian vision of the world in their students at the earliest ages. Two stellar educators, Elizabeth Urbanowicz and Dr. Kathy Koch, lead this module.

In fact, every speaker in the Worldviews and Cultural Fluency program are world-class Christian thinkers and educators, including Dr. John Lennox on science and faith, Os Guinness on cultural trajectories, and Dr. Bill Brown on worldview integration and formation.

Christian education is vital to the future of the Church, and the health of our students and our nation. The Worldviews and Cultural Fluency program is designed for in-service training for entire school faculty and staff to go through together, or for home educators to go through on their own. All participants also receive an incredible toolkit of teaching resources to supplement each session and each module.

The Worldviews and Culture Fluency professional development program is available, at no cost. You can find it at educators.ColsonCenter.org. Please, let the Christian educators in your community know about it.

Aug 10, 2020
Beirut: Devastation and Response
30:12

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss the massive explosion that has devastated Beirut. What do disasters--and the human response to disasters--tell us about human nature, and how does the Christian worldview account for them?

Also on today's episode: New, complicating body cam evidence in the death of George Floyd; a so-called breakthrough study supporting gender transition surgery is retracted, but the media ignores; and how are men who claim to be women getting away with harassing and doxxing women athletes who petitioned the NCAA to protect women's sports?

Finally, John Stonestreet announces a free, online professional development program for Christian educators: "Worldviews and Cultural Fluency."

Resources:

Aug 07, 2020
Mexico Rejects Abortion Imperialism
05:00

Recently, Mexico’s Supreme Court refused a sweeping Roe v. Wade kind of ruling on abortion. The ruling was in response to a ruling by a lower court judge which ordered the state legislature of Vera Cruz to amend its penal code and allow abortion in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. In a 4-1 decision, the Court ruled that the Vera Cruz judge exceeded his authority.

According to Justice Norma Piña, allowing courts to dictate the meaning of laws written by state legislators would be “to fall into judicial activism.” The ruling was an unpleasant surprise for many Westerners (especially Americans) who believe judicial activism is what courts are supposed to do. And of course, progressives expect that as nations such as Mexico develop, they will expand so-called abortion rights and reject what left-leaning Guardian newspaper called Mexico’s “strong traditions of Catholicism and machismo.”

Over the last decade or so, Mexican states have repeatedly voted to maintain abortion restrictions. Western promoters of abortion, however, simply cannot imagine a society knowingly and willingly rejecting their ideas. Anyone who disagrees must be either brainwashed, backward, or both.

Obianuju Ekeocha, the founder of Culture of Life Africa, has appropriately labeled this attitude “ideological colonialism” and “cultural imperialism.” Ekeocha, a featured speaker for our recent Truth.Love.Together virtual event, has spoken out repeatedly against Western attempts to export a “culture of abortion” to developing countries.

“The issue of abortion,” says Ekeocha, “has already been decided by many African countries (who) have decided that abortion is an attack on human life at its earliest stages.” On top of that, African culture includes a strong preference for large families.

Rejecting African values and culture, Western abortion advocates instead parallel the worst colonialists of the 19th-Century who claimed to bring “Civilization, Christianity, and Commerce” to unenlightened natives.

The same dynamic can be seen in a bill currently being debated in the Kenyan Senate. The “Reproductive Health Care Act” is intended to reduce the number of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth, and addresses issues such as family planning, “free [pre]natal care, delivery care and postnatal care,” as well as “assisted reproduction services.” But the bill also permits abortion in cases where “in the opinion of the trained health professional … the pregnancy would endanger the life or health of the mother.”

While this might seem like a narrowly tailored provision, pro-abortion Western groups who support the bill reject any narrow interpretation of the phrase “the life or health of the mother” as a violation of a Western woman’s “reproductive rights.” Their intent is not to reduce the number of Kenyan women who die during pregnancy. Rather, it’s to increase the number of abortions in Kenya and other developing countries.

After all, loosely interpreted phrases such as “the life and health of the mother” have created a highly lucrative regime of abortion-on-demand in the West. The goal is to reproduce -- pun not intended -- that same outcome in places like Kenya.

The average Kenyan, like many non-westerners around the world, understand phrases like “the life and health of the mother” very differently, but a few activist judges are all that’s required to export what Ekeocha calls the “culture of abortion” to the rest of the world. Though the plan in Mexico was to ignore the expressed political choices of the Mexican people and enlist local elites, thank God that, at least in this case, the Court refused to impose the culture of death on the locals.

Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from our southern neighbors, that an advanced culture need not kill its children or compromise its integrity through judicial malpractice. With our own election looming, we should at least pray to such ends. That’s why we are hosting a weekly prayer time, beginning August 12 and continuing each Wednesday until November 4th, the day after the U.S. elections. You can join us via Zoom or Facebook Live each week. Just come to breakpoint.org for details.

And to watch Obianuju Ekeocha’s describe the West’s abortion imperialism, come to Conference.colsoncenter.org.

Aug 07, 2020
Join Us in Prayer for Our Nation
05:25

Christians should be among those most deeply concerned about the divided state of our nation. Left vs. right, masks vs. no masks, reopen vs. stay-at-home, virtual school vs. in-person, race, politics, police, abortion, religious liberty, not to mention the remainder of what’s certain to be a brutal presidential campaign.

The issues range from essential to non-essential. On the essential matters, we mourn and vow to fight deception. On the non-essential matters, we mourn and hope to overcome division. God’s people can neither stay on the sidelines nor run away from the struggle. Instead, knowing  there is no hope outside of Christ, we ask God to mercifully and powerfully mobilize His people to advance the true and good. 

If Christians are to speak with clarity, courage, and confidence and be voices of truth and love in a world of noise and echo chambers, we will need to be prepared. But even perfectly crafted arguments cannot replace, as Chuck Colson said, “the church being the church.” Speaking cannot replace being. To be the people God calls us to be, we must rely on prayer.

Each Wednesday morning between August 12 and November 4, which is the morning after the 2020 election, the Colson Center will host a national prayer time, via webinar. We invite you to join us, each week, to pray first and foremost for God’s mercy, that He would revive His church, that He would bring about renewal of righteousness, that He would empower us to courageously offer protection for the most vulnerable, to champion reconciliation across our deepest divides, and that He would allow us to be instruments in the sustaining of religious freedom and the national recovery of the family.

Each prayer time will feature a devotional challenge and prayer by Christian leaders such as Os Guinness, Joni Eareckson Tada, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, Woodside Bible Pastor Chris Brooks and Watermark Church pastor Todd Wagner, as well as Ed Stetzer from the Billy Graham Center and Heritage Foundation president Kay Cole James.

Due to Zoom capacity, there will be limited live spots each week available to all who register. However, each week’s recording will be sent to anyone who signs up. Come to BreakPoint.org for more details.

In Ephesians, Paul tells us “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” When people see us as their enemies, it’s difficult to remember they aren’t our enemies.

We can only, as Paul instructs, put on the full armor of God --faith, truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, and the word of God--“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication… keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (v. 18).

According to the book of Acts, the earliest church activity was prayer. Thousands of people, from completely different backgrounds, came together in one mind and one heart in prayer “with one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:42–47). What happened? The Holy Spirit moved and the world was never the same.

Every spiritual revolution in history started with this kind of unified, persevering prayer. From the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts to the Great Awakenings to the Businessman’s Revival to the Welsh Revival, in story after story, we hear the same thing. People prayed and God’s Spirit moved. On the other hand, every Christian in history who persevered in righteousness, despite temptation or persecution, did so through prayer. 

Our prayer cannot force God’s hand, of course. But, our only way forward is to seek His will together. Our prayers don’t control God, but rather invite Him in to change hearts and minds, including our own. God is always working in our lives whether we realize it or not, but something powerful and world-changing happens when people pray for God’s Spirit to move.

The great Jonathan Edwards urged his fellow pastors to “be much in prayer and fasting, both in secret and with one another. … [I]t is God’s will that the prayers of His saints shall be great and the principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s Kingdom in the world. When God has something to accomplish for His church, it is with His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayer of His people.”

Paul tell us to pray for all things at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and specifically to pray for our leaders, both spiritual and secular. This is what the world needs from the Church right now, instead of the outrage we are too often known for. So that’s what we will do, together, each Wednesday until the election. I hope you will join us.

Aug 06, 2020
What Can We Do About Anti-Semitism? Your Questions Answered
26:19

In what will now be a regular weekly feature of the BreakPoint Podcast, John Stonestreet and Shane Morris answer readers and listeners questions on a wide variety of topics. Today: What can we Christians do about the rise of anti-Semitism? A recent NBC article claimed that White Christians are more racist than non-religious people . . . what does John think? Finally, they respond to a question from a listener who works with abused children, some of whom are succumbing to gender confusion. These children want the listener to use pronouns that reflect their chosen gender, not their biological sex. What's the proper response?

 

Resources:

Aug 05, 2020
Assisted Suicide for the Healthy
04:45

Physician-assisted suicide is sold to the public as a “compassionate” measure, necessary to spare those with no reasonable chance of recovery the unbearable pain and suffering of the last days of their life. In every context in which it has been made legal, however, what might be called euthanasia-by-another-name has never remained limited to the rare instances on which it was sold.

There are reasons this slope has proven so slippery, literally everywhere it has been made legal. Once it is decided that certain lives are not worth living, the list of people eligible for physician-assisted suicide inevitably grows. As the list of people without intrinsic value grows, it becomes impossible to not re-evaluate lives based on some other criteria, perhaps convenience or financial costs. It’s a small step indeed from “eligible to die” to “expected to die.” 

Wherever doctor assisted suicide is legalized, in a bait-and-switch from what is sold to the public, the category of “terminal” illness is often expanded to include “chronic” illnesses and permanent disabilities. Even mental illness and depression are now considered sufficient justification for suicide in places such as Belgium and the Netherlands. 

Given this trajectory, it’s only a matter of time before we dispense with the requirement of any illness whatsoever. In fact, that’s what has just happened in the Netherlands. A recently introduced bill there would “allow healthy individuals over the age of 75 to request assisted suicide, if they have had a ‘strong death wish for at least two months.’” The bill, which is expected to be up for a vote sometime in 2021, would, according to the bill’s sponsor, give the elderly “…the choice at an advanced age, if [they] consider their lives complete, to die with dignity, with careful help.”

Thankfully, the two Christian parties in the governing coalition are strongly opposing the measure, but it will not be easy to keep it from becoming law. After all, the bill is the next logical step in the Dutch trajectory. Having embraced what novelist Walker Percy called “Thanatos Syndrome,” every promise to limit euthanasia in any way has only been broken, and any so-called “safeguards” have been swept aside.

For example, the people were promised that only those certifiably in their right minds would be euthanized. That was a lie. Anyone who goes into an American emergency room and tells doctors they had a “strong death wish” and were “done with life” would be diagnosed with “suicidal ideation” and immediately admitted to the psych ward. To not do so, in fact, would be medical malpractice. Suicidal ideation is rightly regarded as a symptom of an underlying mental disorder. People with untreated mental illnesses are not allowed to make life and death decisions.

Or at least they weren’t. In Oregon, since doctor-assisted-suicide was legalized, over 96 percent of people given lethal drugs did not undergo a psychiatric evaluation. To not evaluate is neglect, but if this Dutch bill becomes law, any elderly person who admits suicidal wishes will be referred to those who will help them turn their desires into reality.

This is why, as our recent “What Would You Say” video so clearly explained, there’s nothing compassionate about physician-assisted-suicide. In fact, it is the exact opposite of compassion, the abdication of a civilized people’s responsibility to offer compassion to those who need it most when they need it most.

In his book The Thanatos Syndrome, Walker Percy described how a society devolves to the point of thinking that killing patients instead of healing them is compassionate. A psychiatrist, he wrote of well-trained and exquisitely credentialed doctors who “turn their backs on the oath of Hippocrates and kill millions of old useless people, unborn children, born malformed children, for the good of mankind.”

Percy literary prophecy, written in 1987, is becoming reality. Some form of assisted suicide is now legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. That number will only grow unless we convince people what true compassion is and make the idea that assisted suicide is compassionate unthinkable.

Come to WhatWouldYouSay.org for the latest video on assisted suicide, and be equipped to make the case. And please, share it with your pastor, community leaders, and legislators. It’s literally a life and death issue.

Aug 05, 2020
Genocide in China
04:41

The United Nations “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” went into effect in 1951. At the time, the Convention defined “genocide” as actions “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This definition includes “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” and “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

As in the case of any other activity deemed a crime, laws against genocide will not enforce themselves. People, or in this case nations, have to be willing to use the label “genocide” when necessary, and also to take action.

Tragically, since 1951, the international community is batting close to zero. Besides the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, there have been at least a dozen other campaigns of extermination that arguably met the Convention’s definition of genocide. With the possible exception of the horrific events in former Yugoslavia, no one did anything.

China, of course, has an atrocious human rights record. Given the lack of consequences the nation has faced time after time, it’s no surprise that the People’s Republic would flout the Convention and the international community. And they are.

Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang Province qualifies, in every way, as genocide. Writing in Newsweek, Israeli Human Rights Lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky didn’t hesitate to call the Communist Party’s actions “genocide,” pointing especially to the “forced sterilizations, abortions and intrusive birth prevention.” These actions alone meet the requirement for genocide and have led to “the population growth rates in the two largest Uyghur prefectures [to fall] by 84% between 2015 and 2018.”

But there’s more.

According to the State Department, “Over a million Uighurs have now been detained by China in camps, where they are starved, abused, tortured, electrocuted, raped and even killed.” Recent video footage showed “Uighurs, with heads shaven, being blindfolded, shackled and herded onto trains, headed for these camps.”

Ostrovsky, who lost family in the Holocaust, admits that he is “loath” to draw comparisons, but in this case, finds it “impossible not to draw such parallels in the face of overwhelming evidence of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing and genocide by China's Communist regime.”

Of course, it was equally impossible during the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, when the world did next to nothing other than some hand-wringing and expressing regret long after it was too late.

This time, however, there are signs it may be different, though not from the Uighurs’ fellow Muslims, whose conspicuous willingness to be bought by Beijing should embarrass them. Instead, resistance to China’s genocidal policies are coming from countries finally fed up with China’s bad actions. Even some not concerned with China’s terrible treatment of religious minorities or its crackdown on Hong Kong, have concluded that Beijing must be knocked down a peg or ten.

For example, Japan is paying Japanese firms to move production out of China for reasons part economic, part national security and, part desire to reign in Chinese ambitions. Another example is India who, after a recent border clash in the Himalayas, is courting companies to relocate production from China. Apple is in the process of moving 20 percent of its production to India from China. India has also banned Chinese apps, including the insanely popular Tik-Tok, something President Trump also threatened to do for national security reasons.

Though none of these moves is in direct response to Uighur persecution, it illustrates that countries don’t have to appease Beijing. Civilized nations have both the means and the cause to punish China for its actions.  People of good conscience, led by Christians, must make it clear to our leaders that business-as-usual is intolerable.

Otherwise, we can never say the phrase “Never Again!” ever again. At least not with a clear conscience.

Aug 04, 2020
Pastor or Parrot?
05:05

Pastoring is always a difficult job. I can’t think of another job, in fact, in which someone is hired to do one thing (typically, lead and disciple God’s people) but evaluated on a completely different thing (namely, growing the audience and the budget).

Pastoring during coronavirus seems even more unenviable. Zoom stock might be way up as the new preferred platform for corporations and schools, but there is no digital substitute for the sort of face-to-face work pastoring requires.

When to close down was a tough decision. When to reopen is even more difficult. If pastors choose to strictly adhere to state guidelines, they will upset people. If they ignore or relax those guidelines, they upset others. In almost every church I know of, pastors face a no-win proposition right now.

In addition to navigating a global pandemic, pastors must also deal with our already intense and only intensifying cultural firestorms. While we all must navigate the issues of race, sexuality & gender, criminal justice, political divisions, and other markers of our fallen human nature that dominate this cultural moment, pastors face expectations that many of us don’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this phrase on social media recently: “If your pastor doesn’t preach about X from the pulpit this Sunday, it’s time to find a new church.” Same phrase, but the X changes with the headlines.

Don’t get me wrong. As the true account of the human condition, the Bible has this quality of universal relevance. Pastors should make the connection between the timeless truths of Scripture and our particular context, both in their preaching and in their leading. There are times that to not address something from the pulpit is to be louder than addressing it, and churches that never address controversial issues risk giving their people the impression that the Bible is our own personal, private collection of encouragements rather than the personal, public and true account of the human condition. 

At the same time, the loud demands placed today on pastors to not only hold but to articulate our approved opinions reveals more about us than about our pastors. After all, if we are confident our pastor is called by God and entrusted by Him to lead us into His Word and His will, that leaves little room for making demands on what he teaches.

Also, our loud demands that a pastor “talk about subject X,” almost always means “say specifically what I want him to say about subject X.” But that also means we’re not really looking for a pastor or a teacher anymore. We’re looking for a parrot.

The demands pastors face can range from mountains to molehills, but, in too many cases, they are treated the same. To bring up the most common elephant in the sanctuary today, everyone has strong feelings about masks. I do too. But being asked to wear a mask in church by pastors seeking to comply with civic authorities or protect the health of parishioners is not a matter of orthodoxy. This is not a sufficient cause of outrage or of making demands for our pastor’s compliance. And it’s certainly not worth leaving a church over.

Keep in mind that pastors are called to shepherd specific congregations. Though the big cultural issues are always relevant, each community and each congregation find themselves in a specific time and place (as Paul told the Athenians) with specific people and circumstances all orchestrated by God. For example, a church connected to an addiction recovery center, as is the home church of a colleague, will be made of people with specific needs and challenges that others may not have. 

What is really at stake here is that we all need to foster a proper ecclesiology, (that’s a $.50 word for the doctrine of the church). When we view church like we do so much of 21st-century Western life, as consumers, we’ll see church as a place to be entertained or affirmed, in our feelings and in our views. That, rather than a fidelity to Christ and His Gospel, is what’s driving so much of the entitlement we feel, and pastors face.

Every church and every Christian, of course, ought expect and demand that pastors preach the true Word of God with passion and courage. We ought never allow a pastor to abuse his power or his position in exploiting the congregation.

Still, we ought never demand that our pastor never disagree with us. The holy willingness of a pastor to say what’s true is only matched by the holy willingness of Christ followers to hear what we may not like. And again, don’t leave a church over a mask.

This commentary originally aired July 7, 2020

Aug 03, 2020
Ask BreakPoint: John Stonestreet and Shane Morris Answer Your Questions
31:35

In what will become a regular feature of the BreakPoint Podcast, John Stonestreet and Shane Morris answer your questions.

This week: What about SOGI laws, and what's the problem with Christians doing business with sinners? Besides praying and educating, how to Christians turn the tide of what seems to be a Marxist-inspired revolution in our country?  How are we to pray for the sick and dying when asked to--what about "Thy will be done?"

To submit your questions to John and Shane for  upcoming episodes, visit us on Facebook or contact us through BreakPoint.org.

Resources:

Aug 03, 2020
Margaret Sanger and Cancelling Planned Parenthood
35:34

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss the recent "cancelling" of Margaret Sanger by part of Planned Parenthood, the organization she founded. While many debate whether she was a racist herself, her involvement in the eugenics movement and the lethal legacy of Planned Parenthood in minority communities make such questions practically moot.

Also, John shares the story of his friend, the late Mike Adams. Mourning the fact that for far too many, Adams will only be known by a conveniently select number of tweets which his ideological opponents wish to share. What they won't see is how his students from across the socio-political spectrum loved and respected this man of courage and conviction.

Finally, Shane and John talk about the defiance of state law by John MacArthur's church in California, noting that while they may have questions about MacArthur's wording, they sympathize with the frustration of the arbitrary and inconsistent legal reactions to the COVID crisis by state and municipal governments.

Jul 31, 2020
If the Future Belongs to the Fertile, We Might Not Have One
05:16

A recent BBC headline claimed the world is facing a “jaw-dropping” global crash. Not an economic crash, mind you, but a crash in the birthrate. Citing a new study by University of Washington, the BBC article claims that “Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century.” In fact, twenty-three countries, including Spain, Portugal, Japan and South Korea, could see their populations cut in half by 2100.

The same study found that, between 1950 and 2017, the global fertility rate went from 4.7 children per women to 2.4 and is expected to drop below 1.7 children per woman by 2100. For reference, a fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is required to maintain a stable population.

A few suggested explanations for the drop, according to the BBC article include, “more women in education and work,” and “greater access to contraception,” which leads “to women choosing to have fewer children.” Of course, the BBC was careful to offer the required nod to climate change, also suggesting that fewer people would result in lower carbon emissions and therefore help heal the planet.

In truth, however, the scenario is far from rosy.

"I think it's incredibly hard to think this through and recognize how big a thing this [population crash] is,” says University of Washington Professor Christopher Murray. “It's extraordinary, we'll have to reorganize societies."

In his book, What to Expect When No One Is Expecting, Weekly Standard digital editor Jonathan Last suggests that any country in which citizens aren’t having enough babies can look forward to long-term economic stagnation and social deterioration. After all, children are the economic engines of the future, both tomorrow’s labor force and tomorrow’s consumers.

Professor Murray described it this way to the BBC: “Who pays tax in a massively aged world? Who pays for healthcare for the elderly? Who looks after the elderly? Will people still be able to retire from work?”

And those are just the immediate concerns. As journalist Philip Longman explained years ago, declining populations and shrinking economies create a downwardly spiraling vicious circle: “As governments raise taxes on a dwindling working-age population to cover the growing burdens of supporting the elderly, young couples may conclude they are even less able to afford children…” Which in turn results in the kind of graying, despairing populations we see today in places like Japan and Europe, where some governments actually pay couples to get pregnant.

At the same time, the BBC notes, the population of sub-Saharan Africa will triple by the end of the century. Developed nations will be forced to open their borders and perhaps even compete for migrant workers. Given the human propensity for tribalism and racism, let’s just say this will could create significant “social pressures.”

Writing at the Gospel Coalition, Philip Jenkins describes yet another vicious circle that entwines a civilization dealing with an increase in secularization and a decline in fertility. Increased fertility is often associated with traditional religious beliefs, but as more believers accept secular ideas about sex, family, and the purpose of life, their connection to religious institutions weakens. Shrinking religious institutions, in turn, leads to increased secularization.

Babies have this unique ability to make adults care about the future, and even think beyond their own lifetimes. Babies incline people to save, invest, sacrifice and, most importantly, defer gratification. Even when it comes to the environment, the best reason to steward the planet is so our children and grandchildren can enjoy its fruits and grandeur.

Christians should always encourage those government policies that make it easier for couples to “choose life,” but we also need to help people think more clearly about the whole issue. First, we have to debunk the over-population myth that should have died decades ago. The latest What Would You Say video tackles this question. Watch it, learn the key points, and share it with your friends and family.

Second, Christian must take the lead in taking seriously God’s never-revoked command to be fruitful and multiply, and the Psalmist exhortation that children are a heritage from the Lord, and Jesus command to let the little children come to Jesus, which means there must be children in the first place.

What greater gift can we offer this world and the world to come, other than Jesus Himself, than future generations of image bearers?

Jul 31, 2020
Anti-Semitism, the Oldest Hatred
04:51

Last week in Germany, vandals desecrated dozens of graves in the oldest Jewish Cemetery in Europe. Some of the stones vandalized date back to the 11th century.

Years ago, one of my colleagues visited Babi Yar, a ravine just outside the city center of Kiev in the Ukraine. There, in late September 1941, Nazi soldiers marched 34-thousand Jewish men, women, and children, before shooting them and burying in the dirt. On the day my colleague visited, someone had spray-painted a swastika on the memorial at the entrance to the ravine.

Right now, as our nation has a hard but necessary conversation about racism, reckoning especially with the often unjust and hateful treatment of African Americans, the Church must reaffirm that ethnic partiality of any kind is antithetical to the Gospel, which begins by recognizing all humans as made in the image of God. And, if we are to be consistent in upholding human dignity, we must say (unfortunately, again) that anti-Semitism is, still, a very real and growing evil. 

Though it often doesn’t receive the attention or the unanimous condemnation that other forms of racism do, the Anti-Defamation League reported 21-hundred incidents of assault, vandalism, violence or harassment against Jewish people in America in 2019. That’s the highest number reported since they started keeping track in 1979.

Less than two years ago, an American neo-Nazi committed the bloodiest attack on Jewish people in our country’s history, when he stormed Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue and opened fire, killing eleven people and wounding six. Less than a year later, another gunman charged a synagogue just north of San Diego on the last day of Passover, killing one woman and wounding three others.

And, since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, we’ve seen anti-Semitism hit a strange new cultural stride. Global pandemics, it seems, inspire conspiracy theories, and wherever there are conspiracy theories, there’s anti-Semitism. I can’t begin to explain it, but it’s true.

Earlier this month, Louis Farrakhan, the disgraced leader of a dangerous political group calling itself the Nation of Islam, called Jewish people Satan and accused Bill Gates of plotting world domination through a Coronavirus vaccine.

Though many would dismiss Farrakhan as crazy, he enjoys support by more than a few in the mainstream. Shortly after Farrakhan’s crazy speech, NFL star DeSean Jackson posted a video of it, offering his support of Farrakhan’s delusional claims. National leaders of the Women’s March Movement and other celebrities with sizeable platforms have also openly supported Farrakhan, and they’re not alone.

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, for example, openly advocate for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, Movement, an international effort to boycott products made by Israeli companies in an open effort to hurt Israel’s economy. The BDS movement is founded on the principle that Israel, as a nation, has no right to exist.

Like any form of racism, I find anti-Semitism baffling. What I mean is that racism is arbitrary and irrational, but a hatred that’s persisted for this long and to this degree has supernatural roots. Biblically, it makes sense the Enemy would despise the Jewish people. God chose the nation of Israel through which Jesus would come and bring redemption to all nations. After targeting the Jews for centuries before Christ, the enemy has even been successful, at times, in turning the hearts of Christians against the Jews.

As long as the Jewish people endure, so will hatred of them. If our surrounding culture is going to turn a blind eye to it, or even openly support it, somehow without fear of cultural cancellation, the Church must lead in condemning it. After all, in this moment of racial reckoning, to pretend anti-Semitism isn’t a pressing and current problem is to lose our moral authority to fight other forms of racism.

In a recent poignant piece condemning anti-Semitic comments made by a few African-American athletes and celebrities, former professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabaar put it succinctly: “If we’re going to be outraged by injustice, let’s be outraged by injustice against anyone.” Amen.

Jul 30, 2020
Faith, Liberty, and the American Order
31:13

Election Day is only three months away. Perhaps even more so than most elections, this one will be in large part a referendum on competing visions of what America ought to be. And perhaps the greatest fault line is religion in public life. What role does faith have in American life, in American government and governance? Can a truly democratic republic survive without a "moral and religious people"? And what role did faith and the Bible play in the founding of the American order?

Today’s guest on the BreakPoint Podcast is Alan Crippen, the Chief of Exhibits, Programs, and Public Engagement for the Faith & Liberty Discovery Center. Dr.  Crippen makes the case that not only was the Christian faith integral to the founding of the American experiment, the Bible itself was one of its founding documents—and that faith, liberty, and justice are inextricably intertwined.

In 2021, the American Bible Society (which, by the way, was itself established by several of the founding fathers) will open the Faith & Liberty Discovery Center on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Dr. Crippen gives us a preview of the exhibits and interactive, immersive experiences visitors can expect as they learn about the role of faith and liberty in founding of our nation.

 

Resources:

Jul 29, 2020
A Schooling Renaissance?
04:46

Earlier this month, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper made an announcement. Actually, he made more of a non-announcement: He wasn’t sure whether North Carolina schools would reopen this Fall.

A few hours later, the state government’s website, which handles parents’ applications to homeschool, crashed. According to the error message, the crash was “due to an overwhelming number of submissions.”

Like so many problems brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic, the schooling crisis doesn’t have an easy solution. (Last week, Governor Cooper gave schools “Plan B” and “Plan C” for reopening, but not, apparently, “Plan A.”)

Since the Spring, school officials have sounded the alarm on distance and digital learning, saying it’s “not enough.” At the end of May, Chicago Public Schools reported they had had zero contact with more than two-thousand students since schools had closed in March. This was after schools had sent more than 120-thousand laptops and tablets to kids’ homes. And, earlier this month, education officials in South Carolina said they’d lost contact with more than 16-thousand students. Similar anecdotes continue to emerge from other states. Announcing, as so many schools did in mid-March, that grades would be frozen for the year, probably didn’t help.

Meanwhile, many parents are also saying that online school, at least the kind hastily created of necessity this spring, is not working. Many are stuck juggling their own work-from-home jobs with their kids’ school needs, trying to share tech devices and limited bandwidth among multiple family members.

While some health and government officials warn that a return to five-day-a-week in-person school in the fall will be too risky, the Secretary of Education is pushing for reopening schools nationwide. It’s a high-stakes Catch-22.

This is the time for good-old-fashioned Christian innovation in education.

My friend Todd Marrah is the superintendent of Tree of Life Christian Schools in Columbus, Ohio. Because Tree of Life prioritizes smaller class sizes, they have the space inside their schools to allow kids to come back full-time in the fall while following strict social distancing guidelines. At the same time, some of Ohio’s public-school districts are planning for students to come back just two days a week - at most.

Of course, the pandemic and its shutdowns have caused real trouble for private and Christian schools. Most rely on donations and tuition to stay afloat, revenue streams that are strained for many. Some private schools, like six Catholic academies in Brooklyn and Queens alone, will close.

For those able to stay open, however, this is a moment for Christian education to shine brighter. Parents who didn’t consider private school in the past might now consider it. If they do, they should be pleased to find that these schools are more innovative and successful than they’re often portrayed to be. Yes, they lack government funds, but that comes with the freedom to try new things, to pursue what works and to leave behind what doesn’t. It also means they don’t have to include Planned Parenthood presentations to or the New York Times’ historically iffy and ideologically-motivated 1619 Project in their curriculum.

Tree of Life and many other schools I know of are already innovating. Parents can choose whether to send their kids to the classroom full-time this fall or to take advantage of a fully online curriculum.

Private schools have been serving and improving their communities for years. Maybe this unique challenge will allow them to demonstrate their value new and compelling ways. Maybe more states will adopt programs similar to the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts in Arizona, which allows parents to use their public school tax dollars to pay for private or home-schooling instead. 

Our friends at the Home School Legal Defense Association are also expecting a migration to homeschooling this fall among parents who hadn’t considered it before. Homeschooling is no small undertaking, and it’s not possible for everybody, but HSLDA’s website has great resources for families considering that option. They’re also keeping a helpful tally of the way different states are making homeschooling easier for families this coming year.

There is no doubt that this fall is going to be tough, for families, for teachers, for school administrators, for government officials, and for kids. Still, like every other curveball this pandemic has thrown at us, God isn’t surprised. Maybe He’s using this pandemic to use His people to start another educational renaissance.

Jul 29, 2020
Planned Parenthood Should Cancel More than Margaret Sanger
04:34

Last week, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced that the name of the organization’s founder, Margaret Sanger, would be removed from its clinic. They also asked the city to rename a local street known as “Margaret Sanger Square.” Sanger is being cancelled because of her advocacy of eugenics, a movement that began in the early 1900s and promoted the idea that the human race could be “improved” by selective breeding.

Proponents of eugenics, like Sanger, wanted wealthy, healthy and strong people to have more babies, and poor, sick, disabled and minority people to have fewer (or no) babies. In 1939, in fact, Sanger and Planned Parenthood launched something called the Negro Project, whose aim was to  push birth control on black women.

Removing Margaret Sanger’s name from a building in New York only actually means something in a time like ours, of low-stakes, symbolic gestures like erasing a name or disinviting a controversial speaker to a university. It’s the very definition of virtue signaling, a word I hate but which aptly describes what Planned Parenthood is doing here: “cancelling” Margaret Sanger while still perpetrating the exact racist population control for which she is being cancelled.

We should take this about as seriously as a southern state that removed a Confederate Statue but still allowed slavery and public lynchings. Erasing Margaret Sanger’s name from a lobby means nothing for Planned Parenthood. And it costs them nothing. If they truly wanted to help African American communities, Planned Parenthood would cancel themselves and shut down.

An estimated 62-million babies have been killed by abortion since Roe v. Wade. While African Americans make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, black babies account for nearly 40 percent of the abortions committed each year. Black moms are somewhere between three and five times more likely to have an abortion than white moms. In New York City, there are thousands more black babies aborted than are actually born each year.

Since the death of George Floyd, the book How to be an Anti-Racist, by activist and professor Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, has hit The New York Times Bestseller list. Kendi, who has been interviewed by Oprah, Stephen Colbert, and Brene Brown, defines racism as anything that, quote, “produces or sustains racial inequity,” Intention, says Kendi doesn’t matter. Only outcomes matter.

Kendi’s definition, though controversial, is widely accepted, especially among the more progressive voices of our society. In that case, is there a company or cultural institution more obviously and inherently racist than Planned Parenthood? Planned Parenthood was explicitly built upon and continues today to sustain racial inequity. There would be over 19 million more African American people in the world today if not for legalized abortion and Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood’s executives know that number. Their business model directly targets black and other minority women. In 2012, An organization called Protecting Black Life used U.S. Census Data to show that almost 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s existing abortion clinics that year were located within two miles of a majority black or Hispanic neighborhood. Apparently, Margaret Sanger’s legacy remains integral to Planned Parenthood’s marketing strategy; that is, to kill the babies of poor, minority moms.

Of course, the women who walk into a Planned Parenthood don’t have the luxury of caring whose name is on the clinic’s letterhead. They are likely not thinking about Margaret Sanger or politics. They’re in crisis and looking for help. Too many are in poverty. Way too many are there because someone has pressured them into it. Too many face bleak healthcare outcomes, especially black mothers, who are still nearly three times as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as white mothers. 

The women who enter a Planned Parenthood are often frightened and alone. The very last thing they need is “help” from a systemically racist corporation whose hundreds of millions of dollars in profit each year depend almost entirely on killing their babies. Whether or not the founder’s name is on the door doesn’t make any difference at all.

Jul 28, 2020
What Do We Do with Critical Theory?
05:07

The question most central to defining a worldview, other than “Who is God?” and “What does it mean to be human?” is “What’s really wrong with the world?” It’s a tricky question, because there are a lot of things wrong with the world. The question is, what is the core problem that needs to be addressed in the world, the root cause of evil and human suffering, and what solution can be offered to fix it?

For example, we should want to see justice flourish and racism of all kinds come to an end, especially in light of our nation’s history and evidence that our African American neighbors are not treated equally before the law. But not everyone who talks about ending racism and creating justice means the same thing.

For a growing number of people, including some Christians with good motives, these goals are shorthand for an ideology that divides instead of reconciles, that sees people as either oppressed or oppressor rather than as divine image bearers created from “one blood.”

The ideas of Critical Theory, especially since the horrific killing of George Floyd, have become a central part of our national conversation. Once largely limited to the academy, these ideas have trickled down the way ideas do, to the media, through popular culture, and into the cultural imagination. Even those not familiar with the term “critical theory” will likely recognize its central tenets.

Critical Theory originated with a group of political philosophers who applied Karl Marx’s ideas about economics to society as a whole, especially across additional categories of class distinction, such as race, sex, and gender identity. The result was an all-encompassing worldview that purported to reveal hidden power structures behind society’s problems and institutions, by dividing people along the lines of oppressed and oppressor.

As Colson Center Senior Fellow and historian Glenn Sunshine explained in a recent episode of The Theology Pugcast, Critical Theory, like the classical Marxism it borrows from, views human beings in purely materialist terms. So, according to Critical Theory our race, sexual orientation, gender identity aren’t mere aspects of who we are, they are our defining characteristics. In each of these areas, we are either part of oppressed groups or we are oppressors.

According to critical theory, the oppressed group automatically has moral authority, while the oppressor group does not. Someone who is a racial minority or a sexual minority of some kind is automatically a victim of oppression and has claims against oppressors and the unearned privilege that makes their life easier (and this part is critical) at the expense of their oppressed neighbors.

Overlooked in this analysis are individual choices and life situations, which often has a far greater impact on a person’s life. For example, whether or not a child grows up with a father is statistically more important than their ethnic identity. Other factors, such as religious commitment, education, sexual decisions, and family stability have profound power to shape the lives and futures as individuals, families, and whole communities.

Critical theory, however, ignores every other factor or squashes it into the oppressor-oppressed dynamic. This view distorts reality, and often turns on itself.

A recent article at Quillette described a Danish professor and critical theorist attacked by fellow critical theorists. They claimed his branch of Critical Theory was racist. This is no isolated case. Critical Theorists have produced scholarly articles and whole books claiming that everything from logic to math are tools of white, heteronormative oppression.

The problem, as is explained in a recent “What Would You Say” video, is that Critical Theory’s answer to the question “what’s wrong with the world” is just wrong. Specifically, critical theory gets the human condition wrong and the human problem wrong. As a result, its solutions are simplistic and, at times, dangerous. They’re not compatible with Christianity, and we should reject them.

Now, to be clear, I believe racism still plagues our country, and is embedded in the hearts of individuals and in institutions and systems. We can reach this conclusion by care, by listening, and by statistical data, not to mention from  how the Christian worldview describes the cause and condition of fallen humanity.

Too often, any attempt to listen and to engage the race issue is dismissed as critical theory. It’s not. At the same time, Critical Theory’s analysis and answers to the problem of racism violate what we know to be true about the human condition. Only the Biblical story frames for us human value, human sin, and human hope, which both allows us and calls us to confront racism wherever it rears its ugly head, without embracing a theory that sees people as nothing but their race.   

Jul 27, 2020
Cancel Culture on Campus: What Your Kids Will Be Facing This Fall
31:40

When college students get back to class, will  cancel culture be there waiting for them? According to the Chronicle for Higher Education, 57% of school's currently planned to hold in person classes this year. In other words, tens of thousands of students will be back on campus in a few short weeks.

The burning question on many people's minds is what our institutions of higher education are going to look like after this tumultuous spring and summer. Specifically will free speech for Christian students and faculty?

Joining Shane Morris on the BreakPoint Podcast is Dr. Corey Miller, President and CEO Ratio Christi, the nation's most prominent college apologetics ministry.

Resources:

Jul 27, 2020
The God Who Sees Women
48:56

It's impossible to miss the battles being waged over biological sex and gender roles these days. Think of biological males competing in women's sports; or Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling coming under attack for insisting that womanhood is a biological reality.  How can we effectively address these and other issues surrounding womanhood with our daughters? What is God's view of all this?

With John Stonestreet out on travel this week, on this episode of "BreakPoint This Week," we want to introduce you to a new Colson Center resource, the Strong Women Podcast.  Hosts Sarah Stonestreet and Erin Kunkle ask questions about what it means to be a strong woman living out God’s design in this confused culture. 

Today, Sarah and Erin welcome apologist Jo Vitale of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, to talk about perceptions of women in the Old Testament, Jesus’s radical love and concern for women, and words of advice for parents and for young women themselves. You can learn more about Strong Women at strongwomen.colsoncenter.org.

Resources:

The Strong Women Podcast with Sarah Stonestreet and Erin Kunkel

Jul 24, 2020
Hagia Sophia and the Armenian Genocide
04:31

Despite protests from around the world, Turkey has decided to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. One supporter of Prime Minister Erdogan told Al Jazeera he’d been waiting fifty years for the holy site’s “original identity as a mosque” to be “restored.” In truth, the original identity of the Hagia Sophia was as the Christian cathedral of Constantinople.

Now why should a building halfway around the world matter to us today. Well, that’s because, unfortunately, the Turkish government has a long track record of revising history. For example, between 1915 and 1923, in what’s known as the Armenian Genocide, an estimated 1.5 million Armenian Christians were killed and expelled from the Ottoman Empire, what is now Turkey.  What the Ottomans did to their Christian subjects served as a model for the Holocaust. As Adolf Hitler told military commanders just prior to the invasion of Poland, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Well, to answer his question, certainly not the Turks. Turkey and its ethnically related neighbor, Azerbaijan, are the only nations in the world that deny that the Armenian Genocide happened. What’s more, Turkey has prosecuted scholars and journalists who say otherwise, accusing them of “insulting Turkishness.” One such journalist, Hrant Dink, was murdered while awaiting trial in 2007.

Over the years, Turkey spent millions of dollars, literally, lobbying American politicians to prevent the United States from officially recognizing what happened to the Armenians as genocide.  In fact, it was only after Turkish-American relations had deteriorated because of other issues that the U.S. Congress only recognized the genocide as genocide.

When their cash has failed, Turkey has applied pressure by making threats against both governments and individuals. For example, They threatened to withhold cooperation with the EU during the 2015 refugee crisis over the issue, and threatened to cut off relations with Austria.

The war against the truth is also taking place in Lebanon, home to many Armenian Christian exiles. Last month, a television host, Neshan Der Haroutiounian, received an anti-Armenian message while broadcasting live. When Haroutiounian responded by criticizing what he called the “insidious” history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish President Erdogan, anti-Armenian rhetoric and violence there escalated. One viral video not only contained threats against the television host but threatened a massacre in Beirut’s primary Armenian neighborhood.

Then, according to reports, “Turkish authorities . . . requested that legal proceedings [be brought] against [the host]” to “guarantee the respect of the Turkish President in all Lebanese media.”

How has the Lebanese government responded? Der Haroutiounian has been placed on trial for “insulting the Turkish president and the Turkish people.” In Lebanon!

According to International Christian Concern, what’s happening in Lebanon is part of a larger pattern: “… [Turkey] will not tolerate references to [its] own genocidal history, [but instead]… perpetuates a policy which not only violates the other country’s national sovereignty, but also worsens religious freedom within that locale.” 

International Christian Concern cited Turkey’s intervention in Libya’s civil war as an example, an intervention that “placed Christians in the crosshairs.” And, just last year, Turkey unleashed brutal military attacks against Christians in the midst of the chaos in Syria.

Denying history, or simply re-writing it, seems to be a major goal of Turkey’s Islamist regime. Otherwise, they’d be forced to acknowledge that centuries before the coming of Islam, and a millennium before the arrival of the Ottomans, Armenians embraced Christianity and lived in what is now Turkey.

That, in turn, would the question, “What happened to them?” And that’s the question Turkey wants to avoid at all costs.

Jul 24, 2020
Abdu Murray on “Seeing Jesus from the East”
04:52

The outstanding new book by Abdu Murray and the late apologist Ravi Zacharias, entitled Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure, unlocks the Eastern backdrop of the Scriptures, and especially Jesus. After all, Jesus entered human history as a First-Century Middle Eastern Jew.

And that’s no accident, according to the Scriptures. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals Himself as a God concerned with time and place, most notably in Galatians, where Paul tells us that God orchestrated the incarnation at just the right time and in just the right place in human history.

Understanding that time and that place in which Jesus Christ entered human history is an incredibly helpful tool in understanding Him. However, that time, that place, and that culture can seem mysterious and even inaccessible to Western Christians, which is why this new book by Ravi and Abdu is such a gift. 

Last week, Abdu joined me on a Colson Center webinar to talk about the book, which was the brain-child of the late apologist and former Muslim Nabeel Quereshi. You can listen to the whole webinar at BreakPoint.org, but I’d like to share with you an excerpt of Abdu sharing the moving story about how this book came about. Here is Abdu Murray:

There's something people often miss, when they miss Jesus’s easternness. So Nabeel approached Ravi and said we really need to recapture this. Not only to speak to Westerners about why they should care about how Eastern Jesus is but also to speak to Easterners so they can see that Jesus is not the icon of sort of a white imperialistic religion. He's them. He speaks their language. That was Nabeel’s idea.

And so Nabeel crafted a proposal. Ravi accepted and wanted to do it, but before Nabeel could put pen to paper he was diagnosed with stomach cancer . . . And then of course, the Lord took him home .

Ravi called me some months after as we were both mourning, and he said “I really want you join me on this project, taking up the mantle from Nabeel. It would really enhance the project. I come from a Middle Eastern background and Ravi came from an eastern background. And of course, I am a former Muslim yourself.

It took me no time to answer “Yes!”

I did ask Ravi, “Is it OK with you if I call Michelle, Nabeel’s wife? I do want to get her permission. I know we don't need it. But I do want to get her blessing,” which is a very eastern thing to do. Ravi understood immediately. And of course, she was enthusiastic because she wanted to see her late husband's work come to fruition and be out there because this was a project that was near and dear to Nabeel’s heart. And it was a project near and dear to Ravi’s heart. 

So I sit here now talking to you from a place where we dedicated the book to Nabeel. And so strangely, I think about it now, Ravi wrote, and I wrote with him that this book is about seeing Jesus from the East. And we wrote how Nabeel must be smiling, seeing Jesus so clearly and how little we actually know now. And now, of course, Ravi joins Nabeel.

Now they're both smiling. Maybe they even guffawing and laughing about how little we actually know about the Jesus they are seeing face to face.

That was Abdu Murray, during last week’s Colson Center webinar, talking about Seeing Jesus From the East. The whole webinar is available to view at BreakPoint.org.

Seeing Jesus from the East offers great insights on the importance of stories and symbols in eastern culture, the power of the “honor and shame” mentality that pervades the East, the meaning and rewards of sacrifice, the role of teachers and prophets within a wisdom-oriented culture, and – my favorite - the use of parables in the East. Understanding these things will unlock the Biblical witness about Jesus Christ.

The central claim of Christianity is that the timeless, transcendent Creator of all entered human history in bodily form, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Some religions see the Divine as only transcendent. Other religions see the Divine as only immanent. In Christ, the transcendent God became imminent.

You can receive a copy of Seeing Jesus from the East with a gift of any amount to the Colson Center during the month of July. Simply go to BreakPoint.org/July to receive your copy.

Jul 23, 2020
Dying Well in an Age of Denial
04:55

Woody Allen once quipped, “I am not afraid of death, I just don't want to be there when it happens.” Funny or not, this is the kind of thing said by a man whose art and life are a testimony to the power of neurosis.

What’s not-so-funny is that many people really do feel this way about death. During our recent Colson Center short course on “Responding to a Broken Culture,” Dr. Ben Mitchell observed that, if you asked people how they would most like to die, most would say they would prefer to go quickly: A sudden heart attack, preferably while doing something they love.

But is this the way a Christians should see death and dying?

Mitchell, a leading Southern Baptist bioethicist and, on a personal note, my former teacher, said “no.” In fact, he said, the preference for dropping dead is quite modern. Until recently, Christians aimed for a holy death, not a quick one. And, they thought about it. A lot. For example, “The Litany of the Saints,” which dates to the early middle ages, pleads with God to deliver His faithful from a sudden and unprepared-for death.

Instead, according to a 15th century theological work called The Art of Dying, Christians should define a “good death” as one in which people had been reconciled with their loved ones and to the God in whose presence they would soon stand.

In addition to prayers that were to be recited on one’s deathbed, the work included rules on proper deathbed behavior. More importantly, it instructed readers that they need not fear death, and provided “seven questions to ask a dying man, along with consolation available to him through the redemptive powers of Christ’s love.”

Western attitudes towards death have changed dramatically, especially in attempts to “tame death” or somehow hold it back. Examples today, include talk about manipulating our genes to extend lifespans, or, if that fails, “uploading our consciousness to the cloud.”

Even those who don’t put much stock in science fiction often opt instead for denying death. Not denying that we will die one day, but instead, in Ben Mitchell’s words, “outsourcing” death. While death used to happen at home with family surrounding, it now usually happens in medical settings.

Of course, advances in medical technologies to cure disease and extend life-expectancy are amazing gifts of God provided through human ingenuity. Still, our relatively new approaches and habits when it comes to the act of dying has made us, in troubling ways, a “death-denying” culture.

For example, we often have a kind of callousness towards the death of others. To paraphrase Stalin’s infamous quip, the death of other people become statistics, not tragedies. Or, in a time of pandemic, trends on a graph.

Replacing the “art of dying” with medical sterility is, perhaps, one reason many people have died alone during this pandemic, isolated and cut off from the love and comfort of their families. This is a tragedy and, at times, completely unnecessary.

In May, my friend Steve Reiter, the audio producer of this BreakPoint commentary, lost his lovely wife Elizabeth. Chronic heart and lung problems sent her to a Denver hospital. Both she and Steve tested negative for COVID. The hospital was not overrun with COVID patients. Yet, Steve and their sons were not allowed to visit. Not once. Not even on Mother’s Day. He even had all the necessary protective gear. After three weeks in the hospital, Elizabeth died. Alone.

Multiply this story by thousands, and COVID-19 has not only killed those it did infect, it left them alone. And, it left family members without closure. This is wrong.

Steve Reiter has started a new non-profit organization, The Never Alone Project, which aims to end the needless separation of families from their ill loved ones. I’ll slink you to it at BreakPoint.org.

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas once said that “if a hundred years from now, Christians are known as those who didn’t kill their babies or their elderly, we will have done well.” I certainly hope this generation of Christ-followers will not be known for less, but I also hope we will be known for far more.

Especially during a pandemic, our broken, frightened culture desperately needs examples of people who, after a lifetime of living well, are prepared to die well and to be with those who die. In this, the Church must be the Church: a living body of Christ-followers who console and grieve and are with the dying, but not as those who have no hope. What a witness we can be to a culture that has forgotten how to die.

Jul 22, 2020
Corrie ten Boom: "Victorious"
25:59

Millions know of Corrie ten Boom through her book The Hiding Place, in which she recounts her family' efforts to protect Dutch Jews from the Nazis--as well as her arrest and suffering in German concentration camps. But what about the rest of Corrie ten Boom's story?  Where did she find such indomitable faith in Christ? And what can she teach us today about defending human dignity of the weak and persecuted?  About holding on to our faith when God seems far away?

Stan Guthrie, author of Victorious: Corrie ten Boom and the Hiding Place, joins Shane Morris to answer these and other questions about the life of this Christian heroine.

Resources:

Jul 22, 2020
Dr. J. I. Packer Helped So Many Know God
04:43

One fall afternoon in 1994, as a not-new but newly serious believer, I wandered into a small Christian bookstore in Tennessee, a book caught my eye. Actually, the title of the book caught my eye: Knowing God, written by someone who, at the time, I’d never heard of… J.I. Packer.

However, the name of almost every Christian leader I did know (like Chuck Colson, Joni Eareckson Tada, Chuck Swindoll, Elisabeth Elliot, Billy Graham, and others) was on the dust jacket, offering their endorsement of the book. Each was along the lines of: “This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read other than the Bible itself.” So, I picked it up, read it, and I’ve been recommending Knowing God ever since.

The book is best described as a work of “devotional theology.” For many Christians, “devotional” and “theology” are two incompatible words, as if diving deep into theological truth is the stuff of the “head,” while walking with God is more a matter of the “heart.” Packer, in a thoroughly biblical way, destroys that false dichotomy in Knowing God.

Two statements which this Oxford-trained theologian made in the second chapter of the book hit me like a ton of bricks. First, “One can know a great deal about God without much knowledge of Him,” and second, “One can know a great deal about godliness without much knowledge of Him.”

In Knowing God, Packer describes four characteristics of those who truly know God. First, they have great energy for God. Second, they have great thoughts of God. Third, they show great boldness for God. And finally, those who know God have great contentment in God.

Throughout the book, Packer clarifies that God must be known on His own terms.  Too often, the God Christians claim to know is One made in our own image. We must know the God revealed in Scripture and clarified by proper theology.

That’s why I recommend this book, even for those who have studied theology deeply. Even though Packer is one of the brightest theological minds of our time, he never forgot what theology was all about. And if you’ve never studied theology, or even think that theology gets in the way of personal devotion to Christ, I’ll wager that Packer’s classic will convince you otherwise.

A few years ago, Dr. Packer announced the end of his public ministry. The eminent pastor theologian, who authored more than 300 books, book reviews, journal articles, dictionary entries, and forewords, and preached and lectured around the world, was losing his vision. He was sustained during the last several years not by his feelings, by what he knew to be true about the God he knew.

On The Gospel Coalition website, Dr. Packer told interviewer Ivan Mesa that “in the days when it was physically possible for me to do these things I was concerned, even anxious, to get ahead with doing them. Now that it’s no longer possible I acknowledge the sovereignty of God.” Describing what he called Christian realism, Dr. Packer continued, “God knows what he’s up to. And I’ve had enough experiences of his goodness in all sorts of ways not to have any doubt about the present circumstances. Some good, something for his glory, is going to come out of it.”

That’s a good word for all of us. Aging is one of the stages of life that our youth-fixated culture doesn’t prepare us for. Years ago, Dr. Packer wrote, “How should we view the onset of old age? The common assumption is that it is mainly a process of loss. But here the Bible breaks in, highlighting the further thought that spiritual ripeness is worth far more than material wealth in any form, and that spiritual ripeness should continue to increase as one gets older.”

That kind of perspective comes not merely from knowing about God, or knowing about godliness, but only comes from truly knowing God. (You can pick up a copy of Knowing God by J.I. Packer at the BreakPoint.org online bookstore).

This past Friday, July 17, Dr. J.I. Packer, aged 93, died. When asked for his final words to the church, Packer said: “Glorify Christ every way.” He has now entered his eternal rest, and I join with thousands and thousands of others and thank God that his faith is now sight. Now, at last, he truly and fully knows the God he faithfully studied, and taught so many of us about, for many years.

Jul 21, 2020
Making Sense of the 2020 Supreme Court Term
05:24

Writing recently in the New York Times, Stanford Law School professor Michael McConnell takes an optimistic view, not only of the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court term, but of the court’s track record on religious freedom. “In 13 cases involving religion since 2012,” he writes, “the religious side prevailed in 12 of them, sometimes by lopsided majorities.”

This string of victories are part of what McConnell calls a “jurisprudence of pluralism” which, as he puts it, “seems to side with the party defending the right to live in accordance with one’s identity.” This includes “the right of a religious order to refuse to provide employees with coverage for contraceptive drugs that violate its teachings, or the right of religious schools to be free of government interference with their choice of people to teach religious doctrine or practice to their children.”

While it is certainly good news that Court recognizes the rights of religious institutions to be, well, religious, the “jurisprudence of pluralism” also includes, as we found out in this term’s Bostock decision, a newly discovered “right” for men to dress as women at their place of employment.

In other words, if this term of the Supreme Court reveals anything, it’s that it is committed to balancing religious freedom protections with honoring the “right to define one’s own concept of existence,” a concept infamously invented by Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1992.  In my opinion, the Court is not succeeding at threading this needle.

Once again, the Court did protect the religious freedom rights of definitively religious institutions, something it’s been repeatedly clear about for years. However, the Court did not protect the religious freedom of religious individuals. Instead, the Court curtailed the conscience rights of employers by decreeing that sexual orientation and gender identity are essentially protected categories in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Not only is this a net loss for religious freedom, it continues the erosion of religious freedom that Chuck Colson talked about 10 years ago. Religious freedom is not merely the ability to believe what you want in the privacy of your own head, your own home, and your own house of worship. Religious freedom is the ability to live out your faith in the public square, and to orient your public life, including your business, around your deeply held convictions.

By creating and elevating LGBT rights over employer rights in the Bostock decision, the Court has effectively drawn a hard, fast line (or, at least, a harder, faster line) between religious and non-religious entities when it comes to religious freedom. Therefore, the Supreme Court will now be forced to decide what counts as a religious institution and what doesn’t, something we’ve already seen federal, state, and local jurisdictions try to do.

For example, under President Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services only exempted religious institutions from its contraception mandate that did not serve anyone outside its belief system. By that definition, Catholic hospitals, Salvation Army homeless shelters, and church missions agencies would not qualify as religious institutions.

The situation is potentially worse now that religious rights have been compromised in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act has to do with funding for educational institutions. Will Christian colleges that accept federal dollars be forced to accommodate the housing requests of same-sex couples, and allow biological men to reside in women’s dormitories and to compete on women’s sports teams?

Upstream from the Court, there’s also the ongoing cultural problem of defining religious liberty. As the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson tweeted, “The fact that there were 15 flagrant religious liberty violations that rose to the Supreme Court in a decade is not a sign of a winning streak at large (even at the Court)  but [of a] new and heightened hostility” to religion.

He’s right. How else can one explain why Pennsylvania would take the Little Sisters of the Poor, a society of nuns, to court over the HHS mandate after the Sisters had already won against HHS at the Supreme Court? And, did the state of Montana really believe it could get away with discriminating against religious schools after the Court had ruled in favor of religious schools in the Trinity Lutheran case?

The ever-growing but still mistaken notion that faith is nothing more than matter of personal, private preference (or worse, a license to discriminate), rather than a fundamental right enshrined in the First Amendment, is upstream from the politics, the laws, and the Supreme Court decisions shaping our nation. This means that, in the short term, elections have consequences. In the long term, nothing short of re-catechizing our culture about the nature of faith and the fundamental good of religious freedom will do.

Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, Ryan T. Anderson unpacks with me the significance of this year’s Court decisions. Check it out at BreakPoint.org or subscribe to the BreakPoint Podcast wherever you subscribe to podcasts.

Jul 20, 2020
Podcast: Ryan T. Anderson Unpacks the Supreme Court's 2020 Term
32:01

On today’s episode, The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson joins John Stonestreet to discuss the significance of the Supreme Court’s recent term. How will the Court’s ruling on employment law, religious freedom, and abortion affect not only Christian institutions, but individual religious believers? On the one hand, religious freedom is enjoying a winning streak at the Court, but why are so many outrageous violations of religious freedom reaching the Supreme Court? What does that say about the culture, and the status of religious freedom?

Resources:

Jul 20, 2020
Cancel Culture and the Power of Twitter
56:06

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss the remarkable resignation of Bari Weiss from the New York Times and her accusation that “America’s paper of record” is driven by the Twitter mob. They also discuss the open letter protesting cancel culture signed by left-of-center luminaries.

Also on today’s program: the world’s population bust; the need for the U. S. and other nations to accept Christian refugees fleeing deadly persecution.

Plus: A segment of Shane Morris’s interview with Dr. Glenn Sunshine on our cultural moment and your questions about pastors, marriage, and poverty answered.

 

Jul 17, 2020
New Zealand’s Outrageous New Abortion Law
04:34

You’d think that a global pandemic that’s killed hundreds of thousands would at least temper the advance of legal killing. It hasn’t. While headlines worldwide were praising New Zealand’s prime minister for her handling of COVID-19, she was working to pass what might be described as the most extreme abortion laws on the planet.

In late March, New Zealand’s parliament voted, in the words of the New York Times, to “loosen” the nation’s abortion laws, particularly in the latter half of pregnancy when babies become viable outside of the womb. “Loosen” may be the understatement of the decade.

New Zealand’s “loosened” laws now allows abortion on-demand, up to the moment of birth, for essentially any reason. That means sex-selective and disability-selective abortions, including for conditions like cleft lip and Down syndrome. The “loosening” happened despite the protests of over 1,200 New Zealanders with Down syndrome and their families, who called on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to keep her campaign promise not to allow this kind of deadly discrimination.

Even more horrific still, New Zealand’s new law includes no requirement that babies born alive after botched abortions be given medical support. This was no accident. Prime Minister Ardern was herself among the loudest voices resisting any attempt to add protections for babies born alive.

According to the New York Times article, “public opinion surveys show that most New Zealanders” favored liberalizing their country’s abortion laws. However, independent polling shows that the vast majority oppose specific features in this law. For instance, just 2% of Kiwi women support abortion on-demand up to birth. 93% oppose sex-selective abortion, in which a child is killed for no other reason than his or her sex. And, 94% of women polled support longstanding legal standards for New Zealand’s abortion providers. In other words, they didn’t want them relaxed at all. 

Perhaps the unpopularity of abortion-on-demand-for-any-reason-whatsoever is why pro-abortion politicians in New Zealand felt the need to rush through this legislation while everyone was distracted by a global pandemic. According to RightToLife.org, as the bill went through successive readings in Parliament, it lost support. In fact, the Abortion Legislation Committee heard from only 139 of the over 25,000 people who submitted public comments on the bill. For perspective, 1,500 people were allowed to speak on a recent climate change bill that received less than half as many submissions.

By taking advantage of the few people paying attention and by ignoring those who were, New Zealand’s government has now enacted the most extreme abortion law in the democratic world.

As a spokesperson for New Zealand’s Voice for Life described, “Our Parliament has a duty of care to consider the wellbeing and protection of all New Zealanders, including the vulnerable…they failed in that basic duty of care by passing this extreme Bill, but the hundreds of thousands of voters who opposed this Bill will not forget this failure when it is time to vote in the General Election in a few short months.”

I hope this spokesperson is right. I know several prominent pro-life spokespersons in New Zealand who care deeply about the unborn, and who mourn this evil law. I also know how entrenched and relentless pro-abortion advocates can be, and how effective they are in passing increasingly extreme legislation. We’ve certainly witnessed as much in this country, most memorably in New York, where legislators applauded and lit the One World Trade Center in pink to celebrate.

Bad laws are built on bad ideas, and bad ideas have victims. The precious and unique lives made in God’s image which will now be legally targeted is a stain on one of the world’s most naturally beautiful and culturally enjoyable nations. I join so many of my friends in New Zealand who hope and pray that this law will prove a step too far, betraying an abortion movement opposed not just by champions of life, but by growing scientific knowledge, by growing compassion for children with disabilities, by the amazing medical breakthroughs in life-saving technologies, and by the unshakeable truth that unborn persons are fully human and worthy of life.

Pro-lifers have a lot of work to do; not just here but around the world. May God strengthen our hands, our hearts, and our voices to stay at the task.

Jul 17, 2020
Legalizing Polyamory
05:55

Each summer, I teach high school and college students at Summit Ministries on the topic of marriage and the family, including what marriage is, what it’s for, cultural trends about the family, etc. Ever since the Supreme Court, in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalized so-called same-sex marriage, I’ve told them that polyamory will be legal in their lifetime.

Last Tuesday, while teaching at a Summit Virtual conference, that prediction had additional punch. Recently, the city council of Somerville, Massachusetts, legally recognized polyamory. Groups of “3 or more” people can now register with the city to seek the same rights as married couples.

My predictive powers, I admit, are not all at that keen. Anyone following the deconstruction of marriage and the family over the past two decades could see this coming. Once marriage, at least in the eyes of the state, was essentially divorced from the bearing and well-being of children, first through no-fault divorce and then ultimately through same-sex “marriage,” the life-long commitment of one man and one woman were no longer the fundamental ingredient of a marital union. Once that happened, the number of people involved was up for debate. After all, if it’s no longer about a mom and a dad, why should marriage be limited to two?

The Somerville city council now recognizes polyamorous arrangements like they do civil unions. The same-sex marriage movement, we should recall, also began with the push to recognize homosexual couples as civil unions, and included arguments about insurance, inheritance rights, and hospital visits (all of which, by the way, though not assumed rights for non-married people are perfectly achievable for non-married parties through an extra bit of paperwork).

At the time, conservatives warned gay civil unions would lead to gay marriage. Advocates said, “Nonsense.” However, when gay civil unions were achieved, advocates of same-sex marriage used it as proof of discrimination. When gay marriage was being debated, conservatives warned that, if legalized, polyamorous marriages would be inevitable. We were quickly decried for using a fallacious slippery slope argument.

Yet, here we are, sliding down the slippery slope. The next mile marker on the journey will be, and I also make this prediction to my students, consensual incestuous marriages. After all, if marriage is simply an institution of adult happiness justified by a sincere mutual affection, how can we deny siblings in love of that same recognition?

The Somerville city council expects their new ordinance will be challenged and, eventually, will be decided upon by the courts. And, to be clear, though the city will now extend marriage-like benefits to its polyamorous employees, private companies are not forced to comply.  Still, as the New York Times reported, at least one council member has already been “inundated” by phone calls from lawyers interested “in pursuing a similar measure at the state or federal level.

Right on schedule, along with entertainment that normalizes polyamorous relationships in the culture. Joe Biden once said that “Will and Grace,” a television show from the 1990’s “did more than anything anyone’s done so far” to normalize homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.” 

A Netflix series called “The Politician” is among a few carrying that weight for polyamory. As the headline of Mens’ Health magazine gushed, “If You Think 'Throuple' Relationships (Like on The Politician) Can't Possibly Work, You're Wrong.”

The article goes on to define that new term: “The word, which is a [combination] of “three-person” and “couple” is a specific form of polyamory where all three partners are in a relationship with one another, and this unique relationship style can take many forms.”

Last summer, America’s paper of record, the New York Times, ran an article entitled “Polyamory Works for Them.” I won’t bother to slink you to it.

As Chuck Colson always said, the only way to truly understand a worldview is follow it to its logical conclusion. The worldview of the sexual revolution is built on three ideas. First, sex, marriage, and babies are separable. Second, men and women are interchangeable. And, third, sexual autonomy is human dignity.

Various forms of reimagined marriage, like polyamory and incestuous unions, are the necessary conclusions of these ideas, but there will be more.

At the heart of these ideas of the sexual revolution is a lie: that what we do sexually is, whatever makes us happy, is no one else’s business.

But that’s not true. Why? Because, children. Redefining marriage and redefining family (which, by the way, is exactly what the Somerville city council said it wants to do) are bad ideas. The victims of the bad ideas of the sexual revolution have always been children.

When no-fault divorce became legal, we were told, “The kids will be fine.” They weren’t. The same refrain has been repeated for cohabitation, for intentional single parenting, for same-sex marriage, and, now, for polyamorous unions. Imagine, we are told, instead of just two parents loving kids, they’ll have three or four or more!

But the research continues to show us that children don’t need “parents.” They need a mother and a father, each uniquely gifted by God to love and form young people. The data is clear. And we have it for you at BreakPoint.org. 

Jul 16, 2020
Podcast: Where Are We in This Cultural Moment? An Historical Perspective
33:24

In the last month, we witnessed momentous—and disappointing--Supreme court decisions concerning abortion, transgender rights, and religious freedom. Many are wondering what the implications are for religious business owners and nonprofits and even churches in a country where radical sexual and gender ideology or becoming protected categories in law.

What can we learn from history? Does our cultural political moment resemble any other in the past? And if so, what can we learn from that time period?

Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, Colson Senior Fellow Dr. Glenn Sunshine joins Shane Morris to discuss these and other questions. Dr. Sunshine is a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and is the author of numerous books, including Why You Think the Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews from Rome to Home.  

 

Resources:

Jul 15, 2020
Fewer Humans Won’t Heal the Planet
04:55

According to news reports, there’s at least on bright spot amidst all the COVID-19 bad news: the planet is beginning to heal itself. With those pesky and invasive humans stuck at home, animals are reclaiming wild spaces (and even city streets) and, of course, CO2 emissions are down. The underlying message of these news reports is: What the Earth needs to heal is fewer people.

The idea isn’t new. Since at least the 1970s, environmental activists have advocated for reducing the human “footprint,” which ultimately means reducing the number of humans.

For example, in his latest film “Planet of the Humans,” Michael Moore argues that green energy, such as solar, wind, and other renewables, will get us nowhere. Our only hope to combat climate change, he says, is limiting population growth.  While many environmentalists will disagree about the potential of “green energy,” most agree that we need population control.

In fact, the idea is now so firmly planted in Western minds, it is, for many, impervious to facts and reason.  When beliefs become pseudo-religious like this, we tend to ignore some facts and forget others.

Those who continue to bewail the human population ignore that, with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, fertility rates have cratered in almost all of the world, leaving countries with a shortage of workers and an aging population. In fact, the median age of the population in North America has risen from 30 in 1955 to 39 today. In Japan, the median age has risen from 22 to 48 in just 15 years.!

And, we are quick to forget that some of the most horrific human rights abuses of the past fifty years were attempts to limit population growth. I’m not only talking about China’s infamous and horrific “one-child” policy. The war against fertility has been waged from Peru to India, and many places in between.

Still, the blindest blind spot driving the anti-human, anti-natalist worldview behind so much environmental alarm is something that has proven to be true over and over. Namely, the best tools humans possess to combat environmental challenges are human ingenuity and creativity. Put another way, it’s remarkably short-sighted to see humans as only problems to be solved. The human capacity to adapt, imagine, and innovate are the best solutions available.

Take for example Project Vesta, which is currently testing an ingenious way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere by taking a cheap volcanic mineral called olivine, grinding it up, and spreading it on sandy beaches. According to Project Vesta CEO Tom Green, the goal is to “speed up a natural process that normally takes place very slowly, over geological time.” When ocean waves and rain hit the ground up olivine, it “triggers a chemical reaction that pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into the water as a molecule called bicarbonate.” In turn, marine organisms use the bicarbonate to make sea shells and corals.  Or as Green put it, Project Vesta’s vision “is to help reverse climate change by turning a trillion tons of carbon dioxide into rock.”

The very audacity and imagination of Project Vesta reminds me of how enhanced agricultural production spearheaded by Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution made catastrophic predictions about overpopulation and food shortage look foolish. Or of India’s work developing safe nuclear reactors using thorium as fuel. There are simply so many instances like these that suggest people aren’t the problem. They are the solution.

Misanthropic worldviews obscure the obvious lessons of these stories, and instead advance the demonic idea that we must “cull the human herd” (a phrase that has made a comeback during the pandemic). There is, of course, no reason we should think that human ingenuity and adaptability has come to an end, in this day and age. Thus, there’s no reason to think that fewer people are the answer.

Of course, Christians should know this already, since we also know that every person is unique and valuable, created in the image of God. But, even a materialist, who thinks credit for our success as a species is due to natural selection, should be able to see our track record and conclude: humans are not the problem to be eliminated. They are the solution.

Jul 15, 2020
COVID 19 is an Opportunity to Re-Define the Human Species?
04:51

Recently, the world learned that researchers at London’s Francis Crick Institute used CRISPR technology to genetically edit 18 embryos. Around half of the embryos suffered the kinds of major mutations and genetic damage that could lead to birth defects and life-shortening medical problems. The horrifying results led one gene-editing expert to call for “a restraining order for all genome editors to stay the living daylights away from embryo editing.”

Unfortunately, the desire to play god with the human genome is not easily discouraged. For example, consider the title of a recent article at Wired which proclaimed a “Neobiological Revolution: “Covid-19 Is Accelerating Human Transformation—Let’s Not Waste It.”

“From gene editing to brain computer interfaces,” the authors write, “our ability to engineer biological systems will redefine our species and its relation to all other species and the planet… And Covid-19 is accelerating this transformation.”

The authors quickly go from confidence to hubris, in language that resembles Satan’s from Paradise Lost: “Our ability to manipulate RNA and DNA, bacteria, viruses, algae, and fungi gives us the power to engineer life.” We can, the authors promise, “prevent a future [COVID-like] lockdown,” and  failure to do so would be “a crime against humanity.”

“Imagine the day,” they warn, “when your great grandchild sues her parents for not genetically engineering her to protect her” from inheritable diseases or even failing “to enhance her in order to compete effectively.”

What is standing in the way of what they call “our godlike technologies”? Only “our Paleolithic emotions (like fear, jealousy, and greed) and our medieval institutions.”

Of course, all “neurobiological” revolutionaries with “godlike” abilities know that a few eggs have to be broken in order to make an omelet. Perhaps that’s why WIRED didn’t mention what happened at the Crick Institute and only offered a passing reference to “the risk of unintended consequences and a backlash from patients, consumers, regulators, religious groups, and more.” After all, according to this worldview of scientism, unleashing dangerous mutations on the human genome isn’t the real crime. The real crime is standing in the way of “progress.”

What is meant, however, by progress? For whom is progress promised? For humanity and human flourishing? As C. S. Lewis warned in his masterful book The Abolition of Man, “The Power of Man to make himself what he pleases means . . .the power of some men to make other men what they please.”

“The man-moulders of the new age,” Lewis continued, “will be armed with the powers of the omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please.”

Of course, to warn of the true risks and human costs of our “neobiological revolution” is to be labeled “anti-science” and “anti-progress.” That should not dissuade us in the least from teaching others that what we know as science emerged as a product of the Christian worldview during the medieval period, grounded by the belief in a rational God Whose creation could be known through reason and inquiry. Because this rational God is also moral, science is not autonomous, untethered from ethical, moral, and, even theological considerations.

The Christian assumptions which undergirded the scientific revolution also undergird the dignity of each and every human being, and demand that we see everyone as ends in and of themselves, and never as mere means of our collective aspirations of “progress,” whatever that means. 

With so much at stake, distinctively Christian voices are needed in the sciences exactly now, perhaps more than ever. Courageous consumers must refuse any and all “breakthroughs” or conveniences built upon human rights abuses. Courageous pastors and teachers must clarify for the faithful the moral stakes of our technologies, especially when it comes to genetics and human reproduction. And, may God give us a new generation of scientists, who love God and want to discover His creation, and who can lead these fields of study in ways that honor God and protect those vulnerable image bearers among us.

Jul 14, 2020
“Seeing Jesus from the East”
05:30

Recently, in the midst of our national conversation about race, justice, and statues, left-wing activist Shaun King tweeted: “Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy.”

Though it isn’t clear whether King was claiming that Jesus is a form of white supremacy or statues that depict Jesus as a white European are forms of white supremacy, King did get one thing right. Jesus was not a white European. Jesus would have looked like a First-Century Middle Eastern Jew. Because He was one.

And that He was, is no incidental or accidental part of the redemption story. Throughout Holy Scripture, God reveals Himself as a God of time and place. In Galatians, for example, Paul tells us that God orchestrated the incarnation at just the right time and in just the right place in human history.

Having the right picture in our minds of what Jesus may have looked like doesn’t seem to be that important to God (after all, if that were important to God, He may very well have chosen a time and place that was post-flash photography), but understanding the world in which He lived, the time and place in which He entered human history, that’s important. 

For modern Western Christians, that time, that place, and that culture can seem mysterious and even inaccessible. That’s why I’m grateful for the outstanding new book by the late Ravi Zacharias and his co-laborer at RZIM, Abdu Murray: Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure.

The idea for this ground-breaking work on culture, apologetics, and the life of Jesus originated the late apologist and former Muslim Nabeel Quereshi. After his untimely death, Ravi Zacharias, who is originally from India, asked Abdu Murray, whose family originally came from Lebanon, to help carry the project through. As he recently told me on a webinar, the fact that first Nabeel and now Ravi are with Jesus and see him with full clarity, is an especially meaningful thing for Abdu who hopes this book will help Western Christians better see Jesus by understanding His Eastern roots. Like Ravi, Abdu is particularly skilled at connecting dots between culture, personal stories, and timeless Truth.

Tragically, even as our culture comes to grips with the importance of culture and background in our national conversations about race and history, so many who are committed to tearing down or vandalizing statues of George Washington and even Ulysses S. Grant, can only see through their 21st century eyes. The lack of context and their lack of understanding of cultural artifacts and history are profound blindspots.  In the same way, our lack of understanding of the cultural artifacts and history of the middle Eastern context of Jesus’ life and ministry is a blindspot too.

In Seeing Jesus from the East, Ravi and Abdu explain how certain underlying norms of Eastern culture, including the role and purpose of stories and symbols, the power of the “honor and shame” mentality that pervades the East, the meaning and rewards of sacrifice, the role of teachers and prophets within a wisdom-oriented culture, and – my favorite - the use of parables, are all critical to understand if we are to comprehend the full biblical witness about Jesus Christ.

Seeing afresh the accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, or, His transfiguration and confab with Moses and Elijah, or his parable of the day workers with the insights that would jump off the page to someone from the east is not only instructive. It’s inspiring.

Even more it underscores a critical theological insight of Christianity that is not found in other religions. In every other religion, God or the divine is understood either in terms of immanence or transcendence. Either God is outside of time and, in a sense, aloof to the human condition (as in Islam), or the gods are within the world, part of it like we are (as in Hinduism). Only in Christianity does the timeless, transcendent Creator of all also immanent to human beings and within human history.

“I hope that people who read this who are from the West,” says Abdu, “will see that He is not this imperialistic God of the Westesrners to control brown people . . . and those from the East [will see] that He is not a western god, He is a God who bridges both.”

You can receive a copy of Seeing Jesus from the East with a gift of any amount to the Colson Center during the month of July. Not only will you receive a tremendous resource, but you will enable the Colson Center to continue to equip thousands of other believers through daily BreakPoint commentaries, our ever-growing library of What Would You Say? videos, and our virtual training conferences such as Truth Love Together.

Go to BreakPoint.org/July to request a copy of Seeing Jesus from the East.

Jul 13, 2020
Podcast: Intelligent Design and Evolution in a Nutshell
34:56

For more than a century and a half, evolution has been the center of a naturalistic account on how everything -- the universe, the earth, you and I -- came into existence. But for the last generation or so, a group of thoughtful experts in a variety of fields has challenged the dominance of evolutionary thought.

From a scientific and philosophical perspective, the Intelligent design movement has produced a wealth of books critiquing every aspect of the naturalistic account of origins for the laws of nature to the cell to the fossil records, DNA age, the origins of life itself.

Fortunately, there's a new resource that puts all of this in a brilliant little summary, Evolution and Intelligent Design in a Nutshell. Co-author Eric Anderson joins Shane Morris on today’s BreakPoint Podcast.

 

Resources:

Jul 13, 2020
Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court
58:37

What will be the long-term impact of the Supreme Court's rulings on religious  freedom this term?  Will religious individuals enjoy the same protections that religious institutions do?

John Stonestsreet and Shane Morris give their perspective on the Court's decisions as well as on a letter on the dangers of cancel culture signed by left-of-center luminaries and a Massachusetts city's decision to recognize polyamorous relationships.

Finally, we share a portion of Shane's BreakPoint Podcast interview with Dr. Sam Allberry, author of Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? And John and Shane answer your questions about systemic racism and social distancing at church.

 

Resources:

Jul 10, 2020
A Letter to ‘Cancel-Culture’
05:26

To do or to say something insufficiently progressive these days risks the wrath of what’s being called “cancel-culture.” A mostly young and mostly online gaggle of so-called “social justice warriors” will attempt to silence anyone they deem to hold views sufficiently problematic or insufficiently “woke.”

So far, the list of cancel-culture’s casualties includes editors who publish controversial op-eds, campus speakers whose views were labeled “unsafe,” professors who quote from egregious classic literature, and researchers who published their politically incorrect findings.   

Though those behind cancel-culture would be on the far-left side of the ideological and political spectrum, the effect of what they are doing is the very opposite of liberal. Free speech and open debate, long-claimed values of classic liberalism, are stifled, not by a political oppression that so many feared, but by mob-like tactics.

On Tuesday, a number of high-profile thinkers (153 to be exact), many of whom would sit on the left of the spectrum, expressed their collective concern over cancel-culture. In a letter published by Harper’s Magazine, this group of very-high profile authors, journalists, academics, and artists warn of cancel-culture’s “intolerant climate” and reaffirm the value of open and civil debate. The group includes some of the brightest stars in the progressive firmament: Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, left-wing linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, author of The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood, feminist Gloria Steinem, Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, Malcolm Gladwell, and even John MacArthur (not that John MacArthur, this one).

The letter condemns “intolerance of opposing views,” the far left’s “vogue for public shaming and ostracism,” and its “tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.”

Of all of the signatories, J. K. Rowling, knows this tendency firsthand. This longtime progressive superstar has faced an avalanche of accusations and criticisms, and a campaign to cancel her work. The reason? She fears that radical transgender ideology threatens the existence and protection of women,  and she’s been willing to express these very feminist views out loud.

The letter insists that the kind of tactics being turned on Rowling and others cannot sustain a free or democratic society: “The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.”

Other than a few strange and unrelated swipes at the “radical right” and, of course, Donald Trump, the primary message of the letter was clear and unmistakable: discourse on the left has gone off the rails, and the only way to reclaim sanity is by insisting on and allowing open and civil debate.

The reaction to this letter from the ranks of cancel-culture was predictable. As one columnist at Reason put it, the reaction to the letter denouncing cancel-culture demonstrated why a letter denouncing cancel-culture was necessary in the first place.

One staffer at left-leaning Media Matters called the signatories “totalitarians in the waiting,” and accused them of wanting their younger counterparts to “sit down” and “shut up.” A writer at Vox, who identifies as transgender, after learning a colleague had signed the letter, immediately complained to their employer in an effort to get this coworker fired.

Already, two signatories have removed their names from the letter. One, a New York Times opinion writer, apologized profusely, saying she read it too quickly and didn’t know who else had signed it. Reading her tweets, you can almost hear her begging: Please don’t take my job.
On one hand, it’s ironic that so many of the signatories of this letter have refused to be open and tolerant when it comes so many conservative views, especially about marriage, religious freedom, and abortion. Many would not allow a debate on the morality of abortion, for example, and would consider traditional view on marriage and sexuality “beyond the pale” for a civilized society. On the other hand, as they have certainly discovered by now, it took real courage to stand up to the ever-accelerating freight train of political correctness, even if they had a hand in getting that train moving in the first place.

If we hope to see free speech and open debate restored, and an end to cancel-culture, we will need to have the discussion this letter asks for, but it will require including views that many of the signers have a difficult time tolerating. It will also require revisiting where these classically “liberal” values of free speech and open debate came from in the first place. As a long list of authors and historians have demonstrated, from Os Guinness to Rodney Stark to Tom Holland to Vishal Mangalwadi, they aren’t products of secular thought. Instead, they are among the gifts that only Christianity gave to the world.

Jul 10, 2020
Supreme Court Affirms Religious Institutions Are Allowed to Be Religious
05:03

In a somewhat dizzying (but which will be seen, I think, as pivotal) few weeks at the Supreme Court, religious freedom has taken center stage. In two significant decisions yesterday, the Court protected our First Amendment’s First Freedom.

The first case, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, was the third time a group of nuns visited the nation’s highest court, and the latest installment in their 10-year-battle against the HHS Contraceptive Mandate. In 2017, a regulation issued by the Trump Administration exempted the Little Sisters and any employers “with sincerely held moral convictions opposed to …some or all contraceptive or sterilization methods,” from the Obamacare mandate which required them to provide and pay for the coverage.

The state of Pennsylvania challenged that exemption, and the Third Circuit court ruled in the state’s favor. Yesterday, with a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the appeals court.

Justice Clarence Thomas authored the opinion for the majority: “For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother . . . But for the past seven years, they—like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision— have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

While the Little Sisters’ long battle seems to finally be over, it’s conceivable that another administration could replace the Trump administration regulation with something less sympathetic to religious organizations. That would spark another round of judicial challenges, local court rulings, and appeals.

The more decisive decision issued by the Court yesterday came in the case known as Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru. Two Catholic schools in California who chose not to renew the contracts of two fifth-grade teachers “due to poor performance,” including “failure to follow basic educational expectations” were sued by those teachers for discrimination. In another 7-2 vote, the Court sided with the schools because, as the opinion put it, “federal employment discrimination laws do not apply to teachers whose duties include instruction in religion at schools run by churches.”

The Court relied on the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor decision, which ruled that because teachers at religious schools can be considered ministers, they fall under the so-called “ministerial exception” when it comes to anti-discrimination laws. Though these particular Catholic school teachers weren’t called “ministers,” they did serve in a clearly religious role. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority: “What matters, at bottom, is what an employee does. And implicit in our decision in [Hosanna Tabor] was a recognition that educating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith are responsibilities that lie at the very core of the mission of a private religious school.”

Though, wrote Alito, the First Amendment doesn’t grant religious institutions a “general immunity from secular laws,” it does “protect their autonomy with respect to internal management decisions that are essential to the institution’s central mission.” Protecting the ability of religious institutions to hold and operate from its central mission is the reason there is a “ministerial exception” in the first place.

The two decisions issued yesterday make this very significant term of the Supreme Court even more so: Handcuffing the ability of states to restrict abortion, re-writing civil rights laws, further protecting the religious freedom of religious institutions to live by their convictions while limiting the rights of for-profit employers to do the same.

We’ve seen that it’s as wrong to place all of our hopes on Supreme Court decisions as it is to discount the courts and the elections that populate them. No. Elections matter. Judicial appointments matter. At the same time, we cannot outsource the hard work of protecting life to advancing truth to them. The rest of culture matters too.

Time will tell just how much these decisions from this session of the Court will ultimately impact our lives and our culture, especially as it relates to religious freedom. I will share my thoughts on this very soon. In the meantime, we can be grateful for these two decisions and hope together that the government will finally leave these poor nuns alone.

Jul 09, 2020
Why Neuroscience Can’t Tell Us About the Soul
04:47

In his 1996, essay entitled “Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died,” the late essayist Tom Wolfe predicted that new technologies (such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging or fMRI) would soon render our traditional ideas about the “soul,” the “mind,” the “self,” and "free will” obsolete. In their place would be a “brilliant dawn” of “Ultimate Skepticism.”  Today, to paraphrase another literary giant, it seems that Wolfe’s reports of the soul’s immanent death were greatly exaggerated. 

An fMRI is an instrument that measures brain activity by tracking blood flow.  As with other parts of the body, “when an area of the brain is in use, blood flow to that region also increases.” Neuroscientists attach a good deal of significance to this increased blood flow.

For example, in one study, participants were insulted and then asked to ruminate over the insults while an fMRI measured the blood flow in their brains. Researchers concluded that while anger over being insulted spurred activity in one part of the brain (the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex), “ruminating” or pondering the insults stimulated activity in a different part of the brain (the medial prefrontal cortex). Studies like this, say those Wolf called the “ultimate skeptics,” demonstrate that things like the “soul” or the “self” are, in reality, merely brain activity.

This leap in reasoning is an example of the hammer seeing everything as a nail. Just because certain parts of the brain are associated with specific tasks or emotions in no way proves that the soul or the self are illusions. And, since “fMRIs don’t actually measure brain activity directly (but) blood flow to regions of the brain,” we cannot be certain which region of the brain is actually active during a given task.

Even worse for those who saw conclusive evidence for their skepticism, Duke University researchers found inconsistencies in the blood flow measurements on which these conclusions were based. Re-examining 56 published papers of fMRI data, they discovered when individuals took the same tests weeks or months apart, there were “wildly varying results.” As lead researcher Ahmad Harriri, put it, “The correlation between one scan and a second is not even fair, it’s poor.”

In fact, inconsistencies of neuroscience testing over time seems to be a consistent feature of the field. The “Human Connectome Project,” which is widely regarded as the “bible” of neuroscience, also yielded inconsistent results: “For six out of seven measures of brain function, the correlation between tests taken about four months apart with the same person was weak.”

In other words, Wolfe’s prediction of a “brilliant dawn” was based on studies that don’t actually measure brain activity, but instead measure blood flow as a proxy for brain activity, measurements we now known to be basically useless.

As website Fast Company put it, the results of Harriri and company’s study are “rocking the field of fMRI research. In Harriri’s words, “This whole sub-branch of fMRI could go extinct if we can’t address this critical limitation.”

“Critical limitation” is an understatement. As the folks at Duke have demonstrated, we really don’t know what we’re looking at when we try to measure brain activity. How can anyone in the field, then, presume to talk with any level of predictive certainty about the soul, the mind, or the self?

Wolfe’s brand of “ultimate skepticism” began with the most basic assumptions inherent to a naturalist worldview: the everything that exists is physical. Nothing is metaphysical. Only that which can be physically measured can be known, and our ability to measure and know will eventually explain everything that is.  Naturalists are therefore committed to believing, before any evidence takes them there, that the soul and the self are illusions with biological explanations. Wolfe seized on fMRIs as “proof” of what he already assumed.

As the old saying goes, “science” is often used in the same way a drunk man uses a lamppost: for support, not for light. People of all worldviews do it, but especially those certain that religious beliefs are illusions. In this case, that certainty is what turned out to be the illusion.

Jul 08, 2020
Podcast: Understanding the "Trans Cult"
35:32

The idea that children who exhibit anything but stereotypical behavior must be transgender has taken our society by storm, and now anything but "affirming" treatment is seen as abusive. But what are we to make of  entire peer groups of teenage girls deciding together that they were born in the wrong bodies and are actually boys? Of children being subjected to life-altering hormones and destructive surgery?

Author Naomi Schaefer Riley, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, joins Shane Morris to discuss her review of  Abigail Shrier's book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, as well as her review of Lisa Selin Davis's upcoming book, Tomboy.

 

Jul 08, 2020
Pastor or Parrot?
05:05

Pastoring is always a difficult job. I can’t think of another job, in fact, in which someone is hired to do one thing (typically, lead and disciple God’s people) but evaluated on a completely different thing (namely, growing the audience and the budget).

Pastoring during coronavirus seems even more unenviable. Zoom stock might be way up as the new prefered platform for corporations and schools, but there no digital substitute for the sort of face-to-face work pastoring requires. When to close down was a tough decision. When to reopen is even more difficult. If pastors choose to strictly adhere to state guidelines, they will upset people. If they ignore or relax those guidelines, they upset others. In almost every church I know of, pastors face a no-win proposition right now.

In addition to navigating a global pandemic, pastors must also deal with our already intense and only intensifying cultural firestorms. While we all must navigate the issues of race, sexuality and gender, criminal justice, political divisions, and other markers of our fallen human nature that dominate this cultural moment, pastors face expectations that many of us don’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this phrase on social media recently: “If your pastor doesn’t preach about X from the pulpit this Sunday, it’s time to find a new church.” Same phrase, but the X changes with the headlines.

Don’t get me wrong. As the true account of the human condition, the Bible has this quality of universal relevance. Pastors should make the connection between the timeless truths of Scripture and our particular context, in their preaching and in their leading. There are times that to not address something from the pulpit is to be louder than addressing it, and churches that never address controversial issues risk giving their people the impression that the Bible is our own personal, private collection of encouragements rather than the personal, public and true account of the human condition. 

At the same time, the loud demands placed today on pastors to not only hold but to articulate our approved opinions reveals more about us than about our pastors. After all, if we are confident our pastors are called by God and entrusted by Him to lead us into His Word and His will, that leaves little room for making demands on what he teaches.

Also, our loud demands that a pastor “talk about subject X,” almost always means “say specifically what I want him to say about subject X.” But that also means we’re not really looking for a pastor or a teacher anymore. We’re looking for a parrot.

The demands pastors face can range from mountains to molehills but, in too many cases, they are treated the same. To bring up the most common elephant in the sanctuary today, everyone has strong feelings about masks. I do too. But being asked to wear a mask in church by pastors seeking to comply with civic authorities or protect the health of parishioners is not a matter of orthodoxy. This is not a sufficient cause of outrage or of making demands for our pastor’s compliance. And it’s certainly not worth leaving a church over.

Keep in mind that pastors are called to shepherd specific congregations. Though the big cultural issues are always relevant, each community and each congregation find themselves in a specific time and place (as Paul told the Athenians) with specific people and circumstances all orchestrated by God. For example, a church connected to an addiction recovery center, as is the home church of a colleague, will be made of people with specific needs and challenges that others may not have. 

What is really at stake here is that we all need to foster a proper ecclesiology, (that’s a $.50 word for the doctrine of the church). When we view church like we do so much of 21st-century western life, as consumers, we’ll see church as a place to be entertained or affirmed, in our feelings and in our views. That, rather than a fidelity to Christ and His Gospel, is what’s driving so much of the entitlement we feel, and pastors face.

Every church and every Christian, of course, ought expect and demand that pastors preach the true Word of God with passion and courage. We ought never allow a pastor to abuse his power or his position in exploiting the congregation.

Still, we ought never demand that our pastor never disagree with us. The holy willingness of a pastor to say what’s true is only matched by the holy willingness of a Christ follower to hear what we may not like. And again, don’t leave a church over a mask.

Jul 07, 2020
Children, the Church, and the Culture War
05:00

A few days ago, a colleague shared comments he and his wife get when people find out they have seven kids: “Are they all yours?” “Were they all planned?” “What are you, Mormon?” And, most awkward of all: “You know what causes that, right?”

This kind of reaction to large families, which I’ve gotten with only four kids, reveals the assumptions about children that largely go unquestioned in our culture, even in the Church.

It is widely assumed, for example, that children are a choice. This was not always so. The introduction of reliable contraception, especially the pill, made it possible to divorce the inherent connection between sex, marriage, and procreation.

The cultural journey through the sexual revolution went something like this: First, we wanted sex outside of marriage. That required having sex without the threat of babies. Then we wanted babies outside of marriage, and even today, babies without sex. Somewhere along the way, the idea of marriage without children, intentionally I mean, became common too. Even among Christian couples, the idea of not only delaying children but choosing to not have them at all is, in many circles, non-controversial.

In previous generations, an intentionally childless marriage would have been unthinkable. Infertility, as so many couples are painfully aware, is tragic. Intentional infertility is considered a choice today.

Another assumption that controls our cultural thinking is that we have children in order to fulfill adult longings. This shift goes hand in hand with seeing marriage as fundamentally an institution of adult happiness, rather than as an institution to protect and enable the next generation.

When kids are thought of in terms of personal fulfillments, how we go about “obtaining” them becomes less important. Or not at all. And so, the sexual revolution is punctuated by ethically problematic reproductive technologies and intentionally single-parent households, not to mention same-sex households who want children even after entering an intrinsically sterile sexual union.

In short, after seeking the moral acceptance of sex without marriage or sex without children for so long, we now seek moral acceptance of having children without marriage or even without sex. Left out of our moral calculations is what happens to children who primarily exist to fulfill adult longings.

We will soon know. According to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, America has gotten older faster over the last ten years than at any other time in history. Since 2010, Americans over 65 have become the fastest-growing segment of the population. Meanwhile, the number of those under 18 actually shrank between 2010 and 2019. If this continues, by 2035, senior citizens will outnumber minors in America in an unprecedented “top-heavy” arrangement with all sorts of social, economic, and political instability.

This news comes at a moment many Christians are already wondering what America their children will inherit. No matter what we do or how we vote or even who is appointed to the Supreme Court, it seems, our culture and country continue to drift in an anti-Christian direction.

In response to a recent disappointing opinion from the Supreme Court, Pastor Kevin DeYoung proposed a new “culture war strategy.” Writing at The Gospel Coalition, DeYoung urged Christians to “have more children and disciple them like crazy.” As my Tennessee friend might say, it’s not rocket-surgery.

The heated reactions to DeYoung’s blog post, especially from other Christians, shows just how counter-cultural it has become to embrace the inherent created connection between sex, marriage, and children, even within the Church.

Of course, the reason Christians of all people should welcome children into our lives and even into our troubled times is not ultimately to win a culture war.  As DeYoung acknowledged, children are a blessing from the Lord. Full stop. They aren’t means. They are ends: They are signs of living hope, votes of confidence in God’s sovereignty, and the most basic and constant opportunity to love others as Christ loves us.

Jesus told his disciples: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Ours is a culture that hinders children, instead of welcoming them. That we look at God’s blessings as mere lifestyle choices, even as punchlines for wisecracks and mockery, marks that we are a dying culture. And maybe a dying Church.

Christians of all people should have no hesitation challenging our culture’s bad assumptions about children and welcoming them as blessings. But to do so, tragically, we’ll have to start with the household of God.

Jul 06, 2020
Podcast: Why Does God Care Who I Sleep with?
32:51

It might be the biggest stumbling block for modern non-believers: The Christian view of sex. Why, as author Sam Alberry asks in his new book, does God care who I sleep with?"

Sam Alberry, pastor, speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministry, and visiting professor at Cedarville University joins Shane Morris today on the BreakPoint Podcast.

Resources:

Jul 06, 2020
The Supreme Court, Abortion, and Religious Freedom
56:49

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss last week's momentous Supreme Court decisions:  one that handcuffs states that try to restrict abortion, and one that protects religious institutions--especially schools--from discrimination by the government.

Also on today's program: China's new security law could spell the end of democratic Hong Kong. Will other nations and especially international corporations push back on Beijing?  Shane Morris shares a portion of his BreakPoint Podcast interview with Jason Thacker, author of  The Age of AI:  Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity.  Finally, John and Shane answer your questions about the Christian perspective on the death penalty and the state mandating masks in church.

Resources:

Jul 03, 2020
A New Declaration of Dependence—On God
03:55

On July 4, 2004, Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint commentary was entitled “A New Declaration of Dependence.” Reading through it again recently, I was struck by just how prophetic his words were.

As a student of history, Chuck not only understood the founding principles of our nation, supremely expressed in the Declaration of Independence, he understood on what those principles were grounded.

What happens, Chuck asked, when the foundations are rejected? What happens when religion and truth and public virtue are all made non-essential? What happens when citizens want the benefits of the American experiment without taking seriously what it requires from us?

Here is Chuck Colson from July 2, 2004:

July 4 celebrates our liberty and our national independence. Americans will hoist their flags, march in parades, and set off fireworks. I get a thrill every time I hear the cannons blast that rousing finale of the “1812 Overture.” And I get a lump in my throat whenever I join in singing "America, America, God shed His grace on thee.”

Indeed, God has blessed America. This nation, dedicated to the proposition that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, has endured 228 years. America is the oldest constitutional republic on earth.

But all is not well in our land. When Thomas Jefferson penned the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence, he deliberately appealed to the Creator. He acknowledged an overriding obligation to “Nature and Nature's God.” And he understood that ordered liberty is not just a subjective preference, but a divinely ordained condition for which human beings are designed.

But over the last few decades, legions of skeptics have mounted a massive assault on these “self-evident truths.” In prestigious law schools, in the halls of government, and especially in the Supreme Court, God is often banished from public conversation. If a public school teacher introduces Jefferson's ideas and language into the classroom today, she would likely be called on the carpet—and possibly disciplined.

This assault on God in public culture severely damages our republic. If God is thrown out of our history, we lose our basis for believing that individuals have rights and dignity. In an empty universe, we have no meaning, no value. Without God there are no unalienable rights, and no certain proof that liberty is better than tyranny or that life better than death. Everything is a matter of opinion and power.

The references to God in the Declaration of Independence provide a foundation for a moral argument within civil society. And moral truths pervade our founding documents from beginning to end. Without God as the source of all those moral principles, the public square would quickly revert to the law of the jungle. Brutish power would prevail. The weak, the unborn, the elderly, and the gravely ill could be quietly terminated.

As much as I enjoy the anthems and the fireworks, more than that is called for on this July 4th. We need to confess our moral failures and our national sins. Repent of the lies that have justified killing innocent babies and the elderly. Renewal begins on our knees. It's there that we hear soul-searching questions from God Himself, asking: “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?...Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Our nation's founding document declared independence from Britain, but, with equal fervor, declared dependence upon God. Expressing “firm reliance on the Protection of divine Providence,” the signers committed the American experiment to their Maker. The Spirit of 1776 was reverence and trust.

So as we mark this solemn occasion, let us seek a rebirth of true liberty, which is possible only when governed by divine law. For, without God, we can never have “liberty and justice for all.”

Jul 03, 2020
Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, the DC Sniper, and the Importance of Fathers
05:37

Like many basketball junkies deprived of March Madness and the NBA playoffs, I devoured ESPN’s 10-part series “The Last Dance,” the definitive account of one of the NBA’s G.O.A.T (“greatest of all time), Michael Jordan. Anyone who watched the emergence of the Bulls in the 1990’s knew that Jordan’s talent and athleticism was matched only by his drive, but I’m not sure any of us fully understood his unique ability to manufacture grudges for competitive advantage, or to either motivate or run off teammates.

In one area, however, Michael Jordan was just like the rest of us. The series dove deeply into his love and devotion for his dad. The greatest athlete of the 20th century, the international icon and billionaire, longed for his dad’s acceptance and love just like everyone else, from the time he was a boy until long after his dad was murdered in North Carolina in 1993. His dad was the reason for his first retirement. His dad is the reason behind the iconic photo of Jordan heaving tears, hugging the championship trophy, after returning to the game.

The film also covers the career of Dennis Rodman, perhaps the greatest rebounder in basketball history and an unexpected ingredient in the second half of the Bulls dynasty. Rodman grew up without a father but found one, after his unlikely journey to the NBA, in Chuck Daly, the coach of the Detroit Pistons. After being traded to Chicago, Rodman continued to perform well on the court, but without Daly’s guidance, went off the rails off the court. Today, he’s less known for basketball than he is for substance abuse, Vegas bingers, dating Madonna, getting arrested, wearing a wedding dress and hanging out with Korean dictator Kim Jong un.

Another series I’ve binged during quarantine was the podcast “Monster: DC Sniper.” In October of 2002, John Allen Muhammad (aged 41) and Lee Boyd Malvo (aged 17) held Washington DC, northern Virginia, and Maryland hostage with fear during a three-week random shooting rampage.

A key factor behind the entire horrifying saga, at least according to the series, is Lee Boyd Malvo’e desperate need for a father. Malvo met John Allen Muhammad when he was 13, and Muhammad treated him like a son, trusting and affirming him. Muhammad even introduced Malvo to others as his son. So, Malvo followed him, back and forth across the country, and four years later, on a shooting spree that would kill at least eleven people in three states. 

A dominant narrative today is that fathers are expendable except for, perhaps, genetic and financial contributions. Either life goes on just fine without them, or they can be easily replaced by a “loving parent.” The stories of Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, and Lee Boyd Malvo, however, suggest that there is a dad-shaped hole in all us that only dads can fill.

Of course, many people have fared well without dads, and many haven’t fared so well with dads. Heroic single parents are everywhere, as are grandparents and extended family members, foster care parents, and others who step in to fill the gap left by absent dads. But still, the data could not be more clear: dads matter.

Back in 1992, Vice- President Dan Quayle was derided for saying as much in response to sitcom character Murphy Brown having a child outside of marriage and without the father involved. The whole saga likely cost him the presidency. (Either that, or it was because he couldn’t spell potato).

The following year, in an Atlantic article, Barbara Defoe Whitehead proclaimed “Dan Quayle was Right”. According to “a growing body of social-scientific evidence,” she wrote, “children in families disrupted by divorce and out-of-wedlock birth do worse than children in intact families on several measures of well-being.” Today, nearly three decades later, we know that “do worse” is an understatement. “Children in single-parent families are six times as likely to be poor.” They are also more likely to stay poor. “Fatherless children also have more difficulties with social adjustment, and are more likely to report problems with friendships, and manifest behavior problems.” As Chuck Colson would often point out, they are far more likely to be arrested and sent to prison. They “are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs in childhood and adulthood.” They are more likely to drop out of school and are much less likely to go to college even if they don’t. They are far more likely to run away from home, and they are much more likely to be physically and/or sexually abused.

Again, let me be clear: none of this means children from single-parent homes are doomed to fail. Heroic single parents, grandparents, adopted families, and mentors step in to fill huge gaps left when dads are absent. Yet, when it comes to dads, our culture changes the narrative instead of taking the data seriously.

Taking the data seriously would require sacrificing personal happiness for the sake of kids. Taking the data seriously requires not redefining institutions of marriage and “family.” Taking the data seriously means rethinking what a “life well-lived” really is.

Thankfully, almost none of the victims of our bad ideas about marriage or parenting or fathering wind up shooting random strangers around the Beltway, but the damage done is real and lasting. The narratives we invent won’t change that.

Jul 02, 2020
Abdu Murray Webinar on “Seeing Jesus from the East”
01:00:29

RZIM’s Abdu Murray speaks about his latest book, co-authored by the late Ravi Zacharias.  “Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure” is the Colson Center’s featured resource for the month of July.

Jul 01, 2020
Supreme Court Says States Cannot Discriminate Against Religious Schools
05:00

The past two weeks of Supreme Court rulings have not been encouraging. After the disastrous ruling in Bostock arbitrarily expanded civil rights protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the Court, in June Medical, all but handcuffed meaningful state efforts to restrict abortion.

Finally, yesterday, good news. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, held its ground on discrimination against religious education. In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court ruled that a state tax credit which “[discriminates] against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them” violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.

The case dates back to 2015 when the state of Montana created a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for individuals who donate to organizations that provide scholarships to private school students. After creating the program, the Montana Department of Revenue ruled that such a tax credit, if used to fund to religious private schools, would violate the state’s version of the “Blaine Amendment,” which prohibits state funding of religious education.

Kendra Espinoza, a single mom who works extra jobs in order to send her kids to a Christian school, challenged the Department of Revenue’s ruling in court. In late 2018, the Montana Supreme Court acknowledged that the Department’s ruling probably ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause. However, instead of overturning the ruling, it invalidated the entire program.

Thankfully, that didn’t work. 

In his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said that “when otherwise eligible recipients are disqualified from a public benefit ‘solely because of their religious character,’ we must apply strict scrutiny.” His statement was a reference to the Trinity Lutheran decision, a case that was successfully argued by the Alliance Defending Freedom in 2017.

“Strict scrutiny” means that the action can only be justified by a “compelling governmental interest.” Montana lacked a “compelling government interest.” Instead, the state argued that the law served “Montana’s interest in separating church and State ‘more fiercely’ than the Federal Constitution.”

Montana’s interest, replied Justice Roberts, is actually “limited by the Free Exercise Clause.” In other words, the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause cannot be pitted against each other. The separation of church and state cannot be done by discriminating against the church, and religion is not a secondary part of the First Amendment.

And, Roberts continued, the attempt to sweep the Free Exercise problem under the rug by invalidating the whole program doesn’t change what he called Montana’s “error of federal law.” After all, because of the Trinity Lutheran decision, the Montana Court already knew the Department’s ruling was unconstitutional. But, instead of applying the decision as it should have, it invalidated the whole program “to make absolutely sure that religious schools received no aid.” That action in itself violated the Free Exercise Clause, according to Roberts: “A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

Roberts’ opinion is a resounding repudiation of dozens of “Blaine Amendments” in other states as well. Originally targeted to limit Catholic education, these amendments provide legal cover for treating religious institutions and the people who depend on them as second-class citizens. Roberts made it as clear as possible that they, and we, are not.

Roberts also rejected Justice Breyer’s argument for a “‘flexible, context-specific approach’ that ‘may well vary’ from case to case.” Religious institutions and citizens should not be at the mercy of courts waxing philosophical about the “purposes of the Religion Clauses,” and then applying them on an ad hoc basis. Not to mention, it’s hard to imagine Breyer’s “flexible, context-specific approach” being applied to any other right, such as abortion.

Perhaps the best part of this ruling is that it offers a roadmap for Christians who hope to help people like Kendra Espinoza afford Christian education. The Montana program can serve as a model for other states and could even open the door for other solutions such as vouchers. Educational innovation has long been among the best gifts of Christians to the wider world. This is an open door for us to be even more creative today.

That’s why this decision is such good news. After the earthquakes from the Court the past few weeks, it’s certainly nice to have some solid ground on which to stand.

Jul 01, 2020
Podcast: The Impact of the Supreme Court's June Medical Decision
27:07

Chief Justice John Robert's assertion of precedent in striking down a Louisiana Law requiring abortionists to have hospital admission rights has everyone--pro-life and pro-abortion--scratching their heads.

Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, John Stonestreet welcomes the Heritage Foundation's Dr. Charmaine Yoest to break down why Roberts ruled the way he did, what it means for states who want to regulate abortion, and what it means for the future of the Court itself.

Resources:

Jul 01, 2020
Justice Roberts Cites Precedent to Uphold Evil of Abortion
05:11

Yesterday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Not only did Chief Justice John Roberts side with the more liberal justices again, he also gave pro-lifers reasons to doubt Roe would ever be overturned during his tenure.

According to media outlets and the court majority, this case, June Medical Services v. Russo, was essentially “identical” to a Texas law the Court struck down in 2016. In that case, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court ruled that requiring providers to have admitting privileges places an undue burden on women who wanted to access abortion services.

As I argued on BreakPoint back in March, the Louisiana law was similar but not identical. For example, only about thirty percent of women seeking an abortion in Louisiana would have been affected by this law, and requirements for doctors to obtain admitting privileges are less strict in Louisiana than Texas. Because of these differences, a circuit court concluded that abortion providers could more easily comply with this law than the Texas law, and it therefore did not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion.

The majority, including Chief Justice Roberts, felt otherwise. “The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” wrote Roberts.  “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore, Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

Roberts appeal to stare decisis, “the legal term for fidelity to precedent,” is troubling. In its history, the Court has abandoned precedent and overturned more than 300 of its previous rulings. In the 2018 Janus decision, for instance, Roberts had no problem with the court overturning the 1977 Abood decision, which required non-union members to pay union dues.

In 2016, Roberts dissented from the Whole Women’s Health decision. And yet, on Monday, he proclaimed the decision he believed to be wrong then as untouchable precedent today. Even worse, Roberts gave particular deference to the “undue burden test” from the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which is whether or not a particular law or regulation presents any kind of “substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.” These days, “substantial obstacle” essentially means that nothing can get in the way of, slow down, or discourage an abortion in any way.

Justice Clarence Thomas sharply disagreed, not only with the majority opinion, but specifically with Roberts: “The Constitution does not constrain the States’ ability to regulate or even prohibit abortion. This Court created the right to abortion based on an amorphous, unwritten right to privacy, which it grounded in . . . ‘legal fiction’ . . . the putative right to abortion is a creation that should be undone.”

Despite his objection and the widespread panic of media outlets since Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joined the court, it’s now difficult to see a Roberts-led Court ever overturning Roe.

Like Dred Scott, Buck v. Bell, and the Korematsu decisions, Roe gives constitutional sanction to great evil, and neither slavery, forced sterilization, nor the internment of U.S. citizens were ever overturned by the Court. Dred Scott was overturned by the Civil War and the 13th Amendment. Buck v. Bell and Korematsu are still “the law of the land.” So is Roe.

Ultimately, June Medical Services v. Russo is not about abortion access in Louisiana. It’s about the nearly unique and untouchable status of legal abortion in our country.

Every Constitutional right, even legitimate ones such as the freedom of speech or religion, is subject to limitations. Any restriction on abortion, however, is considered a mortal threat to “women’s rights,” cast as part of a “war on women,” and considered a violation of so-called “settled law.” On Monday, the Chief Justice added the sheen of “fidelity to precedent.”

And so, once again, Christians are left to ending this national evil by directly acting. Any hope that the Court would help us defend the vulnerable unborn was misplaced, but our commitment to defend the vulnerable unborn was not. Our only option is to stay at our posts, to love mothers and fathers and newborns, and to offer the reasons, the compassion, and the support that will, with God’s help, make abortion unthinkable.

Jun 30, 2020
The Link Between Marijuana, Psychosis, and Suicide
04:39

Recreational marijuana is legal in eleven states, and another twenty-one states permit the use of so-called “medical marijuana.” I say “so-called” because, as NYU drug policy expert Mark Kleinman has put it, “the vast majority of ‘patients’ buying ‘medical marijuana’ aren’t doing so under any sort of active medical supervision . . . Many of them aren’t ‘treating’ anything but their desire to get high . . .”

In the push to legalize, America has been sold dangerous lies about marijuana: of financial windfalls with no accompanying social cost and of therapeutic benefits with no accompanying dangers. But marijuana is dangerous. In fact, for some, it’s potentially lethal.

Dr. Erik Messamore, a psychiatrist with a doctorate in psychopharmacology, recently brought attention to a study published by a branch of NIH about my state, which is ground zero of the marijuana push in the United States. The title of the study telegraphs the punchline: “Legalized Cannabis in Colorado Emergency Departments: A Cautionary Review of Negative Health and Safety Effects.”

This “cautionary review” begins rather bluntly: “Cannabis legalization has led to significant health consequences, particularly to patients in emergency departments and hospitals in Colorado.” The consequences that are, in their words, “most concerning” are “psychosis, suicide, and other substance abuse,” not to mention the impairment of a user’s “complex decision making,” which may be irreversible, even by subsequent abstinence.

In Colorado, cannabis-related emergency and urgent-care visits among “teenagers and young adults” increased nearly three-fold after legalization. Most of these visits required “behavioral health evaluation.”

To quote the G.I. Joe public service announcements of my youth, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” Except, and this should disturb us all, the slink between cannabis use and mental illness was already well-known before legalization. In his book, No One Cares About Crazy People, Ron Powers (who co-wrote the World War II history Flags of Our Fathers) told the story of his two sons, both diagnosed with schizophrenia in their early twenties. Marijuana use, Powers learned, contributed to their diagnosis. Specifically, marijuana use increases the chances of schizophrenia for people

who carry the genes AKT1 and COMT, which “affect brain chemistry.” Powers’ sons had these genes. One of them committed suicide, and the other attempted suicide but was saved through a timely intervention.

Again, all of this was known in 2014 when Colorado eagerly legalized cannabis. It’s still known as legal weed marches across the rest of the country.

By the way, do you know what is also known? The claim that you can somehow limit marijuana use to adults who are just looking to relax or get high, and keep it away from kids and schools, is, well, excrement. Even before legalization, teenagers had no problem getting marijuana. Are we supposed to believe that legalization has made it more difficult?

And, how are we supposed to keep those with the triggering genes from using? Unless there’s a known family history of schizophrenia, chances are the first time someone knows they have AKT1 or COMT is after they land in the psych ward.

Despite what we know about the effects of marijuana use on teenage brains and the genetic-related danger to some, we are committed to playing Russian Roulette with young lives. And media outlets loudly proclaim legalization as “inevitable” and part of our expanding “freedom,” even while stories about the hazards go underreported.

By the way, this “cautionary review” was published a year ago. I only heard about it recently. It clearly escaped the attention of just about everyone, including those tasked with knowing.

Given all the talk of listening to scientists and experts about COVID-19, climate change, and all kinds of other subjects, why are we ignoring the clear data on this? If there are slinks (and there are) between cannabis, psychosis, and suicide, especially with teenagers and young adults, there should be no more discussion. Wanting to get high is no excuse for allowing others to be hurt.

Jun 29, 2020
Podcast: The Age of Artificial Intelligence
35:43

We've all encountered the term "Artificial Intelligence" in science fiction movies and books, but what does  it mean, exactly? And what does it mean for our world? What is a Christian worldview perspective on Artificial Intelligence.

Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, Shane Morris welcomes Jason Thacker, an associate research fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and author of The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity.

Resources:

Jun 29, 2020
BP This Week: And Then the Statues Started Coming Down
50:03

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss the events of the week from a Christian worldview perspective. Combine outrage with historical ignorance and a lack of context, and you start witnessing mobs tearing down statues--even statues of those who fought slavery and injustice, like Abraham Lincoln and U. S. Grant. John and Shane discuss the implications for nation

They start the broadcast, however, with more thoughts on the seismic shift in religious freedom brought about by the disastrous Supreme Court decision in Bostock. Yes, protections remain for religious institutions, but religious individuals have been thrown under the bus.

Also today, Idaho has passed a law to protect female athletes at public schools and colleges from competing against biological males identifying as female; the insanity of the transgender movement; listeners' questions answered on Bostock and on assisted suicide; and a clip from Shane Morris's BreakPoint Podcast interview with Pastor Randy Smith, host of the "America's Parks" YouTube channel.

 

Resources:

Jun 26, 2020
Don’t Forget Those Still on Lockdown: Lessons from Coronavirus Part 10
04:23

Calamity has an awful way of exposing our vulnerabilities. Picture a tornado, sweeping across the midwestern plains, sucking everything in its path right into the whirlwind. It’s the lighter things, the not-nailed-down things, that go first. When the wind, the dust and the debris finally settle, we learn which things were most vulnerable.

COVID-19 has also exposed much about who’s most vulnerable in our world. By far, the elderly have received the worst of it. The CDC estimates 80 percent of COVID-related deaths in the U.S. have been people 65 and older, and a staggering 40 percent of all U.S. deaths have occurred inside long-term care facilities, like nursing homes. 

Because of the increased risk, many of these facilities have endured much harsher shutdowns than the rest of society. Even now, as many of us return to work and church, many people in long-term care facilities are stuck inside, some confined to their own personal rooms. No family. No visitors.

Other data coming to light now shows how COVID-19 affected people with intellectual disabilities. One study by NPR found that people with disabilities living in institutions are somewhere between two and two-and-a-half times more likely to die from the Coronavirus than the general population. 

This is because, as one sociologist told NPR, those with disability have higher rates of underlying health problems and also tend to live in close quarters with others, which makes disease transmission much harder to stop. In other words, the COVID-19 tornado picked up the elderly and those with intellectual disability first.

In the early days of the shutdowns, a few people, out of economic anxiety, suggested that efforts to stem the spread of Coronavirus weren’t worth the hassle if the virus only endangered the old or the disabled. It was a shocking thing to hear at the time, but not unexpected given the advance of legal assisted suicide and abortions targeted at babies with disability.

Such policies betray the already deep de-valuing of the elderly and those with disability. It ought not surprise us to encounter the same kind of cultural apathy to their lives when it comes to stopping the spread of a disease that inconveniences the rest of us.

Beyond the virus itself, the elderly and those with disability uniquely feel the negative consequences of the shutdowns as well. The isolation felt everywhere, that may be proving as deadly as the disease, are acutely felt inside long-term care facilities. I recently read a heartbreaking personal account on Twitter, of a grandmother who lives in a nursing home and, at the beginning of the crisis, seemed to be doing well. Though the virus has not infected anyone at her facility, last week she failed a “depression test” meant to diagnose her emotional health. She gave no answer, said the post, to the question of whether she believed she’d be better off dead.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities can be an incredible blessing. In fact, they’re a legacy of how Christ and His Church has taught the world to value all life. Sociologist and researcher Alvin J. Schmidt, in his 2001 book How Christianity Changed the World, points out that while other cultures showed some reverence for older generations, it was largely followers of Jesus who gave the world the idea of not just revering the old, but actively caring for them. We have a similar legacy when it comes to those with disabilities, who were so often treated horrifically in the ancient and modern world.

But these facilities cannot stand in for the personal care and attention we owe our elderly loved ones and neighbors. Too often, those in long-term homes are “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” for the rest us.

Though we may not be able to visit right now, we can still serve these neighbors in creative ways. Churches can adopt nearby homes and commit to writing letters to tenants. We can donate food for the elderly and the staff who care for them. We can call. When circumstances permit again, we can visit through windows or in outdoor spaces.

And we can pray for these our brothers and sisters who are suffering not just from COVID-19, but from isolation. When doors reopen, let’s flood these facilities with visitors, in Jesus’ name.

Jun 26, 2020
Don’t Forget Those Still on Lockdown: Lessons from Coronavirus Part 10

Calamity has an awful way of exposing our vulnerabilities. Picture a tornado, sweeping across the midwestern plains, sucking everything in its path right into the whirlwind. It’s the lighter things, the not-nailed-down things, that go first. When the wind, the dust and the debris finally settle, we learn which things were most vulnerable.

COVID-19 has also exposed much about who’s most vulnerable in our world. By far, the elderly have received the worst of it. The CDC estimates 80 percent of COVID-related deaths in the U.S. have been people 65 and older, and a staggering 40 percent of all U.S. deaths have occurred inside long-term care facilities, like nursing homes. 

Because of the increased risk, many of these facilities have endured much harsher shutdowns than the rest of society. Even now, as many of us return to work and church, many people in long-term care facilities are stuck inside, some confined to their own personal rooms. No family. No visitors.

Other data coming to light now shows how COVID-19 affected people with intellectual disabilities. One study by NPR found that people with disabilities living in institutions are somewhere between two and two-and-a-half times more likely to die from the Coronavirus than the general population. 

This is because, as one sociologist told NPR, those with disability have higher rates of underlying health problems and also tend to live in close quarters with others, which makes disease transmission much harder to stop. In other words, the COVID-19 tornado picked up the elderly and those with intellectual disability first.

In the early days of the shutdowns, a few people, out of economic anxiety, suggested that efforts to stem the spread of Coronavirus weren’t worth the hassle if the virus only endangered the old or the disabled. It was a shocking thing to hear at the time, but not unexpected given the advance of legal assisted suicide and abortions targeted at babies with disability.

Such policies betray the already deep de-valuing of the elderly and those with disability. It ought not surprise us to encounter the same kind of cultural apathy to their lives when it comes to stopping the spread of a disease that inconveniences the rest of us.

Beyond the virus itself, the elderly and those with disability uniquely feel the negative consequences of the shutdowns as well. The isolation felt everywhere, that may be proving as deadly as the disease, are acutely felt inside long-term care facilities. I recently read a heartbreaking personal account on Twitter, of a grandmother who lives in a nursing home and, at the beginning of the crisis, seemed to be doing well. Though the virus has not infected anyone at her facility, last week she failed a “depression test” meant to diagnose her emotional health. She gave no answer, said the post, to the question of whether she believed she’d be better off dead.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities can be an incredible blessing. In fact, they’re a legacy of how Christ and His Church has taught the world to value all life. Sociologist and researcher Alvin J. Schmidt, in his 2001 book How Christianity Changed the World, points out that while other cultures showed some reverence for older generations, it was largely followers of Jesus who gave the world the idea of not just revering the old, but actively caring for them. We have a similar legacy when it comes to those with disabilities, who were so often treated horrifically in the ancient and modern world.

But these facilities cannot stand in for the personal care and attention we owe our elderly loved ones and neighbors. Too often, those in long-term homes are “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” for the rest us.

Though we may not be able to visit right now, we can still serve these neighbors in creative ways. Churches can adopt nearby homes and commit to writing letters to tenants. We can donate food for the elderly and the staff who care for them. We can call. When circumstances permit again, we can visit through windows or in outdoor spaces.

And we can pray for these our brothers and sisters who are suffering not just from COVID-19, but from isolation. When doors reopen, let’s flood these facilities with visitors, in Jesus’ name.

Jun 26, 2020
Genocide in Nigeria: Calling It What It Is, Calling for it to End
04:30

In terms of lives lost, families separated, people imprisoned, and churches shut down, the 21st century has, so far, been the worst period of persecution against Christians in recorded history. Among the hottest of persecution hot-spots is Nigeria. According to religious freedom watchdog Open Doors USA, Nigeria ranks at #12 worldwide for persecution of Christians.

Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram is the known villain in Nigeria, and justifiably so. They are among the most brutal Islamist radical terror groups in the world. Just last week, attacks in northeastern Nigeria by a Boko Haram splinter-group left dozens of soldiers and civilians dead. Back in January, the group beheaded Nigerian pastor Lawan Andimi. Kidnapped from his village and forced to negotiate for his release with the government, Andimi wouldn’t break. Instead, he turned his hostage video into a stunning testimony to Christ.

Still, as bad as Boko Haram is, much of the recent bloodshed in Nigeria has been perpetrated by militant Hausa-Fulani herdsmen. This largely Muslim ethnic group specializes in night raids on Christian villages in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.  In a statement last June, Nigerian Christian leaders claimed that “over 6,000 persons—mostly children, women and the aged—[have been] maimed and killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen.” They also described the “continuous abduction of under-aged Christian girls by Muslim youths” for forced marriages.

According to Open Doors, these attacks are essentially “religious cleansing,” attempts “to eradicate Christianity” from the region. According to Nigerian Christians the more appropriate word is genocide.

The term fits. As I pointed out in March, genocide has been carefully defined by the International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, and the word should not be tossed around carelessly. Genocide is action intended to destroy in whole or in part “a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.”

Clearly, genocide is what Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsman are after in Nigeria. Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, however, denies this. In a recently issued statement, he insisted that “false allegations of persecution of Christians” are “a most misleading campaign.” President Buhari, by the way, is the son of a Fulani chief.

Thankfully, there are international voices taking the plight of Nigerian Christians seriously. The U.K. Parliament released a report putting the G-word front and center. Entitled, “Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?” the report issues a stirring call to Britain and the world “to speak out on behalf of all the survivors and victims of violence,” and “to highlight the seriousness of the situation and the level of injustice that Nigerian Christians face.”

Describing the report in Forbes (and by the way, good for Forbes for covering this story), one human rights activist called for “comprehensive investigations and prosecutions” by bodies like the International Criminal Court. But, she insisted, the first step has to be that the world admits “the nature and severity of the atrocities. The crimes must be recognized for what they are and ‘a most misleading campaign’ is not that name.”

The U.S. must lead the way. Earlier this month, an executive order by President Trump made religious freedom a foreign policy and national security priority. It’s now time to make act on those words. Nigerian Christians can’t afford to wait.

Besides calling this crisis what it is, a genocide, the U.S. could ease the process for asylum-seekers and immigrants from Nigeria. Nigeria was among the six countries President Trump added to the travel and immigration ban in February and, currently, Nigerian refugees hoping to flee to the United States must prove their need by submitting an exhaustive stack of paperwork. Those in danger should not have to go to so much trouble to demonstrate what the world should already know.

Please, consider supporting Open Doors and other organizations that raise awareness, advocate for, and offer support for the persecuted. Even so, as important as political and financial assistance are, Christians in Nigeria need one thing from us above anything else: our prayers.

Jun 25, 2020
In Times Like These, We Need “A Christian View of Money”
04:27

According to a Wall Street Journal report last week, there are “signs suggesting damage from the crisis is starting to ease.” For example, though consumer spending fell a record 13.6 percent in April, personal income increased, and preliminary reports indicate a strong rise in consumer spending for May. Some department stores, such as Macy’s, are saying that their re-opened stores “are performing better than anticipated.”

This is welcome news for a year in which a health crisis birthed a financial crisis, complete with lost jobs, closed businesses, market craziness, even-more-eye-popping national debt, and a resurgence of socialist ideas. Still, if a flurry of “coronavirus bankruptcies” is on the way, as some suggest, “uncertain” is the only word to describe our economy’s future. 

For example, it’s not clear whether people spending money again is a sign of improved economic stability, or that people are using stimulus checks to distract from the chaos and brokenness all around them, not to mention the loneliness they feel. After all, binge buying is, more often than not in our culture, an attempt to fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts with stuff, to console ourselves from the craziness of realizing this world is definitely not under our control.

Social unrest must factor in, as well. Radical advocates of socialism and economic restructuring are always ready to hijack the causes of others, and the protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd are no exception. Take, for example, CHAZ or CHOP in Seattle or groups such as The Movement for Black Lives, which openly campaign for “collective ownership,” and explicitly claim to be “anti-capitalist.”

And, all of this is being done in the context of lousy civic and economic education. A recent Gallup survey shows that pretty much half of millennials favor socialism over capitalism, as if the 20th century, didn’t happen. You know what they say, those who forget history are… 

Given the economic turmoil, social unrest, and growing misunderstanding of how economies function, what better time could there be to ensure your kids and grandkids understand the fundamentals of money and stewardship from a Biblical worldview, what money is for, how it can be properly used to bless others and advance the kingdom?

The next Colson Center short course, which will begin July 7 and run for four consecutive Tuesday nights, is called: “A Christian View of Money: God’s Economy vs. the World’s.” If you’ve never really thought about how God thinks about stewardship and financial resources, how He created human economies to function and how the fall frustrates that design, this course will be very helpful. And if it’s past time to have “the talk” with your children, the one about money, saving, and giving, why not take this course together with them?

In week one, Dan Lewis, Executive Director of the River Foundation and has taught classes for years at the high school, college and seminary levels about God’s view of money, will teach on the theme of giving. Everything is the Lord’s. All we have, He’s given to us. When we give of what He has given, we participate in His work.

Ron Blue, Founder of Kingdom Advisors and the Ron Blue Institute will teach during week two about the theme of “Save.” For a nation in incredible debt, and given the average consumer debt of Americans, there’s hardly a more counter-cultural idea than having financial discipline now to create our own storehouse for living and giving beyond our earning years.

In week three of the “Christian View of Money” course, Brandon Sieben, President and CEO of Compass and Ken Battles, Executive Director of Compass Urban Stewardship Ministries will teach on how we might best differentiate between our wants and our needs.

The course will wrap up with long-time friend of the Colson Center, Dr. Jay Richards who will teach about the most common myths about economics and money, many of which have taken younger generations captive. For example, “Capitalism is based on greed and over-consumption” or “if someone becomes rich that automatically means someone else will become poor.” This will be especially crucial content for young people right now.

All sessions are recorded, in case you have to miss any one of them live. Come to BreakPoint.org to sign up. Our last several courses have sold out, so don’t wait. Again, come to BreakPoint.org

Jun 24, 2020
Podcast: The Glory of God's Creation--and America's National Parks
38:54

When's the last time you and your family have experienced the beauty and majesty of God's creation together? Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, Shane Morris welcomes Pastor Randy Smith, host of the immensely popular YouTube Channnel "America's Parks."

Pastor Smith discusses how he came to fall in love with America's national parks and how experiencing creation together has helped to shape his family's faith life and provided his children with memories for a lifetime.

Resources:

Jun 24, 2020
More Evidence of the Dangers of CRISPR: Stop Playing God with Human Genes
04:29

For years, I’ve worried and warned about the dangers posed by gene-editing technologies, such as CRISPR. In the words of one of its inventors, CRISPR makes the human genome “as malleable as a piece of literary prose at the mercy of an editor’s red pen.” At least, that’s the promise that has yet to materialize.

In 2018, a Chinese scientist announced he’d used CRISPR to genetically modify human embryos. At the time, more “respectable” scientists denounced his actions as “unethical,” given how new the technology was and how little ethical oversight there was for using it. In essence, this dangerous technology has been released into the world with no limitations except “play nice.”

Nearly all of the criticism directed at Dr. He’ had to do with secondary issues such as informed consent. Relatively little was said about the possibility of gene edits producing mutations that might produce cancer or other illnesses. Essentially nothing was said about the ethical nature of the technology itself, whether or not editing genes is something we should do at all.

Why was the ethical outrage so shallow? Two reasons, I suppose. First, science advances today on a philosophical mandate that is barely contained by an ethical utilitarianism.  That’s a big-worded way of saying that our worship of science comes with the idea that “if we can do it, we should do it” and the only thing that limits that is if someone gets hurt. Case in point: The Guardian called CRISPR, not a bad idea or a dangerous technology, but “an imperfect tool.” Why? Because “it could lead to ‘off-target’ edits.”

That squishy bit of ethical reasoning leads to the second reason I thought that the outrage directed at the Chinese scientist was, as I put it at the time, “faux.” I believed that other scientists, including those who decried Dr. He as being “rogue,” were doing the same thing, just more discretely. In other words, I did not believe that the loud denunciation and even imprisonment of one Chinese scientist would stop others just as intent on playing God.

Turns out, it didn’t.

Apparently, a team of researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London used CRISPR to edit 18 donated human embryos. The purpose, they claimed, was to study “the role of a particular gene in the earliest stages of human development.”  Unfortunately, around half of the embryos “contained major unintended edits.”

“Major unintended edits” is a euphemism for “mutation” and “genetic damage” which, as Medium told its readers, “could lead to birth defects or medical problems like cancer later in life.” As one genetics researcher put it this way, “…you’re affecting so much of the DNA around the gene you’re trying to edit that you could be inadvertently affecting other genes and causing problems.” Even worse, the Frick Institute team didn’t inadvertently mess with a gene near the one they were targeting. In other words, they “hit their targets.” The results were, however, unexpected.

Fyodor Urnov, a professor of molecular and cell biology at Berkeley, was more blunt: “There’s no sugarcoating this . . . This is a restraining order for all genome editors to stay the living daylights away from embryo editing.”

Once a “gene-editing expert” gets frightened, you’d think we might want to cool our jets in this whole “playing god” thing. I doubt it. Scientists will ignore any “restraining order” that lacks legal punch. What happened in China didn’t deter researchers in London. What happened in London won’t deter anyone else. By the way, all the embryos affected by the Francis Crick Institute team were destroyed.

When science operates independently of religion, philosophy, law, and public policy, then researchers (to paraphrase a line from Jurassic Park) become so preoccupied with whether or not they can do something, they never stop to think if they should.

So we, working through our elected leaders, must be the one to tell scientists “no.” They may whine and moan, as they did when President Bush curtailed embryonic stem cell research, but so what? As it turned out, we didn’t need to kill embryos for their stem cells. Likewise, we don’t need to play God with the human genome or with unborn children either.

Jun 23, 2020
The Aftermath of Bostock: A Cultural Seismic Shift
05:08

It takes a phrase like “seismic shift” to describe how much the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges altered the political and cultural landscape. Not only did it redefine marriage across cultural sectors and an entire nation, it had a huge impact on religious freedom. In an instant, those who held traditional beliefs about marriage became social pariahs.

If the Obergefell earthquake was the legal and cultural equivalent of magnitude 7, last week’s Bostock v. Clayton County decision may be magnitude 9. If you’re like me and had to look up how earthquakes are measured, that’s about twenty times as powerful.

Before Bostock, only a minority of states prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In most states, bakers, florists, and other business owners were largely safe from lawsuits and penalties currently faced by people like Jack Phillips and Baronelle Stutzman.

Last week’s decision probably changed that. Not only did Bostock effectively re-write the Civil Rights Act in the area of employment, it’s now difficult to imagine a federal court not also applying its logic to areas such as housing and education.

While the Bostock case specifically dealt with Title VII, the next domino will likely be Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in education. As Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation pointed out, Bostock “would either require the elimination of all sex-specific programs and facilities or allow access based on an individual’s subjective identity rather than his or her objective biology.”

To do otherwise would be to violate Justice Gorsuch’s absurd conclusion that any differential treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity requires discrimination based on sex.

Of course, a test case would have to be litigated first, which means there’s still time for Congress, who should’ve done this in the first place, to (quoting Anderson again) “clarify that when it uses the word ‘sex’ in civil rights statutes it does not refer to sexual orientation and gender identity.” And, Congress still has time to clarify that educational institutions offering single-sex facilities and sports programs “on the basis of biology” aren’t discriminating. Its common sense, and it’s especially good for women.

Of course, Congress had ample time to act before the Bostock case but failed to do it. Whether this was a failure of conviction or a failure of moral courage isn’t clear. Either way, the result is the same.

Of course, in his Bostock opinion, Gorsuch did claim to be “deeply concerned with preserving the promise of the free exercise of religion enshrined in our Constitution.” Unfortunately, that’s a nice but meaningless sentiment given the erosion of religious freedom since Obergefell and his rewriting of the Civil Rights act last week.

Some, such as David French, have pointed to potential safeguards for religious freedom, such as the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and even “provisions in Title VII itself [which] provide limited religious liberty protections.” There are also a series of cases on the court’s docket that could, as French suggests, dramatically increase “the number of employees at colleges, schools, and other religious institutions who are left outside the scope of Title VII.” And there’s still the possibility the Court would balance Bostock by overturning state and local laws that require religious nonprofits such as foster care and adoption agencies to violate their religious beliefs.

Unfortunately, even if every one of those things happens, which is far from certain, only religious institutions would likely be protected, and great harm would still be done to the concept of religious freedom in at least three ways. First, business owners and employers with religious convictions, people like Jack Phillips, would be robbed of much of their 1st Amendment rights. The religious freedom they, too, should enjoy would be neutered down to a privatized freedom of worship.

Second, the government would have to decide which organizations or institutions are religious and which are not. If we learned anything from the HHS mandate debacle, when institutions that served the public or were too large were not considered religious, it’s that we don’t want that.

Finally, by siding with the gay and transgender plaintiffs, the Court majority has already put millennia-old objections to same-sex relationships and gender subjectivity into the same category as antisemitism and racism: a kind of bigotry ostracized from cultural influence.

So, yes, the ground beneath our feet has shifted. Fortunately, there’s a Psalm for that: “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”

Selah, indeed.

Jun 22, 2020
The Ethical Perils of Surrogacy
29:14

Thanks to the Coronavirus lockdown, nearly 100 babies born through commercial surrogacy were stranded in the Ukraine. The BBC video of the story was hard to watch. What may be even harder to do is to have a serious discussion about the ethical problems with surrogacy. But that's what we have for you today on the BreakPoint podcast. 

WORLD Magazine correspondent and BreakPoint writer Maria Baer talks with Shane Morris about issues such as legal rights, broken bonds between birth mother and child, medical dangers, and the commoditization not only of babies, but of women--especially poor women. Maria also discusses an interview she conducted with the head of the Ukrainian surrogacy company that made international news.

Does the very real pain of infertility justify the means by which couples obtain babies? What is a Christian position on surrogacy? 

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Jun 22, 2020
BP This Week: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and What Justice Gorsuch Hath Wrought
01:04:35

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss the long-term consequences of the Supreme Court decision in Bostock vs. Clayton County, in which Justice Neil Gorsuch stood logic and language on their head and essentially re-wrote Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As John argues, the decision will inevitably extend to areas like education and women's sports. And as Shane relates, by equating sexual orientation and gender identity with race, the Court is putting believers in traditional sexual morality on the level with racists and bigots.

Also in this episode: A Christian pastor argues that to win the next round of the culture war, Christians will need to have more children and raise them in the faith. So naturally he got a lot of flak--even from Christians. How is this possible? John and Shane discuss.

John and Shane also take listeners' questions:  Today on end of life decisions and whether monogamy is making a comeback.

And we also share a segment of author Natasha Crain's presentation at our Truth Love Together event entitled, "Teaching Your Kids Truth in a Noisy Age."

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Jun 19, 2020
YouTube Dad Adopts the Internet: How-To Videos and Loving the Fatherless
04:36

In a YouTube video produced by a friend who leads the Christian youth organization, Link Year, dozens of students line up for a foot race to win a $100 bill. Before they begin, the leader informs them they won’t each start from the same place. He then reads a series of statements, telling everyone to whom those statements apply to take two steps forward.

The very first statement was, “Your mom and dad are still married.” The second statement was, “You grew up with a father figure in the home.” Then there are many others.

By the time he’s finished, some students in the group are mere feet from the finish line.  Others remain haven’t moved at all, still at the starting line, looking frustrated and hopeless.  The message is clear and profound. Everyone runs the race of life, but some people have more help than others.

We are currently in a cultural moment where all of the emphasis is on white privilege, and as a white man, I fully admit that while I have worked hard to be where I am, I have enjoyed more than a few helping hands and “get out of jail free” cards that others have not. Often, our culture has a backwards way of addressing inequality, as Dr. Glenn Sunshine recently pointed out on the Theology Pugcast. Opportunities should not be removed from those who have them, they should be given it to those who don’t have it.

At the same time, this video reveals what we know to be true from mountains of research. The most powerful head starts any child can have is being raised in a home with married mom and dad. That remains the single, most consistent and accurate indicator of a child’s long-term success.

Rob Kenney didn’t have that head start. This newly-minted YouTube celebrity with three grown children of his own, had a father who walked out on him when he was fourteen. Unsure of where to go, Kenney moved in with his older brother, and slowly learned the skills his dad wasn’t there to teach him.

Realizing now what all he missed, Kenney started a YouTube channel to teach skills to young people without dads in their life. As my Tennessee friend might put it, he’s not teaching rocket surgery. The videos are about things dads typically teach their sons and daughters: how to tie a tie, how to change a tire, how to unclog a sink, how to shave, and how to hang a shelf.

Kenney named his YouTube channel, “Dad, how do I?”  When his son, apparently aware of and willing to share the blessings he’s enjoyed with such a great father, posted a slink to his dad’s channel on the photo sharing site Imgur, it exploded. In just two months, the channel has over 2 million subscribers.

According to Kenney, the response to his channel has been overwhelming, and not just from the huge number of clicks and eyeballs. The comments people are leaving on his videos, thanking him for the channel, are heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time.

Both young men and young women have told him that his videos were filling a void their absent fathers left behind, and not just the how-to tips. They thank Kenney for his understanding and his affirmation. They thank him for the way he frequently tells viewers words they have never heard, “I’m proud of you.” They even thank him for the corny dad jokes.

“Thank you for being the dad I never had,” wrote one. “God bless you, sir,” wrote another, adding how he had learned that “just because you don’t have a good dad, doesn’t mean YOU cannot be one! Someone has to break the pattern.”  Another observed: “Sir, you’ve unwittingly adopted the entire Internet.”

Kenney is blown away, but still humble. “I didn’t always do everything right with my kids,” he admits but he recognizes, as Intellectual Takeout did when they broke the story about his channel, America has a devastating fatherless ache. “The pain is pretty real in our world,” said Kenney. “Hopefully this will help alleviate some of it.”

Of course, I hope Kenney’s idea goes viral well beyond YouTube and well beyond the Internet. I pray this story of a dad making how-to videos reminds us of the central, irreplaceable value of fathers, and inspires other men to act as fathers to the fatherless.

After all, our response to the head start kids with loving dads shouldn’t be, “Hey, that’s not fair!” Instead we should say: “Everybody should have that.” If the Church today is to be effective in binding up the wounds of a broken culture, it will have to model and pass on the love of our Heavenly Father for the fatherless.

Maybe it’s as simple as just being there to answer a question like, “Dad, how do I…?”

Jun 19, 2020
Juneteenth—Something We Can All Commemorate
04:35

Since I wasn’t even alive in 1968, I’ll defer to Boomers and historians to tell us whether the country was more divided back then or today. In my lifetime, however, I can confidently say that the racial, political, economic, and ideological polarization has never been worse, nor has the violence and outrage. 

No matter the issue, from public policy to personal morality to global health, people seem to immediately run to their ideological and political corners. No discussion, little charity, less concern about the requirements of a common life together. A lot of yelling. It’s difficult to imagine a people less able to accomplish a life together than us, with no shared vision and no shared memory.

Tomorrow, however, offers us an opportunity to come out of our ideological and political corners and agree to commemorate a significant day in American history. Every American, regardless of politics or background, should reflect on a day marked in many African American communities for over 150 years.

Tomorrow, June 19th, is Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day in 1865 in which the particularly vicious evil of chattel slavery effectively came to an end in this country. Here’s the history.

In 1862, President Lincoln issued the most famous executive order in history, known as the Emancipation Proclamation. “…on the first day of January,” read the order, “in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State … in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and forever free.”

With this order, Lincoln only declared the emancipation of slaves within the Confederacy. Pro-Union border states and even areas in the South controlled by Union troops were not “in rebellion against the United States.” Practically speaking, the Emancipation Proclamation was more symbolic than effective.

The surrender of Confederate general Robert E. Lee at Appomattox in April of 1865 signaled the end of the Confederacy and foresaw the final end of slavery. Even then, however, pockets of resistance persisted. Emancipation would have to be enforced.

On June 19, 1865, “more than two thousand Federal soldiers of the 13th Army Corps arrived in Galveston [Texas] and with them Major General Gordon Granger . . . Granger’s men marched through Galveston reading General Order, No. 3,” which informed “the people of Texas… that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

That is a moment worthy of commemorating. 

In fact, African-Americans in Texas began commemorating Juneteenth very next year, 1866. As African-Americans migrated north and west, they took the commemoration with them. Even today, though officially recognized in hundreds of cities and in 47 out of 50 states, Juneteenth remains largely an African-American celebration.

But it’s a day all Americans should commemorate. Juneteenth was the culmination of the efforts of men and women across race and social standing to put an end to a particularly shameful practice on our shores. Last year, my Colson Center colleague Tim Padgett wrote in an outstanding column on Juneteenth at BreakPoint.org, In it, he described how American abolitionists “were driven by the understanding that the realities of American Slavery were irreconcilable to their Christian beliefs about the dignity of humanity and their American dreams about the centrality of liberty. They saw that the slave was made in the image of God as anyone else and therefore as deserving of honor as themselves.”

Juneteenth 1865 is an important event in our national timeline, an attempt to live up to what Chuck Colson liked to call our American creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

We’ve not yet lived up to that creed. We still have a long way to go. Perhaps remembering Juneteenth together could remind us of the type of nation we say we are, and compel us to keep trying.

Jun 18, 2020
Podcast: The Supreme Court's Civil Rights Ruling
26:15

In the wake of Monday’s shocking Supreme Court decision that essentially re-writes Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, John Stonestreet welcomes to the BreakPoint Podcast John Bursch of the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Bursch, who argued the case on behalf of the owners of the Harris Funeral Home, gives his take on Justice Gorsuch’s absurd majority opinion—an opinion which in spite of Gorsuch’s denial, now expands the definition of “sex” in civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

How far-reaching is this decision? What are its implications? And what does it mean for religious freedom?

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Jun 17, 2020
Podcast: The Supreme Court's Civil Rights Ruling

In the wake of Monday’s shocking Supreme Court decision that essentially re-writes Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, John Stonestreet welcomes to the BreakPoint Podcast John Bursch of the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Bursch, who argued the case on behalf of the owners of the Harris Funeral Home, gives his take on Justice Gorsuch’s absurd majority opinion—an opinion which in spite of Gorsuch’s denial, now expands the definition of “sex” in civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

How far-reaching is this decision? What are its implications? And what does it mean for religious freedom?

Resources:

Jun 17, 2020
What Do We Do with Critical Theory?: Racism, White Privilege, and Christianity
05:07

The question most central to defining a worldview, other than “Who is God?” and “What does it mean to be human?” is “What’s really wrong with the world?” It’s a tricky question, because there are a lot of things wrong the world. The question is what is the core problem that needs to be addressed in the world, the root cause of evil and human suffering, and what solution can be offered to fix it?

For example, we should want to see justice flourish and racism of all kinds come to an end, especially in light of our nation’s history and evidence that our African American neighbors are not treated equally before the law. But not everyone who talks about ending racism and creating justice means the same thing. For a growing number of people, including some Christians with good motives, these goals are shorthand for an ideology that divides instead of reconciles, that sees people as either oppressed or oppressor rather than as divine image bearers created from “one blood.”

The ideas of Critical Theory, especially since the horrific killing of George Floyd, have become a central part of our national conversation. Once largely limited to the academy, these ideas have trickled down the way ideas do, to the media, through popular culture into the cultural imagination. Even those not familiar with the term “critical theory” will likely recognize its central tenets.

Critical Theory originated with a group of political philosophers who applied Karl Marx’s ideas about economics to society as a whole, especially across additional categories of class distinction, such as race, sex, and gender identity. The result was an all-encompassing worldview that purported to reveal hidden power structures behind society’s problems and institutions, by dividing people along the lines of oppressed and oppressor.

As Colson Center Senior Fellow and historian Glenn Sunshine explained in a recent episode of The Theology Pugcast, Critical Theory, like the classical Marxism it borrows from, views human beings in purely materialist terms. So, according to Critical Theory our race, sexual orientation, gender identity aren’t mere aspects of who we are, they are our defining characteristics. In each of these areas, we are either part of oppressed groups or we are oppressors.

According to critical theory, the oppressed group automatically has moral authority, while the oppressor group does not. Someone who is a racial minority, or a sexual minority of some kind are automatically victims of oppression and have claims against oppressors and the unearned privilege that makes their life easier (and this part is critical) at the expense of their oppressed neighbors.

Overlooked in this analysis are individual choices and life situations, which often hold a far greater impact on a person’s life. For example, whether or not a child grows up with a father is statistically more important than their ethnic identity. Other factors, such as religious commitment, education, sexual decisions, and family stability have profound power to shape the lives and futures as individuals, families, and whole communities.

Critical theory, however, ignores every other factor or squashes it into the oppressor-oppressed dynamic. This view distorts reality, and often turns on itself.

A recent article at Quillette described a Danish professor and critical theorist attacked by fellow critical theorists. They claimed his branch of Critical Theory was racist. This is no isolated case. Critical Theorists have produced scholarly articles and whole books claiming that everything from logic to math are tools of white, heteronormative oppression.

The problem, as is explained in a recent “What Would You Say” video, is that Critical Theory’s answer to the question “what’s wrong with the world” is just wrong. Specifically, critical theory gets the human condition wrong and the human problem wrong. As a result, its solutions are simplistic and, at times, dangerous. They’re not compatible with Christianity, and we should reject them.

Now, to be clear, I believe racism still plagues our country, and is embedded in the hearts of individuals and in institutions and systems. We can reach this conclusion by care, by listening, and by statistical data, not to mention from  how the Christian worldview describes about the cause and condition of fallen humanity.

Too often, any attempt to listen and to engage the race issue is dismissed as critical theory. It’s not. At the same time, Critical Theory’s analysis and answers to the problem of racism violate what we know to be true about the human condition. Only the Biblical story frames for us human value, human sin, and human hope, which both allows us and calls us to confront racism wherever it rears its ugly head, without embracing a theory that sees people as nothing but their race.   

Jun 17, 2020
Supreme Court Re-Writes 1964 Civil Rights Act: Title VII to Include Sexual Orientation
05:09

Yesterday, by a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, also includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

The decision, Bostock v. Clayton County,  involved three cases. In two of them, a social worker and a skydiving instructor claimed they were fired for being gay. The third case involved the firing of a funeral home employee who, after being hired as a man, identified and presented as a woman.

Everyone expected the decision to hinge on whether or not the word “sex” should be limited to a biological understanding or expanded to include the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. The lawyers for the defense argued that when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, they had no sense the word “sex” meant anything other than biological categories. Therefore, ruling for the plaintiffs would amount to re-writing the Civil Rights Act, something only Congress can do.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, in a bit of rhetorical jiu-jitsu, succeeded in re-writing the law even while denying doing so. After claiming to “agree that homosexuality and transgender status are distinct concepts from sex,” he then argued that “discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status necessarily entails discrimination based on sex.”

“Sex,” wrote Gorsuch, “plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision” to fire a homosexual or transgender person “for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.” And that, he wrote, “is exactly what Title VII forbids.”

In other words, rather than directly saying the word sex in Title VII should include sexual orientation and gender identity, he essentially argued that if employers wouldn’t fire a man for sleeping with a woman, they shouldn’t be able to fire a woman for sleeping with a woman. Extending that logic, if a woman is allowed to dress like a woman, you can’t fire a man for dressing like a woman.

To be clear, Gorsuch didn’t really explain why his logic applied to transgender persons. He assumed something that many gays and lesbians disagree with, that what applies to same-sex attracted people is equally applicable to transgender people. (Of course, the “T” hitched late to the LGB acronym, and has long made their living off others’ fights. Consider the #blacktranslivesmatter movement, for example.)

Gorsuch anticipated the objection that sexual orientation and gender identity were the furthest things from the drafters’ minds: “Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act,” he wrote, “might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.” [Emphasis added]

If Gorsuch is right about that, then there is no fixed meaning in the text of any law or statute. As Justice Kavanaugh wrote in his stinging dissent, claiming to uphold the “literal” meaning of the word, Gorsuch completely savages the ordinary meaning. Justice Alito, in his dissent, took it even further. “…a more brazen abuse of our authority to interpret statutes is hard to recall…”

Alito’s closing words are worth quoting in full: “…the authority of this Court is limited to saying what the law is. The Court itself recognizes this, ‘The place to make new legislation . . . lies in Congress. When it comes to statutory interpretation, our role is limited to applying the law’s demands as faithfully as we can in the cases that come before us.’ It is easy to utter such words. If only the Court would live by them.” 

The consequences of yesterday’s ruling will be significant. It is, to be clear, a broad ruling masquerading as a narrow one. Justice Gorsuch’s claim that the decision has no bearing on “bathrooms, locker rooms, and other things of that kind,” is patent nonsense. This is more likely the beginning of a national SOGI law, in which sexual orientation and gender identity is equated with race and protections are extended and applied to other areas of the Civil Rights Act, including those that govern housing and education.

Remember when we were also told Obergefell would have no bearing on religious freedom or other issues? Certain ideas, when imposed, make other ideas possible, even necessary. Yesterday’s decision would have never happened without Obergefell. The decisions of tomorrow, when Title IX and other federal laws are completely reimagined as if biological realities don’t exist, will be made because of yesterday’s decision.

Jun 16, 2020
Should We Defund the Police?
05:21

“I can’t breathe,” the last words George Floyd said to his killers, became the chant of nationwide protests. Sometime last week a new slogan emerged: “Defund the police.” Even “Abolish the police.”

At face value, the new slogan sounds absurd. Because it is. When a CNN news anchor asked the president of the Minneapolis City Council, “What if in the middle of (the) night my home is broken into? Who do I call?” The Councilwoman’s response, that the ability to call for help in the first place was a matter of “white privilege,” was, shall we say, less than enlightening.

Abolishing police is the stuff of utopian fantasies, only possible in worlds without evildoers. Because such worlds do not exist, law enforcement of some kind, at least here on earth, will always be necessary. To think otherwise is to misunderstand the human condition.

“The line separating good and evil,” wrote Solzhenitsyn, “passes not through states, nor classes, nor political parties.” Neither does it pass through occupations, as if policemen are intrinsically “evil,” while social workers or teachers or protestors are intrinsically “good.” The problem is in all of us, in every human heart.

Still, just because law enforcement will always be necessary this side of the New Earth does not mean reform of law enforcement is unnecessary. Indeed, this what many people mean, despite what they say.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a veteran of the Civil Rights movement, worries that calls to defund or abolish the police could “hijack the momentum to make serious police reforms in the wake of George Floyd's death.” As he put it, “if you mean reimagining policing, say that.”

In fact, police departments across the nation have made reforms in recent years, attempting to root out corruption and improve community relations. An oft-cited example is Camden, New Jersey, one of the most violent cities in America not that long ago.

In 2012, after concluding police corruption was contributing to the violence, the city dissolved the department and turned over law enforcement to the county. Twice the number of officers were put on the street, with a new emphasis known as “community policing,” while still spending less money.

Within five years, the number of homicides dropped by two-thirds. Among the goals, a former chief told NPR, was “to change how the community viewed police officers . . . from ‘warrior’ to ‘guardian.’”

Behind Camden’s reforms are a handful of principles worthy of consideration. For example, ending “qualified immunity,” which “shields government officials from being sued for discretionary actions performed within their official capacity.” This practice shields wrongdoers from accountability and is a problem not just, but especially in, law enforcement.

The police officer who knelt on the neck of George Floyd until he died should have been held accountable for a number of previous complaints. The TSA officer in Denver, who was caught selecting which male passengers he wanted to “pat down” in 2014, should have faced criminal charges instead of just the loss of his job. And, hospital officials who prevented my friend from seeing his wife for three weeks before she died last month, should be held accountable for the failed policies they hid behind.

A second reform has to do with police unions. Among the reasons Camden dissolved its police force was because the union made it impossible to discipline bad and corrupt officers. Mayors across the country tell similar stories.

Again, this is not a problem unique to law enforcement. If we want to see an improvement in failing schools, teachers’ unions cannot be allowed to protect bad teachers. Of course, when it comes to police, corruption and incompetence can lead to someone being killed.

A final principle is civil society must be strengthened. As New York Magazine put it, “In the U.S., the police are the answer for everything. To an overdose, a noisy party, a counterfeit bill in a shop. They are the first and often the last resort for any complaint, no matter how petty. There’s no end to the responsibilities with which we have charged them . . .”

In other words, police officers are carrying the weight of failed families, broken communities, invisible churches, and human isolation. As Chuck Colson used to say, the choice often boils down to the conscience or the constable. Only moral formation and mutual accountability can reduce our reliance on police.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, communities in both Britain and the United States saw a significant drop in crime and a significant increase in safety. Why? At least one reason seems to be Sunday School.

Of course, there’s also much to be said about the increased militarization of the police. That’s not a solution for a broken community, as some often claim. Rather, it’s evidence of just how big the problem is.

So, defund? No. Abolish? No. Reform? Yes. But know this: it won’t ultimately be a government job.

Jun 15, 2020
Talking with Your Kids About Jesus
33:55

Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, host Shane Morris welcomes Natasha Crain, author of "Talking with Your Kids About Jesus: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have."  Natasha offers parents encouragement and sound advice on dealing with our kids' questions and concerns about the faith. 

You can also watch Natasha Crain's presentation on "Teaching Your Kids Truth in a Noisy World" at our free online event, Truth, Love, Together. 

Resources:

Jun 15, 2020
BP This Week: Defunding the Police?
53:54

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris take apart the idea of de-funding or abolishing the police--from a biblical perspective. What Scripture tells us about fallen humanity should be enough to convince us that this is a terrible idea. Now, that doesn't mean, as John argues, that we don't police reform in certain areas. John and Shane discuss potential reforms.

Also in this episode: Anarchists take over a chunk of downtown Seattle and proclaim a "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone"; is "critical theory" compatible with Christianity? And feminist author J. K. Rowling criticizes trans-inclusive language and gets scalded. But not only is she not backing down, she's doubling down. And that, John and Shane point out, is a lesson for Christians.

In today's web-only bonus section, we get a clip from Them Before Us President Katy Faust from her presentation on the importance of fathers; John and Shane talk about the housing authority of Birmingham, Alabama, breaking its relationship with one of the nation's largest, ethnically diverse churches because the pastor "liked" a comment on social media; and John takes a reader's question: What should Christians think about the Black Lives Matter movement?

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Jun 12, 2020
Becoming Instruments of Peace in Times of Hatred: Go and Do Likewise
04:46

Christians are, according to Paul, reconciled in order to become reconcilers (2 Cor. 5). Though we know the brokenness in the world and in the human heart will not be fully overcome until the day every knee bows to Christ as Lord, we also model today what that restored world will look like, even if only on a small level.

In every age and era of history, there are examples of reconciliation and restoration in the midst of brokenness. Including right now.

In communities across the country, including Grand Rapids, Michigan and Atlanta, Georgia, volunteers and churches are cleaning up their communities after riots. One Christian from Atlanta described the work this way, “We feel like it's our duty as Christ followers to not only stand up for justice but to also stand up for our city. One of the ways we get to express that is by helping to clean up and rebuilding."

Eighteen-year old Buffalo resident Antonio Gwynn worked for ten hours, starting at 2am, to clean up after rioting had trashed the streets of his community. Why? Because, as he reportedly told CNN, people needed to get to work. Fellow resident Matt Block was so touched by Gwynn’s efforts, he gave him a Mustang convertible sports car. Another local businessman heard the story and offered a year of auto insurance, and a local college offered him a full-ride scholarship. By the way, according to a local news story, Gwynn seems to be very involved in church.

Speaking of which, churches in Minneapolis have increased their efforts to provide food to those in need, especially targeting those neighborhoods that have become virtual “food deserts” because of the vandalism and destruction closing down local stores. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis turned its church building into a medic station.

Another remarkable scene in several cities across America is police and protesters crossing lines to communicate, pray, and even march together. An especially powerful example took place at a protest in Fort Worth, which seemed to be on the verge of violence. Police Chief Ed Krause and Assistant Chief Julie Swearingin made their way through the crowd, met with protestors, knelt, and joined them in prayer. A protestor who tried to disrupt the prayers was shut down by other protestors.

Assistant Chief Swearingin’s prayer was especially moving. “We’re asking for your protection for all these people here, Lord . . . We are all your children, Lord, and we ask for understanding and peace, Lord.” Though Swearingen claims she had never intended to become a cop, she now believes, as she told the Star Telegraphthis was God’s plan for me.”

Churches in Chattanooga, having mobilized just a few months ago to help those impacted by a night of devastating tornadoes, united again, this time for a prayer rally for racial reconciliation. One pastor said afterward, “We’re committing ourselves to not only pray and speak to God and ask God to move, but then after we have prayed to God, we’re committing ourselves to move also to develop relationships to break down the walls of racism and injustice by letting our light shine in this dark time.” 

Pastors from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia gathered in Virginia beach for a foot-washing ceremony. A local television station reported, “First, the African American pastors had their feet washed by the other pastors; then, they reciprocated the gesture.”

Transform Minnesota, “an evangelical organization that brings pastors together to wrestle with social issues” held a Zoom meeting with more than 250 pastors to wrestle with the current social issues they struggle with.” Even as they discussed practical help, from supplying baby formula to cleaning up debris, an African American Baptist pastor reminded the group, “What we need are partners . . .Yes, we need your help cleaning up. Yes, we need your resources. But we also need long-term partners who are going to help us stand up for God and tear down the systems that hold people down.”

Francis of Assisi famously prayed “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where this is hatred, let me bring love . . . Where there is discord, let me bring union.” Repairing damage, cleaning up debris, praying, partnering, intentionally creating lines of communication and building bridges across divides are all ways to become instruments of peace.

And they are clear and practical answers to the question so many people are asking right now, “But what can I do? I can’t change anything.” The lesson for all of us is rather than focusing on what we can’t do, let’s do what we can do… and let’s do what we can do in Jesus’ name.

Jun 12, 2020
What Our Cries for Justice Say about God, about Us, and about the World
04:31

Since the horrific killing of George Floyd, the moral outrage in our nation is palpable. Moral consensus, however, is not. While some cry out against violence by police, others cry out against violence against police. Systemic racism is either the most important problem we face, some say, or it doesn’t exist at all, others say. We must defund the police, according to some, and we must support the police, according to others.

Certainly, the debates over what exactly is wrong with this world and what must be done to fix it will continue.  In the meantime, we ought not miss what the moral outrage, even when wrongly conceived or violently expressed, reveals about who we are and the kind of world we live in.

In his discussion of morality and the meaning of the universe in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observed that humans are irrepressibly moral creatures. We believe that there is such a thing in the world as justice. That we protest when we see behavior we believe to be unjust, especially when directed at us, reveals that we believe there is a way the world should be. “A man does not call a line crooked,” Lewis wrote, “unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

But where does even that idea of a moral straight line, of justice and morality, come from?  Why do we even think in terms of justice and morality in the first place? Any naturalistic worldview, built on atheism and concluding the world is merely a product of natural causes and forces, cannot explain the existence of justice and morality.

In fact, not only does such a world not offer any grounding for the very ideas of justice and morality, but it can’t explain why we would think in those terms. “If the whole universe has no meaning,” Lewis wrote, “we should never have found out that it has no meaning; just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

But not only do we clearly believe that justice and morality exist in the world, and that we can know what is just and right, we think others should know it too.  Lewis unpacks this brilliantly: “Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him, he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ before you can say Jack Robinson.”

The protesting and rioting and angry social media posting and breathless news reporting run the gamut of helpful to unhelpful, righteous anger to unrighteous opportunism. And yet, we are seeing across the nation and around the world, a fundamental feature of humankind and the world we live in. There is an expectation that such a thing as justice exists, and that it should be done. 

Clearly, this reveals the silliness and bankruptcy of moral relativism, in which every act is simply a matter of preference and convenience. You’ll never see anyone taking to the streets carrying signs that say, “End police brutality. It’s inconvenient.”

Lewis concludes his discussion of the moral law by wrestling with the desire we hold for a world in which justice is actually done, in which no one is ever murdered and in which racism and violence against innocents are unthinkable. Our ability to imagine this world in which wrongs are all made right reveals much about us, too.

Later in Mere Christianity, Lewis argues that no human longings exist unless its fulfillment also exists. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy,” Lewis wrote, “the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

So, we live in a world where the very ideas of justice and morality exist. We are creatures able to think in terms of justice and morality, expect others to as well, and who imagine a better world, in which all wrongs are made right and justice prevails.

What explains this?

Atheism cannot. Eastern pantheisms that ultimately fail to distinguish between good and evil cannot. But, a good God, Who is the ultimate source of reality and creates us in His image, giving us moral freedom, and promising to restore all things? That explains it.

Jun 11, 2020
Planned Parenthood’s Selling of Fetal Body Parts Exposed Under Oath
04:56

A new video released by the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind the 2015 undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood negotiating the sale of fetal body parts, has the nation’s largest abortion provider once again denying, hedging, and using phrases like “doctored” and “heavily edited.”

Five years ago, Planned Parenthood denied what videos clearly showed, executives at varying levels of leadership negotiating prices for fetal body parts. They denied it in media and in congressional testimony. When unedited videos debunked their denials, they insisted that all money received for fetal body parts was really for “shipping and handling.” Finally, they decided to sue the messengers.

That decision may turn out to be a big mistake on their part, since it gave the Center for Medical Progress a chance to question Planned Parenthood employees under oath. That questioning was recorded and has now been released. Thus, viewers can now watch people who had denied all wrongdoing squirm when confronted with the evidence.

One segment of the video features an official from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast who is shown a proposed contract for the purchase of fetal body parts. When the original video was released five years ago, Planned Parenthood officials told The New York Times that the offer had been rejected. The deposition, however, tells a different story. Under oath, the official acknowledged wanting to pursue the deal and communicating this desire to another Planned Parenthood official.

In another part of the video, the claim that any money received by the organization was only for reimbursement of expenses, which federal law allows, is actually not true, either. In fact, the contract with the biomedical company StemExpress stipulated that payment was contingent on Planned Parenthood providing “usable body parts,” in addition to accounting for time and transportation costs. The deposed official did not deny any of this. Well, she could not deny any of this. It was in writing.

As for any attempt at a “rogue affiliate” defense, as if these officials were acting on their own, Planned Parenthood’s Medical Director Dr. Deborah Nucatola testified, under oath, that she was aware that the Los Angeles affiliate was being paid for fetal body parts.

In his statement accompanying the video release, Center for Medical Progress director David Daleiden said what is clear: “Planned Parenthood lied to the public and to Congress” about selling “fetal body parts, commodifying living children in the womb and treating pregnant women like a cash crop.” He added, “The time has come for federal consequences for Planned Parenthood,” and for the Justice Department to “escalate the enforcement of laws against fetal trafficking to the highest level of priority.”

If the past few years are any indicator, this is unlikely to happen. In the past two years, Planned Parenthood not only hasn’t been defunded, as was promised repeatedly, its federal funding went from $555 million in the last year of the Obama administration, to $617 million in the most recent fiscal year.  That amounts to an 11 percent increase in federal funding, the largest increase in Planned Parenthood’s history.  Adding insult to injury, Planned Parenthood affiliates reportedly received $80 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans., which were intended to help small businesses and nonprofits weather coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Several lawmakers have called for an investigation, and the Trump administration has demanded Planned Parenthood return the money. At the risk of repetition, that’s not likely to happen.

Because of the important work of the Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood’s guilt in selling fetal body parts and lying about it, consistently, couldn’t be clearer. What happens next, however, is out of David Daleiden and CMP’s hands.

The ability of Planned Parenthood to, literally and figuratively, get away with murder, for so long, leads me to believe that it is somehow protected by supernatural evil forces. I don’t say that lightly. So, if there are going to be “federal consequences,” pro-life Christians must demand more than political theater from our elected officials. If there are going to be permanent temporal consequences, the Spirit of God will have to break the strange, deadly strongholds Planned Parenthood and abortion have on America’s moral imagination.

What we can be sure of is there will be eternal consequences. God will not hold guiltless those who take innocent life, nor those who enable it by their silence.

Jun 10, 2020
Race, Justice, and the Church
57:21

Late last week the Colson Center hosted a special live conversation and Q&A with Pastor Chris Brooks of Moody Radio and apologist/writer Andy Crouch about how we as Christians can respond to the killing of George Floyd and the protests and violence that have swept the nation.

Both Chris and Andy have been participants in our “Truth Love Together” event, which is now in week 4.  Please, come to Conference.ColsonCenter.org to view all of our speakers and modules.

Resources:

Jun 10, 2020
Patrick Wright: One Christian’s Calling to Academia
24:11
Jun 09, 2020
Tweeting Something Isn’t Necessarily Doing Something
04:44

Last week, a pair of activists launched a social media campaign that quickly went from advocacy to unintentional irony. To show solidarity with African American victims of police brutality, the women encouraged Instagrammers, especially major corporations, to post a black square in lieu of a picture, in order to leave space on the platform for people of color.

As well-intentioned as Blackout Tuesday was, as people across the country continue to express outrage over the police killing of George Floyd, it started to unravel nearly as fast as it caught on. Upon further reflection, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to ask people to post in order to show how they weren’t going to post.

Nor was it practical. So many individual and company Instagrammers posted black squares, that entire portions of the site went essentially blank. If the intent was, as described, to amplify black voices, a sea of black squares drowned them out instead.

Blackout Tuesday is the latest example of what’s called “hashtag activism,” or internet advocacy. Now that social media operates within our culture like a public square, it only makes sense that people would take to their keyboards when they want social change. Unfortunately, if that’s where our activism begins and ends, as it far too often is, we’re guilty of a category mistake. We’re treating Twitter (say that fast five times) as if it’s the real world. It’s not.

In fact, Twitter, like the rest of social media, is actually an infinitesimally small slice of the real world. As economist Arthur Brooks pointed out last year, only 22 percent of American adults are on Twitter at all, only 7 percent are active, and 80 percent of all tweets come from only 10 percent of them. (And about half of those come from Ed Stetzer.)

In no way am I suggesting that advocating online is always meaningless or silly. It’s not wrong in and of itself, but it is wrong by itself. It is no substitute for actual, embodied kingdom-building engagement. Just look at the stats. The most-followed person on Twitter only reaches two out of ten of their neighbors, and that’s only if they are on Twitter too. And even then, you’re just talking in a one-directional, one-sentence-at-a-time way.

Blackout Tuesday reminded me of a similar phenomenon that followed 9/11, something Neil Postman warned of in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. Of course, social media wasn’t around in 2001 but, as Americans everywhere struggled to make sense of what had happened, we started conflating “staying informed” with “doing something.” Maybe it was because we felt powerless or confused about what exactly we could do, but we were still wrong. The 3.0 version of that same mistake today is imagining that posting online is the best we can do.

Another problem with treating Twitter as if it is the real world is that it’s not clear who sets the rules. Social media often behaves as a mob. Mobs, as several business owners learned the hard way over the years and especially last week, are notoriously fickle.

Some businesses that did participate in Blackout Tuesday by posting a black square were accused of co-opting a social movement to attract customers. But businesses that didn’t participate were accused of cowardice or complicity in racism. On Twitter it was the same thing. Some who have spoken out explicitly against racism were criticized for not doing it earlier, or for not doing it at just the right time, or for virtue signaling, or for lacking the authority to speak on the issue because they weren’t people of color. But, nearly everyone on Twitter felt the pressure of having to post something.

It’s enough to baffle even the most well-meaning advocates.

Treating Twitter as the real world leads us to conclude two things that just aren’t true. First, everyone must say something, and to not post something is to be a Bad Person. Second, that posting something is to have Done Something. Professor Walter Strickland at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary put it this way - and yes, he posted this on Twitter: “You are not a social media handle. Don’t feel pressure to post and repost everything to show that you care. Advocate locally. Be incarnate.”

Indeed. The messier, tougher approach to loving God and loving others, which takes a lot more energy but is far more effective and life-living, is to do our community-building and truth-telling and others-loving offline.

As I tell folks when I speak, if you’re on Twitter, you can follow me @jbstonestreet. If you’re not on Twitter, don’t start.

Jun 09, 2020
Is Christian Unity Possible with So Much Disagreement?
05:17

Last week, a listener who follows a lot of Christian podcasts, including BreakPoint, wrote us with the following question, troubled by the conflicting opinions among Christians. Here’s how she put it:

“In most cases the Christians proponents seem to have a genuine love for Jesus and are trying to live out their belief faithfully. Yet their conclusions and interpretation of the Scriptures are often diametrically opposed…If intelligent, well educated, sincere Christians can come to such different interpretations of Scripture, how can I possibly hope to come to a correct understanding of the Truth?”

Given the hurt, anger, and even violence on streets across America right now, not to mention all of our social media news feeds, I imagine this person isn’t the only one wondering about the unity that Christ prayed for in the Garden, as recorded in John 17.  “All mine are yours,” Jesus prayed, “and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”

Why Christians don’t get along is certainly not a new question, but I do think it’s changed a bit. As recently as a couple years ago, the struggle was mostly about theological positions or denominational points of emphasis. Today, the context has more to do with politics and culture. This is not to say that the stakes are higher now than then or vice versa. Because Christianity is, at heart, a worldview centered on the incarnation of the Son of God, both what you believe and how you live matter.  There’s a substance and an application to our biblical and theological understanding.

One feature of today’s discourse, however, is how quickly conflict can escalate, and not just in tone but also in assuming bad character of others. We welcome feedback on our BreakPoint commentaries and, of course, we get it. Last week, many people took issue with one commentary in particular, for which I am solely responsible. I expected and received disagreement, as well as some name calling (my favorite was “Biden-supporter”) and accusations about my character.

Now, to be perfectly clear, I slept just fine. The larger point is that the cliché, that Christians are better known for what we’re against than what we are for, needs to be updated. Increasingly today, we are better known for being against each other than for each other. Not only does this cripple what Jesus said would be among the most effective tools of Christian witness to the world, “by this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” but it can harm the faith of some within the Church as well.

Love, and we must be clear about this, should never be reduced to mere niceness.  Nor does it mean that we should never disagree with one another. Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.  There’s too much at stake. Still, if we’re to follow Fr. Robert Sirico’s counsel to “be ruthless with ideas and gentle with people” there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, though it seems that Christians disagree on much, we actually agree on most of the core tenants of the Christian faith.  Theologically speaking, we may differ on who to baptize when, but Christians largely agree on what baptism is about. We might disagree on which aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work to emphasize today, but not that the Holy Spirit is working. We agree that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the cross and rose from the dead, sits at the right hand of the throne of God, and is Lord of Lords. Our disagreements, of course, matter. And sometimes, theological error pushes some outside of anything that can rightly be called orthodox, but the Church has been largely consistent on the most important theological doctrines.

Second, those theological convictions that are core, should be kept that way. Today, too many secondary issues, especially on how best to apply Christian morality and truth to the public square, have been made primary. Now hear me clearly, secondary issues are important as well, and we should debate them. Those ideas have consequences and victims, too. But we are far too quick to make secondary issues primary and to dismiss those on the other side of us as being evil.

Finally, the Scriptures are just as clear about how we are to communicate what is true as it is that we should to communicate what is true. The fourth module of our Truth.Love.Together event is all about how we can speak the truth in love. Launching the module is the one and only Lee Strobel, who talks about being better salt and brighter light. Also presenting is Obianuju Ekeocha one of the leaders of the pro-life movement in Africa. She talks about why speaking the truth is an act of love.

We need to get better at this. In a world that is hesitant to embrace anything as true, we must show them how to do it. Atheist philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once remarked, “All truths are bloody truths to me.” That doesn’t strike me as a Christian sentiment. Certainly all truth is worth standing for and, sometimes, fighting for. But not all of our convictions are worth wounding others for.

Jun 08, 2020
J. Warner Wallace: The Case for Speaking Unpopular Truths
23:28

Truth, Love, Together. That’s the theme of the Colson Center’s 4-week long virtual event featuring 20 of the leading Christian worldview thinkers.

We’re now into module 4, “Telling the Truth in Love.” And today on the BreakPoint Podcast we have an outstanding presentation by cold-case detective and apologist extraordinaire, J. Warner Wallace entitled, “The Case for Speaking Unpopular Truths.”

Resources:

Jun 08, 2020
J. Warner Wallace: The Case for Speaking Unpopular Truths

Truth, Love, Together. That’s the theme of the Colson Center’s 4-week long virtual event featuring 20 of the leading Christian worldview thinkers.

We’re now into module 4, “Telling the Truth in Love.” And today on the BreakPoint Podcast we have an outstanding presentation by cold-case detective and apologist extraordinaire, J. Warner Wallace entitled, “The Case for Speaking Unpopular Truths.”

Resources:

Jun 08, 2020
BP This Week: Images of Chaos
56:41

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss the chaotic events of the last week, from the killing of George Floyd, to riots and looting in our cities, to questions of systemic racism. How are we to make sense of all this as Christians? And what image from the last week--that of the policeman with his knee on Floyd's neck, that of the riots, the President and the Bible--will define this era for future generations?

John and Shane also discuss the demonstrations in Hong Kong on the anniversary of Tiananmen  Square.

We wrap up today's show with a snippet of Andy Crouch's presentation at our "Truth Love Together" event, and John  Stonestreet answering a couple of tough questions about President Trump holding up the Bible, and how we can know what's true when Christians disagree on so much.

Resources:

Jun 05, 2020
COVID-19, Depression, and Suicide
04:25

From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts warned of its impact on people with mental illnesses.  For those with mood disorders, the pandemic packed a “one-two” punch: the depression and anxiety caused by the fear of contracting the coronavirus itself, and the depression and anxiety accelerated by measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Even the wide use of the term “social distancing” instead of the more accurate “physical distancing” communicated isolation and the loneliness.

Add to all that canceled appointments with psychiatrists and therapists, and we should expect a steep decline in mental health. Which is exactly what happened.

A recent Census Bureau survey of 42,000 adults found that “24% of [the respondents] showed clinical signs of severe depression, and 30% showed signs of anxiety.” According to the study, “The rate of anxiety and depression were highest among young adults, women, and the poor.” To put these numbers in better context, half of American adults said that they had felt depressed during the pandemic, while only a quarter reported similar feelings in a survey done six years ago.

Things could even be worse than this survey, which was conducted between May 7th and May 12th, suggests. After all, three more weeks of social isolation and disruption could not have made things better. As the Washington Post said, “the results reflect a deepening of existing trends,” such as “rising depression, stress, and suicide," especially among young adults. Writers in the Journal of the American Medical Association call the combination of COVID-19 factors with already existing suicide mortality trends, “a perfect storm.”

Perhaps. It will be a while before we can say with any certainty if and how COVID-19 affected suicide rates. What we do know is that COVID-19 is attacking a nation already emotionally and mentally fragile.

This fragility is, as we often say of other things, downstream from the rest of culture. Some of what makes people depressed and anxious is biology, but much of it has to do with how we are made to live. As one doctor put it, riffing on John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, we “should ask not what’s inside our heads, but, instead, we should ask what our heads are inside of.”

The most obvious example is loneliness, something we’ve repeatedly discussed in previous BreakPoint commentaries.  Societies like ours are, by most accounts, loneliness-producing machines. Our deeply-rooted sense of individualism is only made worse by our growing preference for virtual relationships instead of face-to-face ones. Add that to the fact that, for many, upward economic mobility requires severing ties to those people and communities that gave us a sense of belonging, purpose, and security.

On average, the number of close friends Americans have, “confidants with whom (to) discuss important matters,” went from about three in 1985 to about one in 2006. It’s difficult to guess what that number might be at the beginning of 2020.

With social isolation and, as the Journal put it, “decreased access to community and religious support," the phrase “perfect storm” is less a cliché, and more a reality.

This is part of the plague that Christians, of all people, should be running into. Reaching out to the hurting among us doesn’t require state permission, and we do have the means to keep physical distancing from becoming social isolation. Part of this includes educating ourselves about signs of depression, and steps to take to help those struggling. There’s no shortage of educational resources online. And, not only can we pray for those people that are hurting, we can tell them we are praying for them.

To be sure, this pandemic will pass. When it does and we begin to again move about the country, it will be easy to forget the hurting and the lonely. We must not.

God help us to be people who won’t forget.

Jun 05, 2020
SpaceX, Christianity, and a Worldview Big Enough for the Stars
04:53

On Saturday, the successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon vehicle marked the first manned mission to space from U.S. soil in nearly a decade. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who ascended from the same launchpad as the Apollo missions and the space shuttle, are now aboard the International Space Station. Only this time, in an amazing “giant leap” of technology, the rocket that carried them into orbit returned and landed itself aboard a ship to be reused.  All of this was, for the first time in manned space flight history, carried out by SpaceX, the private company founded by billionaire Elon Musk.

SpaceX’s stated goal is to make off-world travel more affordable, but Musk has deeper, more science-fiction-like ambitions, including seeding the human species on other planets. Back in 2008,