Tag Archives: family

Can Christians Speak Truth to the Culture?

Q. What happens when human society abandons the idea that a human ought to relate personally to a god who has authority over him?
A. The society becomes secular.
Q. Then how do we ever know what is right and what is wrong?
A. Who cares?

In the newly-released book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, & the very meaning of right and wrong, R. Albert Mohler chronicles what has happened in US culture over the past sixty years, leading to the decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and the questions and answers above sum up the change he describes. Mohler compares the impact of the changes in the culture to the aftermath of a direct hurricane hit. I was reminded of recent photos from Long Island in the Bahamas after Hurricane Joaquin; among those images I saw an interisland supply vessel grounded a half mile from the ocean. That hopeless image might represent confessing Christians and their churches in the aftermath of a morality revolution.

Mohler attributes the moral and ethical upheaval to the rise of secularism, which is all about rejecting any notion of God, let alone belief in him. It is also very much about demolishing any evidence that anyone ever accepted a non-human authority in human  affairs. A moral revolution parallels a sexual revolution that has brought about the normalization of abortion and homosexuality as well as a rejection of monogamy as a standard for any sexual relationships. This moral and ethical juggernaut has cut a broad swath in the culture, crushing and reshaping all notions of human gender, sexual orientation, family, and marriage.

If you feel utterly blindsided by the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, if you can’t figure out how churches can simultaneously refuse to conduct same-sex weddings and invite homosexuals into the congregation, if you don’t know what to tell your children when they come home with instructions to ask people their preferred gender pronoun before addressing them, this book will help you. You won’t necessarily be comforted, and you may even be jolted by some of the author’s recommendations. If you believe that the Bible is true and that the plain meaning of Scripture is its true meaning, you will feel confirmed in that understanding, but the author may not build on that foundation in a way that feels good to you.

I recommend this book for confessing Christians who struggle to understand what happened to the world they knew a mere ten years ago, especially if they want to find a Christlike way to deal with those changes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Legalizing Immorality Misleads Children

Jesus said that someone who led children astray would be better off dead. If Jesus is who the Bible says he is, then many people would be better off dead. Those would be the people who insist not only on pretending that a union of two human beings of the same gender is a marriage, but also insist on teaching children to think that homosexuality and gender confusion are normal, all the while encouraging them to fondle themselves and learn what sexual stimulation they prefer.

Contemporary culture is a moral wasteland. The same people who police everyone’s speech and want to filter out the “N” word from conversation do not want to filter any sexual reference or behavior out of the public eye. The immorality condoned by the culture, and the advocacy for public law that condones and protects immorality owns the floor of the public forum.

People who want to pretend that homosexuality and many other perversions are merely variations on normal behavior make an issue of the fact that Jesus fulfilled all the law. They want to pretend that Old Testament proscriptions on homosexual behavior are null and void, because Jesus ended all those silly ritual rules. With regard to law, it is true that Jesus did away with food laws, and it is true that Jesus fulfilled and transcended ceremonial laws. However, Jesus did not do away with moral law; rather, he enhanced it and called people to higher standards.

Look at Jesus’s response on the subject of marriage. Pharisees asked Jesus to comment on divorce, but he answered by defining marriage: “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:6-9). Jesus clarified that humans have two genders, and only two. He clarified that marriage is only the union of a man and a woman, that union and no other. Jesus took that definition farther than the Old Testament law, and he made it clear that a marriage is a permanent union. Jesus called people to the highest standard, with no accommodation for sin.

Therefore, those of us who have experienced divorce are guilty of sin. It is important to remember that Jesus said this. Some of us have been led down the path to the sin of divorce by other sins—abuse, for example, or adultery—but divorce is still a sin, and we still need forgiveness if we do it. A marriage that is full of sin may be so evil that the sin of divorce looks trivial by comparison, but the ultimate truth is that sinful humans constantly need forgiveness. Even when we escape the evil of abuse by running to the evil of divorce, it is all still evil. When we participate in evil, we need forgiveness.

Parents and teachers have the huge responsibility to teach children what they need to know in order to live confident, blessed lives. Among the important subjects are marriage and family. Jesus told us what to teach our children when he answered the Pharisees. If we insist on teaching what Christ taught, and we refuse to teach children the current cultural notions, both we and our children will suffer cultural pressure to “fix” our “wrong” notions. If we teach them the cultural notions, however, God will punish us. Jesus himself said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). In the vivid poetic language of the author of Hebrews, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

The culture will demand its price, as Kim Davis learned recently, but like many people who have gone to prison for their faith, she found that being confirmed in her commitment to the living God was a better thing than falling into his hands for punishment because of failure to live by his standards. God will demand his price, when people flout his law. Those who lead children to accept abominations as truth will pay a price to the living God.

God does not want to punish them, or any of us. That is why Jesus suffered and died. The people who promote and enable sexual perversion and gender confusion in the culture all earn fearful punishment at the hands of the living God. Their sins, as well as mine and the sins of the whole world, weighed heavily on Christ as he hung on the cruel cross, but he endured that suffering and endured death itself in order to redeem us from enslavement to sin. There is hope for all of us, even people who teach that sin is good behavior and that knowledge of various ways to sin is knowledge everyone needs. People can turn away from that sinful way of life and receive Jesus. They can be saved from the punishment being laid up for them by the living God. They can give up their sinful ways and give themselves to Jesus. He will cleanse them from all the degradation they have suffered. He will heal their minds and hearts from all of Satan’s lies.

The remark Jesus made about the horrific punishment in store for people who teach children that wickedness is righteousness was a warning we all should heed. I am very sure that my children heard and saw me mislead them by word and deed more than once, and I know that I only escape the dire judgment in store for people who do such a thing, because the blood of Christ has poured over me and washed me clean. The living God will judge every person who tells children that families with two mothers are normal or that it is normal for two men to have sex with each other. Science tells us that the universe is vast, and nobody knows how vast it is. That fact should give pause to everyone who contemplates the necessity of facing the one who created the universe and loves every person in it. People who are enslaved by sin earn punishment, but when they act and speak with the intent of enslaving children in the same sin, they multiply the punishment awaiting them. Imagine the additional punishment that piles up for those who go even further, legalizing immorality and making it illegal to reject immorality.

People who teach children lies are pretending that the Bible does not mean what it says about homosexuality. People who make it illegal to call homosexuality sin have gone a step further by requiring that people support the homosexual lifestyle with the skills they use for earning a living. LGBTQ activists consider themselves to be doing good work when they suppress biblical truth in public life. They invented a “right” to tell children that homosexuality and gender confusion are normal and that any Bible teaching to the contrary is ancient scribbling to be ignored by the more highly evolved human beings who live today. The activists and teachers who advocate and teach lies as if they are truth need to hope, therefore, that the Bible does not mean what it says about misleading children.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World soon to be released.

Who Am I?

 

A recent study released by Barna Group reveals a great deal about the way people self-identify. It startled me, yet it explained many things that have bothered me about news and events in the culture. This study looked at a group made up of people of all ages in the US population, and asked questions that probed the way they think of themselves. The way someone thinks of himself will certainly shape the way someone thinks of other people. There can be no question that a person’s sense of identity affects the way he thinks about the many issues facing our churches and our country. I will just dive in. I will share my analysis and my conviction about the meaning of this information. At the end, I will ask for your reaction and your own convictions. I hope you will share your comments in response to my report.

In the group as a whole, less than half, only 38%, consider their religious faith to be the first and most important element of their personal identity. When I consider the importance of faith in my life, and when I consider that the call of Christ is to put everything second to him, I see right away that few Christians actually believe that obedience to Christ is more important than anything else in their lives. Self-identified Christians constitute about 75% of the US population, but if only 38% of the population considers their religious faith to be their primary identifier, it is clear that Christ is not first in the hearts and minds of most Christians. After all, even that 38% may not be exclusively made up of Christians. Church pastors and church members regularly discuss what it means to put Christ first. It is very clear from this study, that this idea does not have a lot of traction in the culture.

In the group as a whole, barely more than half consider their country to be the primary element in their identity. That, too, is startling, but it explains a lot of the controversy about immigration. If almost half the people consider their country to be less important to them than all other elements of their identity, then they do not think that someone who crosses the border without legal authorization has done anything threatening to them. Their citizenship is not an important element of their identity. They are not proud of being citizens. They don’t like the idea of excluding anyone for any reason. It’s hateful, they think. Someone who considers his national citizenship to be of paramount importance in his very identity considers that people without legal standing are alien invaders. The person whose identity includes national citizenship as a “ho hum” generality will not feel that the country is threatened by illegals. What, he will ask, is illegal about them? What is the big deal?

By far, the largest element in the personal identity of most people is their family. There is no question that family is important. Most people find their closest relationships within the family, and people without strong family connections often have difficulty connecting with anyone. The family is the first institution God established among humans, but even God expects allegiance to him to transcend allegiance to family. The dominance of family in the personal identity of most people makes me wonder why so many people line up to speak publicly in favor of redefining marriage and family. This particular element of the study makes me wonder where the real energy of the LGBTQ agenda is. This study reaffirms my doubts that most people in the USA want any part of the LGBTQ agenda.

For most people, the additional elements of personal identity—career, ethnicity, home city and home state—are minor by comparison to the top three. It is interesting to observe those items are important to about 20% of the group, a very small segment. The political rhetoric and the media would have people believe that ethnicity and career are the most important issues in the world. Clearly, no matter what your definition of racism and unequal pay for women is, these issues are not nearly as important as family, religion and citizenship. To read this study is to have your eyes opened to the fact that the media is clearly in partnership with political leaders to divert Americans from thinking about the things that are most important to them. If leaders actually wanted to serve the American people, they would assert a strong, traditional definition of the family, protect the nation from invaders, whether they invade with guns or spades, and guard freedom of religion aggressively. Instead, political leaders assert that the future hangs on issues most people hardly care about at all, and the media, the fourth estate, the group that is supposed to hold government at all levels accountable to the people, instead marches in servile lockstep with political language and objectives that destroy the very people politicians and the media are called to serve.

There is much more to discover in this study.

The high-level population groups in the study were Elders, Boomers, Gen-X, and Millenials. Individuals in the study did not self-identify for these groups. They were identified according to birth date. Participants were also asked questions that identified their participation in a separate set of groups such as No Faith, Practicing Catholic, Practicing Mainline, Practicing Christian, No Faith, Hispanic, White, Black, All Non-White, Evangelical, Unregistered Voter, Republican, Democrat, Registered Independent, Married, Ever Divorced, Never Married, Some College, College Graduate, Unemployed, Employed, Income> $100K. This list does not include all the groups studied.

The study across the second set of groups reveals some truly enlightening results. For example, three of those groups showed up as consistently less likely than others to consider faith, family or country important to their identity: Millennials, Democrats, and No Faith.

It is not hard to understand that people with no faith would value those items less than other people. People with no faith will not likely value faith, and the inherent connections of faith with family in all religions tend to mean that people with no faith will set less value on family. It is not clear what lack of faith has to do with valuing American citizenship, but this study shows that connection.

It is quite surprising to discover that people who identify with one of the major political parties are less likely than citizens in general to value faith, family or country as part of their identity, yet Democrats show up as statistically less likely in all three categories. There has never been any indication that the Democrat party officially scorned religious faith, but a reader is entitled to wonder why the statistics show that people who consider themselves Democrat set less value on religion in their personal identity than other citizens. It is disturbing to see them show up as less likely to value family, too, and it is tempting to believe that this fact underlies the Democrat parties alliance with the LGBTQ agenda to normalize aberrant forms of sexual behavior, confuse definitions of gender, and redefine marriage altogether. The really frightening problem is that Democrats are less likely than other citizens to consider the country to be part of their personal identity.

It is enlightening to see that Millennials appear less likely than others to consider faith, family or country integral to their identity. Of all the elements Millenials include in their identity, family is the most likely choice, but even that accounts for barely half of them. After family, only American citizenship, at 34% exceeds a 25% value in the minds of millennials. You might say that their values are spread widely, but no value is deeply rooted in the group.

What does this mean for me, for you, for any Christian citizen? How does this study inform the way Christians live in the culture. I believe it is like having a bit of a map to the culture. This is the value of Barna Group. Any one of us may observe some of the same issues addressed in this study, but few of us have the time or the statistical skill to do surveys and analysis that Barna does, and if we did, all our real work would go undone. We can be very thankful for the commitment of Barna group to study the culture in ways that help all of us minister to the culture more effectively.

I plan to use this information to help me focus my study and my writing. I write to help Christians understand elements of the culture that reject or restrict Christian discipleship, and I write to encourage Christians to persevere in faithful obedience to Christ. I write, because each of us wants to be like the disciples when challenged by the Sanhedrin:

When [the Sanhedrin] had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that [the disciples] should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So [the disciples]departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:40-42 ESV emphasis mine.

For me, this means that I will do what Christ calls me to do, and I will try to be more like Christ in everything I do. If I suffer shame for his name, that will be a gift for which I give thanks. The evidence of the Barna study supports daily evidence that the name of Christ is not universally respected. When Paul found himself in Athens where nobody knew or cared about Christ, he spent some time studying the culture, and then he preached Christ more powerfully, because he was informed. May we use Barna’s information to be ever more skillful in presenting Christ to the many people for whom he died.

What does this information mean for you?

 

Free Speech? Of Course. Suppress Only Wrong-Headed Speech

 

People have freedom of expression, blah blah blah, but until we make those people pay for their wrongheaded beliefs, they’ll continue to hold them. Tony Woodlief at Patheos

It has not always been the case that someone expressing a viewpoint with roots in Christian teaching was accused of discrimination. It has not always been the case that someone expressing a viewpoint different from the majority was accused of discrimination. The new wrinkle in the culture is that someone expressing the majority viewpoint, Christian or not, is accused of discrimination. The really new wrinkle is that someone who supports a viewpoint validated in millennia of human history is accused of discrimination.

This is what is happening to people who support the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

 Something more mind-boggling could hardly be imagined.

The concept of marriage as the union of a man and a woman has never been questioned throughout human history till now. In fact, except for dictionary devotees, the specification that the parties to a marriage will be a man and a woman has not needed to be discussed. It has not been a uniquely Christian idea that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Archeology and paleontology alike demonstrate that humans have always viewed marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and humans have always considered marriage to be the foundation for a family. Only recently has it become necessary to argue about what constitutes a marriage or a family.

What happened to the culture?

Human society has many ongoing arguments. Who ought to be in charge, and how ought a group of people figure out who should be in charge? What is worth fighting about? What is a fair fight? There are a lot of arguments that are not yet settled. But the definition of marriage and family were settled so far back that except for the revelation of the creation story in Genesis, nobody would know how marriage began. The record of human life on earth shows that marriage has been the normal basis for family in all human groups, almost as if it were written on the human heart.

That fact meant that until very recently, anyone who used the word marriage did not need to define it or qualify it. The word itself was sufficient to convey the intended meaning. It also meant that until very recently, nobody would have had any reason to write laws about the language used for marriage or sexual orientation or gender identity. The issue of sexual orientation was settled by the recognition that normal human beings are attracted to the opposite gender, and the gender of a normal human being is the gender of the DNA (of which there are only two options – male or female). All other expressions of gender, sexual orientation or sexual union were abnormal simply because they were not normal. It wasn’t discrimination to recognize that fact; it was plain common sense. It still is. Unfortunately, plain common sense does not seem to be valued very much in the language of marriage, family, gender identity or sexual orientation.

The fact that a marriage was expressed as a union of a man and a woman throughout human society meant that when religions used this definition, it was not regarded as privilege, oppression or discrimination. It was considered normal. Any other definition would have been regarded as bizarre and would have resulted in ostracism of its practitioners for engaging in behavior equivalent to wearing aluminum foil hats.

Where do Christians get their definition of marriage?

Christians use this definition of marriage for the same reason as humankind at large; it is normal. However, when the definition is challenged, as is common in contemporary cultural disputes, Christians actually have a basis for defending their contention that it is normal. They don’t rely on the fact that people have used this definition for thousands, perhaps millions, of years. They rely on the revelation of the Creator, God Himself. The Bible records that God created humans male and female and ordained marriage as their proper relationship. God further ordained that they produce children within that relationship and nurture them to adulthood, each generation teaching the next the things they needed to know in order to have good lives – God’s truths, skills for daily living, and so forth. Human failing and wicked acts have not changed God’s truth: marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

What justifies suppression of anybody’s speech?

Which brings the subject back to freedom of speech. The culture is busily attempting to suppress the freedom to speak of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Someone recently said that the culture war is necessary in order to make speaking of heterosexual marriage as unacceptable as suggesting that slavery is good. To that end, the army of LGBT activism persuaded Mozilla to fire a man whose only crime was to express his legitimate view on the definition of marriage. To that end, JP Morgan quizzed its employees to determine who is and who isn’t an ally of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. To that end, the Department of Justice demanded that employees not only tolerate homosexual colleagues but also express their delight at the opportunity to support their lifestyle choices. Freedom of speech necessarily requires the culture to permit people of all viewpoints to express their viewpoints. There must not be penalties for expressing minority viewpoints. There must not be penalties for expressing majority viewpoints.

Yes, the majority must be free to speak of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Because most American citizens, the majority of the population, holds the traditional view of marriage, those citizens must be just as free to express and act on their definition of marriage as the minority, a very tiny minority, who want marriage to include homosexual union, polyamory and bestiality. The US Constitution protects the right of a man to donate money to a political action group that promotes traditional marriage. Marriage. The only marriage that is marriage. The Constitution says that people have a right to their opinions and a right to express their opinions and a right to advocate for legislation in keeping with their opinions.

To have an opinion at odds with the latest Twitter hashtag campaign ought not to be grounds for dismissal from a job or for exclusion from the cultural conversation. Tony Woodlief points out that the culture wants the dissenting opinions on the subject of marriage, or any other subject in fashion at the moment, to be gone. Snuffed out. Squashed. Shut down. The only real way to defeat that objective is to be tireless in support of one’s viewpoint and be willing to pay the price the opponents will impose. Woodlief is right. Those who never give up their unwanted opinions will be made to pay, because the opposition will continue to exact the price. Those who support normality and common sense must be willing to pay in order to continue to hold their views.

What should we do?

The opposition says, “People have freedom of expression, blah blah blah, but until we make those people pay for their wrongheaded beliefs, they’ll continue to hold them.” We who love the Lord and trust the Bible for guidance in faith and life say, “People have freedom of expression, because God gave people this right, and we will advocate for the preservation of that right for as long as it takes.”

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/goodletters/2014/08/the-new-truth-squashes-dissent/#ixzz3AN3PIF4h

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/goodletters/2014/08/the-new-truth-squashes-dissent/#ixzz3AN3PIF4h

Whose Children Are They?

In a recent “Lean Forward” spot on MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry said: 

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had a kind of a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s then we start making better investments. 

This announcement is troubling in many ways. Any parent who actually believes that children belong to their parents will find it objectionable. Christian parents, beyond their own natural understanding of the meaning of parenthood, accept some biblical mandates that stand in opposition to this view. Any person who believes in the traditional values of marriage, family, and children will be appalled at the very idea that children belong to the community, because most of them have had a lot of “everybody else is doing it” moments in which they firmly taught that “our family does not do it.”

Above all of these issues, anyone who has studied the USSR or any of the rhetoric of the Communist Party will recognize the way the Party separated children from their parents as a state policy in countries the Party controlled. Children of the Communist era grew up knowing that it was their duty to spy on their parents and tell on their parents for saying or doing things against the god-state each soviet republic had become. There are people who have asked me over the past five years, “Where did you get the idea that Barack Obama is a socialist?” My answer has always been, “I simply see what he stands for.” After this statement entered the public record, it became very clear that Melissa Harris-Perry is also a socialist. It is not name-calling to apply that label to a person who has spoken out consistently in support of socialist principles. It is simply recognition of her position politically and socially, no more pejorative than recognizing an oak leaf and acorns as evidence that a tree is an oak tree.

Melissa Harris-Perry has a history of supporting values destructive to families and supportive of state policy controlling family life. A Google search on her name will display evidence that she felt threatened in 2012 by anti-abortion activism. She supports the idea that a union of two homosexuals is a marriage. She thinks free contraception is a cultural imperative. She has a right to her opinions as an American citizen, but citizens with quite different opinions need to know where she stands in order to respond appropriately. It is important to know her general stance on family issues in order to assess the seriousness of this statement. The evidence reveals that this is a very serious statement.

Ms. Harris-Perry is not alone in her perceptions about the education of children. Public voices have already jumped to her side to say that if the community had owned the children in Sandy Hook, the shooter would never have become a shooter. There being absolutely no evidence to justify such a point of view does not seem to be important to people who want a simplistic solution to a complicated problem.

Christian parents need to be alert now that this statement has been widely broadcast. Voices in the media make it appear that her viewpoint is not unique. In fact, Christian parents who were unaware until now that some people believe this idea may be late in discovering that such ideas are being promulgated elsewhere. In schools. In school boards. In city councils. In state legislatures. In Congress. If someone promotes this idea in a nationally-broadcast statement, then it is likely to be boiling under the surface all through the culture.

Christian parents no doubt already feel targeted. Many Christian parents homeschool their children precisely in order to avoid letting the “community” teach their children values that the parents reject. Now they must be extremely vigilant to prevent social activists from creating legislation or regulations that will interfere with their ability to homeschool their children. There have been a number of attempts to prevent homeschooling parents from controlling their own curriculum, and this statement will almost certainly propel additional initiatives in that direction.

Do not think that you can sleep through this challenge. In Kazakhstan and Tajikistan today there are laws that forbid parents to take their children to worship services or to teach them to study the Bible. Such laws may sound outrageous and unthinkable in the US. Well, how outrageous is it to hear a television personality say that your children do not belong to you?

What do you see in your community? What do you see in your local schools? If you homeschool, what public pressure is being brought to bear on your right to educate your own children? What signs do you see that the culture of the US is pressuring the government of the US to take your children away from your control?