Author archives: Rob Schwarzwalder

Social Conservative Review: An Insider’s Guide to Pro-Family News May 21, 2015

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 22, 2015

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review


American society has been characterized as post-Christian, post-modern, post-conservative, post-racial, and post-gender. We are said to be a culture of narcissism (Christopher Lasch), a culture of death (Ramesh Ponnuru), a culture of war (Anthony J. Marsella), a culture of fear (Barry Glassner), and even a culture of wimps (John Strausbaugh).

There is some truth in just about all of these (although “post-genderism” is a term only the academy could love, given its intrinsic detachment from biological reality).  But one things is sure: The culture of secularism – “the belief that religion should not be involved with the ordinary social and political activities of a country” – is growing.

While Evangelical Christianity is growing or at least holding its own, other Christian traditions and religion generally are diminishing. As the latest Pew Research poll on religious faith in our country demonstrates, “the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.”

This presents Christians with a tremendous opportunity to minister the grace and truth of Christ in all spheres of endeavor and in both personal and professional relationships.  And also to share the good news of the salvation Jesus offers to a broken and breaking world.

Paul the Apostle says believers should be “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16), echoing Moses’ prayer that  God would “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  All for His glory.

Given the crises of our secular era, there can be no more bracing or encouraging counsel than that.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice-President
Family Research Council

P.S. Why did the explosive riots in Baltimore happen? Read Dr. Pat Fagan’s study of the causes of inner city turbulence not only for a close analysis but practical counsel on how we can transform the urban family.


Education

Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life

Abortion

Adoption

 

Assisted Suicide

Bioethics

Human Trafficking

 

Marriage & Family

Divorce Reform

Economy and the family

Fatherhood and Motherhood

Marriage

 

Human Sexuality

Homosexuality and Gender Issues

Pornography

 

Religious Liberty and Persecution

Domestic

International

 

Religion in Public Life

Christian faith and public policy

Other Stories of Note

New Annual Report on International Religious Liberty Now Available

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 30, 2015

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), where I served briefly as Acting Director of Communications, has issued its 2015 annual report on religious liberty worldwide.

As noted by Knox Thames, USCIRF’s Director of Policy and Research, “The Commission is an independent U.S. government advisory body separate from the State Department that monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress.”

Individual country reports are available in English and in the national languages of each country. Thames comments that the Annual Report, released today, “documents religious freedom abuses and violations in 33 countries and makes county-specific policy recommendations for U.S. policy. This report covers the period of January 2014 through January 2015.” He continues that the report:

  • Recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate nine countries as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, for egregious religious freedom violations: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan;
  • Recommends that eight additional countries be designated as CPCs: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam;
  • Urges increased U.S. government attention to 10 countries placed on USCIRF’s Tier 2: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey; and
  • Highlights concerns in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, and Sri Lanka.

In the Annual Report, USCIRF urges that the United States “support a referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIL (sic) violations in Iraq and Syria against religious and ethnic minorities” and “that the State Department designate Central African Republic as a CPC. In addition to country chapters, the report provides overarching recommendations for U.S. foreign policy as it relates to the promotion of religious freedom internationally.”

As the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees notes, “With nearly 900,000 people from the Central African Republic (CAR) forcibly displaced since the outbreak of violence in December 2013, the CAR crisis is quickly becoming the largest forgotten humanitarian crisis of our time. There are more than 460,000 CAR refugees in neighbouring (sic) countries and some 436,000 people are internally displaced. In the Central African Republic, a total of 2.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.”

FRC has been a strong advocate for the persecuted church worldwide. Under the leadership of FRC President Tony Perkins, we played a leading role in the release last year of imprisoned Christian Mariam Ibrahim, and have held several webcasts on international religious liberty.

To find out about Christian ministries working to protect persecuted Christians and also meet the profound needs of people in places like the CAR, go to the ServantMatch site of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (of which FRC is a member) or the Catholic Charities website.

The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 28, 2015

In a somewhat unusual alliance, “35 religious leaders representing Catholic, evangelical, Pentecostal, Orthodox and Mormon churches” have issued an “Open Letter … to All in Positions of Public Service” concerning same-sex marriage. As noted by Religion News Service, Imam Faizul Khan of the Islamic Society of Washington Area also signed the letter.

Among the signatories are National Association of Evangelicals president Rev. Dr. Leith Anderson; the Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone; Archbishop of San Francisco; Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod; Most Rev. William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore; Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Here are two excerpts from the document:

The redefinition of legal marriage to include any other type of relationship has serious consequences, especially for religious freedom. It changes every law involving marital status, requiring that other such relationships be treated as if they were the same as the marital relationship of a man and a woman. No person or community, including religious organizations and individuals of faith, should be forced to accept this redefinition …

The well-being of men, women, and the children they conceive compels us to stand for marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We call for the preservation of the unique meaning of marriage in the law, and for renewed respect for religious freedom and for the conscience rights of all in accord with the common good.”

There is much to commend here. Christians who believe in the Bible’s unalterable teaching that marriage exists as the union of one man and one woman should always and often be articulating publicly this truth, and doing so in the irenic manner of this letter.

With that said, this “open letter” is, perhaps, so “open” as to be innocuous: Addressing no one in particular, I fear it will have the effect of shouting out of a window on a stormy day. Additionally, although it mentions this week’s oral arguments on same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court, it nowhere calls on the Court to rule against mandating that all 50 states accept the redefinition of marriage being demanded by the advocates of such. The letter’s omission of calling on the Supreme Court to decide this issue consistent with the Constitution and the natural law tradition (supported by Protestants and Catholics, in sometimes different but still important ways, alike) seems rather odd.

The letter does raise an important question: What of the fear that the law could require churches, synagogues, and mosques to hold, and the clergy who lead them to perform, same-sex wedding ceremonies?

At present, legal protections exist, but churches need to be aware of them and also how to protect themselves from potential litigation. That’s why the director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, Travis Weber, has written a new FRC Issue Brief, “How are clergy protected from being forced to perform same-sex marriages?”

At the same time, FRC’s allies at the Alliance Defending Freedom have drafted “Seven things All Churches Should Have in Their Bylaws,” which lists how church bylaws can protect religious institutions from potential litigation with respect to same-sex marriage and related matters.

I applaud the signatories of the “Defense of Marriage” for issuing this letter, even though its potency seems modest given its rather amorphous audience. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in June, people who believe the Bible will keep on standing for Scripture’s truth and doing so with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Five Democrat Abortion Policies More Extreme Than Killing 7-Pound Babies”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 22, 2015

That’s the title of an op-ed by Alliance Defending Freedom’s Casey Mattox, published in The Federalist, that merits reading.  In sum, here are the five policies Casey cites:

1. Democrats Support Aborting Babies for Race, Sex, and Down Syndrome

2. Democrats Oppose Offering Women Other Alternatives

3. Democrats Want to Make Pro-Life Doctors and Nurses Perform Abortions

4. Democrats Want to Make You — and Your Church — Pay for Abortions

5. Democrats Want to Permit the Most Barbaric and Dehumanizing Abortion Methods

Whether or not these tenets of Democratic faith are more extreme that killing a fully-developed, eager-to-be-born baby is questionable.  But they are evil, extremely so.  No person of conscience should dispute that.

Hate, Love, Truth, and Homosexuality

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 16, 2015

Hate is sin.

Hate is disobedience to God. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15).

To rage against, physically or verbally abuse, belittle, or diminish the humanity of homosexuals is hateful.

To disagree is not hateful.

To stand for truth is not hateful.

To make arguments about human sexuality and marriage from sociological and demographic data is not hateful.

To object to the legal redefinition of marriage is not hateful.

To oppose efforts to redefine marriage in law is not hateful.

To believe in the uniqueness of male-female complementarity is not hateful.

To herald the Bible’s teaching that sexual intimacy is reserved for the covenant of one-man, one-woman marriage is not hateful.

To assert that any form of sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sinful is not hateful.

To affirm the Bible’s teaching that whatever one’s sins (sins as defined by the eternal, final, clear, and sufficient revelation of Scripture), they separate him or her from God is not hateful.

To proclaim that the rejection of God’s grace in Jesus Christ means eternal punishment is not hateful.

To tell others that God became man in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, that He lived a sinless life, died an atoning, substitutionary death, rose bodily from the grave, is alive today, and that He offers forgiveness to all who will trust solely in Him as Savior and decide to follow Him as Lord is not hateful. It is the most loving thing one can do.

All of the above are Christian teachings. They are not culturally conditioned or theologically malleable.

Those of us who are Christians love people too much not to graciously but unhesitatingly speak God’s truth in God’s love (Ephesians 4:15).

And those of us who believe these things will not be silenced about them or fail to live according to them in our personal, public, or professional lives.

Any of them. Ever.

It’s a matter of love for God and those He has made in His image. The stakes are too high and the costs too great to refrain from talking about the One filled with grace and truth and His will for all of our lives.

Stakes and costs more important that social acceptance, secure employment, personal loyalties, or political viability.

Eternal stakes and costs, which we have weighed in the balance and found far weightier than anything this world can offer. Upon them we have based our lives. Upon them we stand.

Where do you stand?

The Dead End of Sexual Sin

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 9, 2015

Rosaria Butterfield is one of the bravest people I know. Her profound transformation in Christ after a life of lesbianism has subjected her to public attacks and harsh comments, to which she responds with kindness, humility, and truth. Rosaria is also “a former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University. After her conversion to Christianity in 1999, she developed a ministry to college students. She has taught and ministered at Geneva College, is a full-time mother and pastor’s wife, and is author of Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (2012) and Openness, Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ (2015).”

Rosaria has written a powerful piece on transformation in Christ in her new “Desiring God” article, “The Dead End of Sexual Sin.” It is copied below in its entirety as it is one of the most potent and life-giving pieces I’ve read in a long time. Read, be challenged, and be blessed:


The Dead End of Sexual Sin

Unbelievers don’t “struggle” with same-sex attraction. I didn’t. My love for women came with nary a struggle at all.

I had not always been a lesbian, but in my late twenties, I met my first lesbian-lover. I was hooked and believed that I had found my real self. Sex with women was part of my life and identity, but it was not the only part — and not always the biggest part.

I simply preferred everything about women: their company, their conversation, their companionship, and the contours of their/our body. I favored the nesting, the setting up of house and home, and the building of lesbian community.

As an unbelieving professor of English, an advocate of postmodernism and poststructuralism, and an opponent of all totalizing meta-narratives (like Christianity, I would have added back in the day), I found peace and purpose in my life as a lesbian and the queer community I helped to create.

Conversion and Confusion

It was only after I met my risen Lord that I ever felt shame in my sin, with my sexual attractions, and with my sexual history.

Conversion brought with it a train wreck of contradictory feelings, ranging from liberty to shame. Conversion also left me confused. While it was clear that God forbade sex outside of biblical marriage, it was not clear to me what I should do with the complex matrix of desires and attractions, sensibilities and senses of self that churned within and still defined me.

What is the sin of sexual transgression? The sex? The identity? How deep was repentance to go?

Meeting John Owen

In these newfound struggles, a friend recommended that I read an old, seventeenth-century theologian named John Owen, in a trio of his books (now brought together under the title Overcoming Sin and Temptation).

At first, I was offended to realize that what I called “who I am,” John Owen called “indwelling sin.” But I hung in there with him. Owen taught me that sin in the life of a believer manifests itself in three ways: distortion by original sin, distraction of actual day-to-day sin, and discouragement by the daily residence of indwelling sin.

Eventually, the concept of indwelling sin provided a window to see how God intended to replace my shame with hope. Indeed, John Owen’s understanding of indwelling sin is the missing link in our current cultural confusion about what sexual sin is — and what to do about it.

As believers, we lament with the apostle Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:19–20). But after we lament, what should we do? How should we think about sin that has become a daily part of our identity?

Owen explained with four responses.

1. Starve It

Indwelling sin is a parasite, and it eats what you do. God’s word is poison to sin when embraced by a heart made new by the Holy Spirit. You starve indwelling sin by feeding yourself deeply on his word. Sin cannot abide in his word. So, fill your hearts and minds with Scripture.

One way that I do that is singing the Psalms. Psalm-singing, for me, is a powerful devotional practice as it helps me to melt my will into God’s and memorize his word in the process. We starve our indwelling sin by reading Scripture comprehensively, in big chunks, and by whole books at a time. This allows us to see God’s providence at work in big-picture ways.

2. Call Sin What It Is

Now that it is in the house, don’t buy it a collar and a leash and give it a sweet name. Don’t “admit” sin as a harmless (but un-housebroken) pet. Instead, confess it as an evil offense and put it out! Even if you love it! You can’t domesticate sin by welcoming it into your home.

Don’t make a false peace. Don’t make excuses. Don’t get sentimental about sin. Don’t play the victim. Don’t live by excuse-righteousness. If you bring the baby tiger into your house and name it Fluffy, don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and Fluffy is eating you alive. That is how sin works, and Fluffy knows her job. Sometimes sin lurks and festers for decades, deceiving the sinner that he really has it all under control, until it unleashes itself on everything you built, cherished, and loved.

Be wise about your choice sins and don’t coddle them. And remember that sin is not ever “who you are” if you are in Christ. In Christ, you are a son or daughter of the King; you are royalty. You do battle with sin because it distorts your real identity; you do not define yourself by these sins that are original with your consciousness and daily present in your life.

3. Extinguish Indwelling Sin by Killing It

Sin is not only an enemy, says Owen. Sin is at enmity with God. Enemies can be reconciled, but there is no hope for reconciliation for anything at enmity with God. Anything at enmity with God must be put to death. Our battles with sin draw us closer in union with Christ. Repentance is a new doorway into God’s presence and joy.

Indeed, our identity comes from being crucified and resurrected with Christ:

We have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. (Romans 6:4–6)

Satan will use our indwelling sin as blackmail, declaring that we cannot be in Christ and sin in heart or body like this. In those moments, we remind him that he is right about one thing only: our sin is indeed sin. It is indeed transgression against God and nothing else.

But Satan is dead wrong about the most important matter. In repentance, we stand in the risen Christ. And the sin that we have committed (and will commit) is covered by his righteousness. But fight we must. To leave sin alone, says Owen, is to let sin grow — “not to conquer it is to be conquered by it.”

4. Daily Cultivate Your New Life in Christ

God does not leave us alone to fight the battle in shame and isolation. Instead, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the soul of each believer is “vivified.” “To vivicate” means to animate, or to give life to. Vivification complements mortification (to put to death), and by so doing, it allows us to see the wide angle of sanctification, which includes two aspects:

1) Deliverance from the desire of those choice sins, experienced when the grace of obedience gives us the “expulsive power of a new affection” (to quote Thomas Chalmers).

2) Humility over the fact that we daily need God’s constant flow of grace from heaven, and that no matter how sin tries to delude us, hiding our sin is never the answer. Indeed, the desire to be strong enough in ourselves, so that we can live independently of God, is the first sin, the essence of sin, and the mother of all sin.

Owen’s missing link is for believers only. He says, “Unless a man be regenerate (born again), unless he be a believer, all attempts that he can make for mortification [of sin] … are to no purpose. In vain he shall use many remedies, [but] he shall not be healed.”

What then should an unbeliever do? Cry out to God for the Holy Spirit to give him a new heart and convert his soul: “mortification [of sin] is not the present business of unregenerate men. God calls them not to it as yet; conversion is their work — the conversion of the whole soul — not the mortification of this or that particular lust.”

Freed for Joy

In the writings of John Owen, I was shown how and why the promises of sexual fulfillment on my own terms were the antithesis of what I had once fervently believed. Instead of liberty, my sexual sin was enslavement. This seventeenth-century Puritan revealed to me how my lesbian desires and sensibilities were dead-end joy-killers.

Today, I now stand in a long line of godly women — the Mary Magdalene line. The gospel came with grace, but demanded irreconcilable war. Somewhere on this bloody battlefield, God gave me an uncanny desire to become a godly woman, covered by God, hedged in by his word and his will. This desire bled into another one: to become, if the Lord willed, the godly wife of a godly husband.

And then I noticed it.

Union with the risen Christ meant that everything else was nailed to the cross. I couldn’t get my former life back if I wanted it. At first, this was terrifying, but when I peered deep into the abyss of my terror, I found peace.

With peace, I found that the gospel is always ahead of you. Home is forward. Today, by God’s amazing grace alone, I am a chosen part of God’s family, where God cares about the details of my day, the math lessons and the spilled macaroni and cheese, and most of all, for the people, the image-bearers of his precious grace, the man who calls me beloved, and the children who call me mother.

Social Conservative Review: An Insider’s Guide to Pro-Family News April 9, 2015

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 9, 2015

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review


Recently, the news has been tough for Christians here at home and abroad. Some of what’s been taking place is simply horrific: Islamist terrorists mass-murdering Christians in Kenya, for example. Other stories involve the erosion of religious liberty in America, as in the failure in Indiana to protect the rights of business persons who don’t wish to participate in same-sex weddings.

Religious liberty, same-sex “marriage” and “LGBT rights,” and the sanctity of life are requiring more and more of our attention. But there’s also good news about these very matters; here’s a sampling:

  • After activists threatened the family that runs a pizza shop declining to cater same-sex weddings, an Indiana lesbian contributed to a fund for the family. “As a member of the gay community, I would like to apologize for the mean spirited attacks on you and your business. I know many gay individuals who fully support your right to stand up for your beliefs and run your business according to those beliefs. We are outraged at the level of hate and intolerance that has been directed at you and I sincerely hope that you are able to rebuild,” wrote Courtney Hoffman. In total, Memories Pizza received more than $840,000 in on-line donations (most of which it will donate to charities) and, reports say, is planning to re-open.
  • In a recent interview on the outstanding Podcast, “Michael Easley: In Context,” former practicing homosexual Matt Moore tells of his journey from what he calls “a hopeless way of life” and says he now “greatly desires, through his writing, to help the gay community see the world and themselves from a biblical perspective and to know the hope that is available to them in Christ.” Matt now attends a seminary and hopes to serve as a pastor. He also has begun a serious relationship with a young Christian woman.
  • The Oklahoma Senate has approved a 72-hour waiting period before a woman seeking an abortion can receive one. Wisconsin’s attorney general is working to reverse a court ruling against laws designed to protect women’s health and safety in abortion clinics. And long-time pro-life champion Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has enacted legislation to limit late-term abortions in his state.

We don’t know the final chapter of any of these stories. Or of our country’s future. Or of our own lives. But there’s One Who does. He’s worth serving, His truth is worth upholding, and His grace is worth sharing. Knowing these things are sure, let’s not grow weary in advancing and defending faith, family, and freedom.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice-President
Family Research Council

P.S. In The Christian Post, FRC President Tony Perkins and I make our case against a New York Times op-ed implying support for anti-Christian fascism. And don’t miss our April 22 panel discussion, “The Supreme Court and Marriage: What Happens after the Decision?” Join us in person or watch (at no registration fee) online live.

P.S.S. The Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, Travis Weber, has just published two new analyses concerning same-sex marriage and the courts: “State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs): What are they and why are they needed?” and “How are clergy protected from being forced to perform same-sex marriages?” Download and distribute at no charge.


Education

 

Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life

Abortion

Assisted Suicide

Bioethics

 

Marriage & Family

Economy and the family

Homosexuality and Gender Issues

Human Trafficking

Marriage

Pornography

 

Religious Liberty and Persecution

Domestic

International

Religion in Public Life

 

Other Stories of Note

Standing with my friend, Curt Smith

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 7, 2015

In early 1991, Curt Smith hired me to serve in the press office of U.S. Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN).  He was my boss for more than three years, working in harness for one of the finest men to serve in the Senate in recent memory.

Curt is a gracious, soft-spoken man who has a deep love for people.  He was patient with me as I grew in my role and has been a friend for, now, nearly a quarter of a century.

He is also a committed follower of Jesus Christ  who, while working for the prestigious law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, also served as head of the Indiana Family Institute.  Now, due to his support for Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s original religious liberty bill, Curt has lost his job.  As Indianapolis’s WISH-TV tells it:

Until last week Smith was the director of public policy at the Taft Law firm. One of its biggest clients is Cummins, the Columbus based engine manufacturer that was a leading opponent of the religious freedom law. Something had to give … (By) last week Smith was in the middle of a professional transition. As recently as Monday morning his Linkedin page showed him working at Taft Law. But an email sent to his law firm address came back with a message saying that he left Taft to join the Family Institute as President, even though his bio at the Family Institute website points out that he has actually held that position for 11 years. A spokesman for the law firm said that the purpose of the Family Institute didn’t match the purpose of the law firm but that it was Smith’s decision to leave … The Taft law firm, according the spokesman, has a principle of inclusiveness, and the when the Religious Freedom law was perceived to allow discrimination against gays and lesbians, that apparently posed an additional problem.

A “principle of inclusiveness?”  Really?  So inclusive that they part ways with the former state director of a sitting U.S. Senator who simply endorsed a bill signed by the democratically elected governor of one of the nation’s largest states?  A bill that mirrors the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), signed into law by Bill Clinton and sponsored by then-Sen. Ted Kennedy?

It is a sad day for Indiana and for American law when a man as principled and talented as Curt Smith is de facto forced to leave his role with his employer because he believes that coercion and repression are not Hoosier values.  The moral cowardice of the leadership of Taft and its clients (including Cummins, about whose generous federal contracts I wrote myriad news releases when working for Sen. Coats) is repulsive. 

Curt Smith has the assurance of a loving God and the respect of many friends.  What do Taft, Cummins, and their compeers have?  Gaining the world at the cost of one’s soul is, according to Jesus, a bad bargain.  They might consider that a bit.

VIOLENT OR NON-VIOLENT, AT HOME OR ABROAD, IT’S STILL PERSECUTION

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 2, 2015

As I write, militants from the Islamist Al-Shabab terrorist organization are holding Christian students hostage at a university in Kenya.  They are reported to have killed about 20 people so far.  Here’s a link to this breaking story: Al Shabab militants target Christians in Kenya university attack.

The violent persecution of Christians around the world is one of the crises of our time.  Doubt it?  Consider the following headlines from the past 10 days or so:

Suicide bombers kill 15 people outside Pakistani churches, mob attacks suspects in aftermathU.S. News and World Report

New Evidence of War Crimes, Genocide against Iraqi Christians, Yazidis – Christianity Today

China jails Christian pastor for protesting cross removal – Fox News

Strangers In Their Own Land’: Dilemma Of The Christian Populace In India – CounterCurrents

Christians in the Middle East May Disappear Within Two Years: Lebanese Leader – Assyrian International News Agency

Red Cross: ISIS Cutting Off Water Supply to Christians, Kurds as War Tactic – Breitbart

Here at home?  Consider this story, published this morning, about a restaurant in Indiana:

A small-town pizza shop in Indiana has closed its doors after the owners’ support of the state’s “religious freedom” law and pronouncement they would not cater a gay wedding brought fierce backlash. Kevin O’Connor, 61, who owns Memories Pizza with his two children in Walkerton, Ind., has closed the shop’s doors in hopes the furor will die down, but the family fears it will never reopen … O’Connor’s daughter, Crystal, says the family is considering leaving the state. On Tuesday, WBND Channel 57 interviewed members of the O’Connor family, who said they agreed with Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The family said the pizzeria is a “Christian establishment.” “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” Crystal O’Connor said. “We’re not discriminating against anyone, that’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything.” The family said it would serve gays or a non-Christian couple in the restaurant.

Brutal physical attack, imprisonment, and cutting-off water are persecution of a different type than that experienced by the Hoosiers described above.  But the O’Connors are being non-violently persecuted for their commitment to living-out their faith.

Microaggressions,” Racism, and Plain Stupidity

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 1, 2015

Microaggressions are defined by an article carried by the American Psychological Association as “racism is so subtle that neither victim nor perpetrator may entirely understand what is going on — which may be especially toxic for people of color.”

I’m not sure they’re so subtle. Consider what follows.

A number of Fordham University students have developed a project in which they display signs with offensive things said to them, such as:

** A biracial woman who has been asked, “What are you?” (Her response: “Human”)

** An African-American man who has been told, “You don’t act like a normal black person, ya know?”

** A black student: “You’re really pretty for a dark-skinned girl.”

Full disclosure: My children are multi-racial, so I’m especially alert to comments like this. They smack of racism or at least insensitivity of a nature so pronounced that it reeks like a rotting egg.

Still, I would submit that some of these things are less “aggressive” than they are either unkind or ignorant. I’m not mincing words when I draw this distinction. Aggression connotes an effort to demean or belittle, and while some of the remarks reported by the Fordham students certainly would fall into that category, others just seem borne of a particular kind of insularity. People who don’t spend time with others of different races or ethnicities often have provincial and stereotypical images of one another that are dispelled by more frequent contact — by less insular and monochromatic social interaction.

My major concern here is that the Bible gives ample remedy for both overt bigotry and unintentional but still hurtful rudeness. “Be kind one to another,” writes Paul to the church in Ephesus, “tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God in Christ has forgiven you” (4:32). That’s just one of hundreds of passages in which warmth, acceptance, and respect are taught as endemic to Christian character. In other words, believers in Christ need to try to be more like Him.

Is the application of these commandments a remedy for all racial prejudice and its offensive articulation in social conversation or conduct? No, certainly not. But for followers of Jesus, His Word’s teaching about racial equality and human dignity offer more than sufficient counsel for the way we treat others of “every tribe and nation and people and language” (Revelation 7:9).

I’m grateful for the work of FRC President Tony Perkins, Executive Vice President Jerry Boykin, and Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell in seeking to advance racial reconciliation, and that I work for an organization that affirms our most fundamental national assertion: that all men are created equal, bearing the same value before their Creator as every other image-bearer of God.

For Christians, those truths should be the final word. Let’s keep working to that end.

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