Category archives: Entertainment

Speaking the Truth in Love: Lauren Daigle and the Reality of Being a Christian in Modern America

by David Closson

December 6, 2018

Last week, Dove Award-winning Christian artist Lauren Daigle was asked about her view on the morality of homosexuality. Her response and the controversy it has generated provide an opportunity for Christians to reflect on how to approach today’s hot-button issues related to marriage and human sexuality.

Asked directly by a radio host if she “feels that homosexuality is a sin,” Daigle answered: “I can’t honestly answer on that, in the sense of I have too many people that I love and they are homosexuals.”

I can’t say one way or the other; I’m not God. When people ask questions like that, I just say, ‘Read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know because I’m learning too,’” she added.

Daigle, a Grammy nominated artist whose music has garnered cross-over appeal, appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on October 24. Following the appearance, Daigle received criticism from some supporters for her appearance with DeGeneres who identifies as a lesbian.

In early November, Daigle responded to these critics, saying, “I don’t have all the answers in life and I’m definitely not gonna act like I do, but the one thing that I know for sure is I can’t choose who I’m supposed to be kind to and who I’m supposed to show love to and who I’m not, because that’s the mission, right? Be who Christ was to everyone.”

Her recent comments on the morality of homosexuality again have critics upset.

There are two lessons to learn from this cultural moment. The first lesson is that all Christians, especially those in positions of influence, must be ready to answer questions related to marriage and human sexuality. To her credit, Daigle has leveraged her platform before to bring the positive message of God’s love to secular audiences across the country. Her recent appearances on the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” are examples. However, as the recent controversy demonstrates, a vague message on love is not a sufficient apologetic for the Christian faith. In 2018, Christians, including Daigle, must be prepared to answer what could be seen as “gotcha questions” concerning the Bible’s teaching on contentious moral issues including marriage and sexuality.

While the Apostle Peter’s admonition to always be prepared to give a reason for Christian belief and behavior is a timely warning, we should apply this truth graciously. While Daigle could have handled this better, there is no reason to question her sincerity at this point.

Second, this incident also reminds us that Christians must be willing to speak the truth in love. Loving people and acknowledging biblical truth are not incompatible. In fact, the highest expression of love is to speak the truth even when it bears a cost.

On the nature of marriage, the Bible is clear: Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24, Mat. 19:5, Mark 10:6-9, Eph. 5:22-23). Scripture is also unambiguous regarding the moral status of homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Rom. 1:26-28, 1 Tim. 1:10-11, Lev. 18:22, 20:13, Gen. 19:1-5). On these issues the Bible is unmistakable; there is a clear “Thus saith the Lord.”

Therefore, Christians must decide whether they accept or reject the Bible’s authority on these issues. Christians must choose whether to yield to the truth of Scripture or not. This trust in the Bible’s authority extends beyond issues related to sexuality. In fact, the exclusivity of the gospel is even more offensive than the Bible’s view on marriage. It was Jesus who said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What the secular world doesn’t understand is that Christians don’t believe homosexuality is wrong because they dislike gay people. Similarly, Christians don’t believe a relationship with Christ is the only way to heaven out of animus toward other religions. Rather, Christians hold convictions on these issues out of a commitment to the authority of the Bible. In our culture, this commitment to biblical truth is confusing to many and may even seem subversive.

However, commitment to the truthfulness of God’s Word is a nonnegotiable truth of the Christian faith. Christians who believe the Bible must be willing to defend it. But it’s important to remember that there is no one right way to go about this. Depending on the relationship one has with the person who is being witnessed to, and depending on the context of the conversation, there are different ways of conveying the truth to someone while still staying true to biblical truth. Meeting people where they are at can make all the difference in being effective witnesses for the gospel.

This is an important moment for millennial Christians. Daigle is a role model and highly respected Christian artist. Her Instagram account has over one million followers. She is instructing the next generations. By representing herself as a Bible-believing Christian artist, she has a great responsibility.

Daigle admitted she is learning. Christians should believe her and lovingly point her to what Scripture teaches.

This episode is instructive because it shows how important it is for Christians to be ready to answer the questions our culture is asking. Further, it demonstrates how our answers must be full of both grace and biblical truth.

Daigle is right when she sings about God’s tender words of healing for those who are weak and hurting. Her most popular song titled You Say includes the lyrics: “You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing/You say I am strong when I think I am weak/You say I am held when I am falling short.”

In response to what God says about His children, Daigle sings, “When I don’t belong, You say that I am Yours, And I believe… What you say of me, I believe.”

She beautifully captures the appropriate response of a Christian to God when he speaks: “I believe.”

Not only must we believe what God says about us, we must also believe what He says about Himself—His love of people and hatred of sin. We must also believe what He says about marriage, sexuality, and what makes for a flourishing society and culture. Whenever God speaks, a Christian’s duty is to respond in faith and obedience, even when it goes against the grain of a post-Christian culture.

Daigle is right. When God speaks, we must believe. No matter what the cost.

Truth Obscured by Hollywood Take on Sexual Orientation Therapy

by Peter Sprigg

November 13, 2018

LGBT activists are pushing for an end to sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)—the various forms of voluntary religious or secular counseling or therapy (referred to by critics and the media as “conversion therapy”) intended to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions to overcome those feelings or not act upon them. That campaign suffered a setback in August 2018 when an extreme version of a SOCE therapy ban, AB 2943, was withdrawn by its sponsor after strong resistance, especially from the religious community.

However, critics of SOCE are now hoping for a boost from the release of a new movie, Boy Erased, intended to dramatize the problems they associate with “conversion therapy.” The movie, starring Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as the parents of the college student sent to counseling, premiered in limited release on November 1, and is gradually being rolled out around the country.

The movie is based on a 2016 memoir with the same title by Garrard Conley. Conley was a 19-year-old Arkansas college student in 2004, when he attended one-on-one counseling and then an intensive two-week group program offered by Love in Action (LIA), a Memphis ex-gay ministry run by John Smid, a man who had testified to his own transformation from gay to ex-gay.

In anticipation of the movie’s release, I recently read the book on which it is based. On November 8, the first day the film was screened in the D.C. area, I went to see it. The first screening in downtown Washington was sold out, but I was able to catch a later screening in a nearly empty theatre in Bethesda, Maryland. What follows will address both the book and the movie, but I will focus primarily on the book.

Conley and Love in Action

I will say one thing in the book’s favor—it does not appear to be a complete fabrication. That is more than I can say for some testimony given in favor of state therapy bans—accounts which have either been proven false or are highly suspect. Love in Action was a real organization, and the approach Conley describes in the book is roughly consistent with group therapy used by some (not all) such ministries. According to Conley, his personal memories were augmented by LIA’s 274-page handbook—which he still has.

This means that in Conley’s account, there is no electric shock therapy; no application of heat or ice to create an aversion to homosexual stimuli; no deliberate exposure to heterosexual or homosexual pornography; in short, none of the horror stories one usually hears about outdated treatments that were abandoned 40 or 50 years ago. Although often raised in critiques of SOCE, no one has been able to prove that any of these methods have been used in this century.

Another common charge is that minors are coerced into therapy by their parents. Therefore, it’s important to note that Conley was not a minor when he went to LIA, and he states explicitly, “I was here by my own choice.” Despite its short term of two weeks, Conley’s program was not even a residential one—he spent evenings in a motel room with his mother. This was no “conversion therapy camp” as they are sometimes depicted.

What the book, and at least the first part of the movie, feature instead is lots of talking and lots of writing. This makes the book and first half of the movie, frankly, rather boring.

Smid (depicted in the film as “Victor Sykes”) and LIA approached homosexuality using an addiction model, and many of their techniques were borrowed directly from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Different programs and different therapists use different methodologies—what unites SOCE is only the goal, not any particular technique. While AA and other twelve-step programs have their critics, as far as I know no one has ever tried to outlaw them.

For example, one exercise drawn directly from AA was the “Moral Inventory”—an effort to account in writing for as many past sins as the participant could recall. Another exercise was drawing a “genogram”—essentially a family tree noting patterns of sinful behavior by various forebears and relatives. These techniques may be questioned by some—but hardly constitute “torture,” or even stirring drama.

The Real Trauma

That’s not to say there are no traumatic events in Boy Erased—it’s just that most of them predate or are unrelated to the LIA program. In the book, Conley admits that in early puberty, he was so addicted to video games he would urinate on his bedroom carpet, rather than walk to the bathroom. (Later, in college, he would urinate in empty water bottles in his dorm, putting them under his bed to be discovered later.) In high school, he would “crouch on the toilet seat to hide from overcrowded lunch tables.” Conley, a runner, admits that in the summer before he started college, “my weight loss took an angry, masochistic turn that verged on anorexic”—something even a gay-friendly family doctor would call him on. Conley also admits several times to having suicidal thoughts. Note that almost all of these things happened before he went to LIA—and all were omitted from the movie.

If Conley had chosen to re-frame his story, it could have put an important male twist on the #MeToo movement. The worst thing that happened to Conley, and to the lead character in the film (renamed “Jared”), was that he was raped by a fellow male college student in a dorm room. (The under-a-blanket rape scene, as well as some strong language, are the main reasons for the film’s R rating.) The rapist then confessed to having done the same thing to a younger teen in the youth group at his church.

Conley told a pastor at his Presbyterian college about the latter crime—and was told “to stay quiet” because “there was nothing to be done.” However, he told no one—not the pastor, his parents, nor Love in Action counselors—about the assault he had suffered. He remained silent on this point even after the rapist was the one who “outed” him as “gay” to his parents. One is left to wonder whether his counseling might have had a different outcome if he had been more honest with the people who wanted to help him.

Family Dynamics

Family dynamics play an important role in Boy Erased—but this is one of several areas in which Conley appears to have misunderstood the theory behind some SOCE. It is true that many counselors have identified a pattern which is common (but not universal) among men with same-sex attractions, in which these men had strained relations with their fathers and male peers and unusually close relationships with their mothers.

This is the exact pattern evident in Conley’s description of his own life. With his father, a Christian car dealer who experienced a mid-life call to pastoral ministry, Conley had “moments of misunderstanding” that were “often damaging.” Sports is a common way for a boy to bond with his father or peers, but Conley admits, “It’s true that I was never any good at sports… I never liked to toss the ball with my father in the front yard.” (The film, however, makes “Jared” a high school basketball player.) With his mother, a glamorous Southern belle who married “in her sixteenth year,” he would go “to Memphis for weekends of shopping and movie binging.” In fact, when client Conley tells a counselor, “Yes, my mother and I were too close,” author Conley calls it his “first ex-gay utterance.”

The climax of both the book and the movie—and the incident that led to Conley walking out of LIA before the program was over—was an exercise called “the Lie Chair” (the name is puzzling, since it involves telling the truth). Conley was instructed to sit across from an empty chair “and imagine your father sitting across from you and you saying everything you’ve always wanted to tell him but couldn’t.” Conley says, “I tried working myself up into an angry fit,” but finally declared, “I’m not angry”—and walked out, never to return.

Conley seems convinced that the family dynamics theory did not apply to him, because his parents were not actually abusive—just once, “my father had raised his fist to strike me,” but thought better of it—and because he loves them. He does not seem to understand that there can be a deficit in meeting the developmental need for warm, non-sexual affection from the same-sex parent, even in the absence of any overt abuse.

Distorted Theology

Conley also seems to have a distorted view of Christian theology. For one thing, he (like many LGBT activists) seems obsessed with “Hell”—far more than any Christians I know, or any pastors I’ve ever heard preach. Even after having his horizons broadened by going to college, Conley declares, “I still believed that I would feel its fire licking my skin for all eternity if I continued on this path.” As an evangelical Christian myself, I also believe in hell (capitalizing the word, as Conley does, is unnecessary). Yet I’ve never believed—and know no one who teaches—that merely being (or becoming) straight is the key to avoiding it.

Critics of SOCE, including Conley, are also obsessed with “shame,” and a belief that such counseling operates by instilling a sense of shame over the client’s homosexuality. Yet every sexual reorientation therapist I have met has said the exact opposite—that one of the primary goals of such therapy is to overcome the shame that clients already feel when they begin therapy.

In fact, despite Conley repeatedly associating LIA and its teachings with terms like “self-loathing” and even “self-annihilation,” the actual quotations from LIA’s handbook and other materials express the opposite:

  • I believed many lies that I was worthless, hopeless, and had no future.”
  • I’ve learned that I am loved and accepted even though I have been involved in sexual addiction.”
  • I have worth. I am intelligent, funny, caring and strong.”

Film Fabrications

Because “moral inventories” and “genograms” don’t exactly make for compelling cinema, the filmmakers spiced up the last half of the film—by adding scenes that didn’t actually happen. The most dramatic—and most outrageous for its absurdity—is one in which an uncooperative LIA client is literally, physically beaten with a Bible (by family members including, apparently, his own little sister). Perhaps this is meant to be a metaphor for spiritual abuse, but some gullible viewers are likely to take it literally.

The character Jared’s “escape” from LIA is exaggerated in the film. Apart from having to ask a second time before his cell phone was returned, the book recounts no effort to physically prevent him from leaving or his mother from reaching him, the way the movie does. And the film’s biggest emotional gut punch is when we learn that the fictional victim of the fictional “Bible-beating” has committed suicide. (In his book, Conley reports no such event, but writes, “Various bloggers” have estimated that “twenty to thirty” suicides resulted from LIA, “though figures like these are impossible to pin down.” That’s probably because they are made up.)

One thing the film does somewhat better than the book is address the character Jared’s nuanced relationship with his parents after he left Love in Action. However, we have no way of knowing if the portrayal is a truthful one reflecting Conley’s actual experience, or merely a dramatic one serving Hollywood’s purposes. In the book, Conley addresses the decade after his LIA experience only cryptically, and somewhat confusingly. His father never followed through, apparently, on a threat to withdraw funding for his college education. Yet describing visits to his parents’ home, he declares, “I will refuse to even look at my father.” He concludes the Acknowledgments, though, by saying, “Thank you, most of all, to my mother and father, whose love has made all the difference.”

Love in Action—The Rest of the Story

In 2005, a year after Conley left Love in Action, the ministry was subjected to a storm of controversy after a teenager named Zach Stark complained on social media that his parents had sent him to LIA’s residential program for adolescents, called “Refuge.” (The Boy Erased film conflates this program with the adult-focused one, “The Source,” that Conley attended—a staffer in the film says, “Welcome to Refuge,” but the notebooks say “Source” on the cover.) This sparked a round of protests by LGBT activists, and investigations by Tennessee state officials.

State officials said LIA required a license because they were providing mental health treatment; LIA insisted it offered discipleship programs, which are exempt from state regulation. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF, now known as the Alliance Defending Freedom) filed a federal lawsuit to protect LIA, and ultimately prevailed, with the state dropping its efforts to regulate the LIA ministry.

The controversy about the short-lived Refuge program seems to be the source of the mythology that there is a network of “conversion therapy camps” across the country holding teens against their will. The trailer on the film’s official website ends with the dramatic and absurd declaration, “77,000 people are currently being held in conversion therapy across America.” Yet the Refuge program—then already defunct—was the only such program identified in a 2009 American Psychological Association report on sexual orientation change efforts. Indeed, a 2015 Ph.D. dissertation agreed that “it is likely the media frenzy surrounding the story of 16-year-old Stark being forced into a conversion therapy residential program by his parents in 2005 led to these bans” on such therapy for minors.

The controversy took a toll on Smid, however, and on the ministry. In 2008, Smid resigned; he has since returned to living as a homosexual and married a man in 2014. Smid now has a gay-affirming ministry called Grace Rivers, and has apologized for the work he did with Love in Action. (LIA, under new leadership and with a completely new ministry model, changed its name to “Restoration Path” in 2012.)

Conclusion

The therapy bans enacted in fourteen states so far apply only to licensed mental health providers and only to clients who are minors. Since Garrard Conley was not a minor and Love in Action was not licensed by the state, his experience would not have been affected by such a law, even if one had been in place in Tennessee. Ironically, the passage of such laws, cutting off access to care consistent with their values from licensed providers, might only have the effect of driving desperate parents and clients into the hands of unlicensed religious programs such as Love in Action. For SOCE skeptics who see this as undesirable, therefore, such laws may actually be counter-productive.

California’s AB 2943, on the other hand, would have applied to any SOCE provider or program that charges a fee, even religious and unlicensed ones. This type of approach, however, raises constitutional questions even beyond those raised by the license restrictions.

Regardless of what one thinks of Conley’s story, its fictionalized film version, John Smid’s story, or the techniques of Love in Action, they all represent only anecdotes about a particular instance of sexual orientation change efforts. They cannot be taken as representative of all SOCE. The claim that SOCE in general has been shown to be ineffective and harmful is not supported by the scientific research.

Boy Erased is not particularly entertaining; and not at all informative for making policy regarding sexual orientation change efforts.

Hollywood and the Truth: Ships that Pass in the Night?

by Robert Morrison

June 5, 2015

I was swimming in a very grand swimming pool in 2008. It was the only 5-star hotel we’d ever been to, but it was our thirtieth wedding anniversary so we splurged a little. Actually, saving up for five years, we splurged a lot.

Suddenly, I was overcome with a strange feeling: I have been here before. Swimming alone is never a good idea. I shuddered with a powerful sensation of being haunted. We were staying at Dromoland Castle in Ireland. I’d never set foot in Ireland before that tour. “This was crazy,” I told myself as I quickly got out of the pool. I had the strongest feeling of déjà vu.

Out on deck, I chanced to see a life ring on the wall: RMS Titanic. Now, that is even weirder.

Suddenly, I got it. The makeover of this ancient castle had been done at the same time as the blockbuster Hollywood movie, Titanic (1997). And that movie was famous for computer-generated images (CGI) that faithfully reproduced the luxurious interiors of the doomed ocean liner.

So that’s why this swimming pool looked so familiar. I had seen the movie and perused dozens of coffee table books on the Titanic story. The pool was modeled on that elegant 1912 shipboard pool. Not to leave weird world too soon: Who would think it was a good idea to decorate a swimming pool to look exactly like the one where all the swimmers wound up dead?

The Titanic movie was really awful. It incorrectly depicted rich and powerful men on that doomed ship pushing aside the poor immigrant women and children to get into the lifeboats. Untrue.

The movie despicably maligned First Officer William Murdoch. Since you cannot be sued for libeling the dead, producers doubtlessly figured they could get away with sliming a good man’s reputation.

But they forgot: There are thousands of us who devour all the details of that “Night to Remember.” We would yell if Hollywood deliberately falsified history. And some of us did yell. Here’s how a truthful account has it:

Indeed, so offensive was the [movie’s] portrayal of First Officer William Murdoch to his surviving family, that the Vice President of Fox personally made the journey to Murdoch’s hometown to apologise and donate £5,000 to the William Murdoch memorial prize hosted at Murdoch’s local school.

As well as suffering from general ineptitude by dint of being English and indeed, the officer who failed to avoid the iceberg, Murdoch is also presented as a corrupt murderer and then a coward. After accepting a bribe to let a man onto one of the lifeboats he then shoots two passengers dead, before, overwhelmed with guilt and/or despair he shoots himself in the head. This is a far cry from the man who went down with the ship, his last moments spent filling the lifeboats with women, children and indeed men

Why does Hollywood feel the need to lie? They willfully falsify true history that is readily accessible to anyone with a computer.

Perhaps we should be grateful that Hollywood did not include the story of Arthur Rostron in that already-too-long big screen epic. Captain Arthur Rostron commanded the rescue vessel, SS Carpathia. This humble Cunard liner was anything but as romantic as that last voyage of hundreds of millionaires on board the White Star Line’s four-stacker Titanic.

Carpathia was a simple workhorse of a ship, quietly steaming back and forth across the Atlantic with manifests of immigrants, plain people, and cargo.

When he got a radio message that Titanic had struck an iceberg and was sinking, Captain Rostron knew what to do. He knew that the great liner was four hours away at normal cruising speed. By that time, he also knew, any survivors were likely to be dead in the bitter cold of that clear, moonless night.

So Captain Rostron ordered his ship’s stokers mustered out of their racks and put them to work shoveling as much coal as the furnaces would take. He ordered his deck crew to swing out Carpathia’s lifeboats. Stewards and nurses were ordered to make plenty of coffee and tea and to collect as many blankets as possible.

As he headed his ship at flank speed into that black night, he knew she was headed into those same treacherous waters that had claimed great Titanic’s life. Captain Rostron then went out onto the bridge wing and — freezing though it was — he prayed. Perhaps this is why Hollywood omitted Captain Rostron’s role on that fateful night.

Happily, the British people and their American cousins did not fail to honor this heroic rescuer. He was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire — Sir Arthur Rostron. He was honored by Congress. And U.S. First Lady Helen Taft began the effort for a memorial to the men of the Titanic.

Hollywood may be headed for its own iceberg. Whenever we see violence erupt on our city streets, we might look to the violence glorified in Hollywood films called “splatterfests.” These are targeted at that profitable youth demographic.

How many Hollywood movies tell the amazing story of Pregnancy Care Centers? There are more of these than of Planned Barrenhood’s (Parenthood) killing centers.

How many movies have they made about Evangelist Billy Graham? Did you see Unbroken?  How did Hollywood manage to miss a pivotal event in hero Louie Zamperini’s life — his coming to faith in Jesus Christ?

So perhaps OK that Hollywood didn’t care about the man who saved 706 souls that night in 1912. Sir Arthur has a better recognition. He modestly said his mission of mercy was “guided by a Greater hand.”

50 Shades Makes 80 Million This Weekend

by Cathy Ruse

February 17, 2015

Truly bad news for the good, the true and the beautiful: with $81 million in box office receipts, 50 Shades of Grey came in second only to The Passion of the Christ for the best February weekend opening ever.

The movie opened in 58 markets around the world, bringing in $158 million globally and setting weekend records in 11 countries including in the largely Catholic countries of Italy, Argentina, and Poland.

According to the website Box Office Mojo, the movie also set records for “Universal Pictures in the U.K.($21.1 million), France ($12 million), Russia ($10.5 million), and Brazil ($8.9 million).” It brought in $15.2 million in Germany, $$8.6 million in Australia, $8.1 million in Mexico, and $7.9 million in Spain.

Box Office Mojo reports that among all R-rated movies, 50 Shades “ranks fifth behind The Matrix Reloaded, American Sniper, The Hangover II, and The Passion of the Christ.”

Such a big opening is not surprising given that the book has sold 100 million copies worldwide. Box Office Mojo predicts it will coast easily to the $300 million mark globally, placing it within reach of the biggest R-rated movies in history; The Matrix Reloaded ($461 million), Troy ($364 million), The Hangover II ($332 million) and Ted ($331 million).

But 50 Shades is not getting sterling reviews, so it might take a huge plunge in coming weeks.

There is a raging debate on Facebook between people who are against this movie. Are the protests and boycotts a worthwhile endeavor, or are they just calling attention to the movie and even increasing ticket sales? There is certainly a risk that the latter position will prove true. But I come down on the side of the former.

The thing about pornography is that, while it is bad to consume it, the knowledge that it is bad to consume it is very good. If we were to let 50 Shades open without publicly raising our concerns, some viewers could mistakenly believe there is nothing to be concerned about. And that would make something bad even worse.

So I say, keep beating the drums! If it gets the attention of inattentive people, so be it. But as the theatre lights dim, they’ll know they’re watching something that has been called offensive and degrading. And the question before them will be: “Do you agree with the protestors?” It will be an invitation for them to say yes.

American Sniper and the Restoration of Man

by Travis Weber

February 11, 2015

Why has American Sniper struck such a chord with the American public? No doubt in part this is due to the incredible storyline and cinematography, but other factors are certainly at play in such a blockbuster hit. While critics have scrutinized various aspects of Chris Kyle’s story, something within us is still attracted to a man with integrity (that term being defined as consistency between one’s beliefs and actions). As Kyle heads off to war in Iraq, backing-up his fellow countrymen as a sniper, his simple conviction about the importance of defending good against evil—and his willingness to act on that belief—is attractive to the viewer. His skill as a sniper, and record as the all-time crack marksmen in U.S. military history, almost become secondary.

As Owen Strachan notes at the Patheos blog, this movie has “struck a chord” because:

We are in an age that does not want to believe in manhood, at least the traditional kind. Men are not supposed to be strong today. They are not supposed to lead their families. They are not supposed to take ownership of provision for their household. They are not supposed to be fearless. Modern men have had their innate manhood bred out of them.

As a result, many men today don’t want to sacrifice for others. They want to be nice, and liked by everyone, and to win the approval of their peers.”

Against this backdrop, American Sniper is a rather shocking entrée. It presents a simple man who lives by a black-and-white moral code. He is traditional. This is not existential manhood; this is non-existential manhood. Kyle does what he thinks he should do, and does not second-guess himself. He believes that he should use his God-given strength and ability to defend the weak and defeat the wicked. He believes, in fact, that there are wicked people in the world. He is not afraid to say so. He is not afraid to act on this conviction.”

Yet, “Kyle was no wilting flower. He was not a perfect man. He knew this. He was rough around the edges, he sometimes shot off his mouth, and he had a tough time with rules. In other words, he was a classically aggressive man. Our culture wants to anesthetize such men, to stick a tranquilizer in them and dose them up on medication to tame their natural aggression.”

Strachan continues, “[t]his is not what the church advocates, however. The church gives men a vocabulary for their aggression, their innate manliness. It funnels their God-given testosterone in the direction of Christlike self-sacrifice for the good of others (Eph. 5; 1 Tim. 3). It does not seek to tame men, or ask them to become half-men (or half-women). It asks them to channel all their energy and aggression and skill into the greatest cause of all: serving the kingdom of the crucified and risen Christ.”

Moreover, as men lead in this way, it is attractive to women. Strachan notes the presence of a number of young women in the movie theater, presumably excited to see this man in action.

Women are attracted to a man on this journey in which he fights courageously for Christ.

For Christ “was fearless. He was brave. We don’t know how big his shoulders were, or how handsome he was, or how fast he could run. We do know that he laughed in the face of evil, and gave no quarter to his opponents, and did not apologize for claiming that he was the way, the truth, and the life. Even as death took him down, he struck a climactic blow against the kingdom of darkness. He crushed it. He ended the reign of Satan, and began the true reign of the Son of God. Jesus was not a pacifist. He was a conqueror, and he will return to judge the quick and the dead.”

At that point, this “true man, who redeemed us, will lead us into a world where heroes do not die, but live forever with their God.”

Until that time, Chris Kyle’s conviction can help serve as a reminder of what conviction truly means.

Brittany Maynard Needs to Go to a Basketball Game

by Chris Gacek

October 29, 2014

By now we are all well aware of the story of Brittany Maynard, a young married woman who is terminally ill with a brain cancer.  She has moved to Oregon in order to legally commit suicide.  (Here is Time magazine’s favorable article about her and Oregon’s suicide enabling act.)  Mrs. Maynard plans to kill herself with medical assistance in early November.

Not so well known is the story of Lauren Hill, a college freshman at Mt. Saint Joseph University in Ohio.  Miss Hill who also has terminal brain cancer, but she has chosen a different path.  She has been practicing for months so she can play in the team’s first basketball game this season on November 2nd.

I hope Brittany Maynard has the opportunity to view the CBS news story about Lauren Hill and realize that there is a better way for her. In the past months, Brittany has been touring places she has always wanted to see like the Grand Canyon. According the People Magazine article:

Though she set Nov. 1 as a tentative date to end her life, she’s always made it clear the date is not set in stone and she will make the decision based on the progression of her disease.

I have no doubt that if Brittany Maynard wanted to see Lauren play basketball this Sunday – tickets would be made available even though the game has sold out.  I imagine Lauren would tell Brittany to grasp every moment of life and to fight for those who will come later and need encouragement in life’s most difficult times.  Seeing Lauren Hill play will, in its own way, have a grandeur of equal stature to the Grand Canyon’s.  Brittany Maynard needs to see and understand that.

United Germany’s World Cup: This is Bush 41’s Victory, Too!

by Robert Morrison

July 15, 2014

I finally found something about which I can agree with the liberal editors of Slate. They ran a story yesterday about the televised hug between Germans victorious goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, and that nation’s diminutive Chancellor, Angela Merkel. It’s a most appealing picture to see the young giant lean over, almost fall over, in a spontaneous gesture of affection for his country’s leader.

I was happy for Germany. This is a Germany we can cheer. And it is fine to remember that without the visionary leadership of George H.W. Bush, there would not have been an Angela Merkel in this photo. She was raised in East Germany. (So, for that matter was Germany’s current president, Joachim Gauck.) Chancellor Merkel and President Gauck are but two of the tens of millions of free Germans whose unification was staunchly supported by President Bush.

I distinctly remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989. And I was, I will admit, plainly irked that my president put out the word: “I will not dance on the Berlin Wall.” Why not, I thought then. Isn’t this a day to celebrate the triumph of freedom over oppression?

The senior Bush was forever being lampooned on Saturday Night Live for his commitment to “prudence.” But is prudence a bad thing?

Actually, it is the best thing for a statesman. When I studied American history in the years of the early republic—1797-1801—I could not understand how the Founders whom I so admired—Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison—all seem to have gone a bit crazy. Why were they clashing with one another like drivers in a Demolition Derby?

Well, the retirement of George Washington might explain it. He was the personification of prudence. And why did the United States survive the Civil War but find itself adrift before and afterward? Might it be that Presidents Buchanan and Johnson lacked that most notable quality of Abraham Lincoln: Prudence, with a capital P?

George H.W. Bush was almost alone among world leaders to want Germany reunited. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl certainly hoped for German Reunification. His Socialist opponents certainly did not. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was hardly enthusiastic for the creation of a continental political and economic powerhouse. French President Francois Mitterrand, no doubt recalling Germany’s three invasions of his homeland in less than one hundred years, was decidedly cool to the idea of East and West Germany coming together. Lech Walesa of Poland was not beating the drums for a Germany reunited.

As for the USSR’s Mikhail Gorbachev, then riding a whirlwind in the Kremlin, he was the one who had decided not to send in the tanks. He would not order Communist border guards to shoot down spontaneous surge of East Germans toward the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin. For not shooting his hostages, Gorbachev was being hailed by the Western media as a prince of peace.

If Gorbachev was really the wonderful reformer that Western journalists said he was, it was curious that all those vast crowds of West Germans did not flood through the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate and throw themselves into his arms. There are no pictures of young West Germans hugging Mikhail Sergeivich, however, the way Manuel Neuer hugged Chancellor Merkel. A point worth noting on this festive occasion?

George H.W. Bush deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his honorable, visionary, and yes, prudent statecraft at the time of German Reunification. He stood tall for America. This quiet and modest man said simply that America must keep her word to the German people.

For forty-five years, U.S. Presidents—Democrats and Republicans alike—has said America supports German Reunification. We would be unfaithful to our word if we did not back our steadfast NATO ally in the hour of need.

The fact that President Bush was able to skilfully chart his careful course, to support a peaceful Reunification of Germany, to bring that new and democratic Germany firmly under the NATO umbrella, and to achieve all this with the Soviets’ acquiescence (if not with their enthusiasm) is a tribute to statesmanship of the highest order. If anyone had said in 1988 that he would accomplish this all without firing a shot (or costing the U.S. taxpayers a dime) it would have been thought a delusion.

So this is President Bush’s victory, too. Now, Madam Chancellor, may I respectfully speak to you about not persecuting homeschoolers?

Vincente Del Bosque, Spain’s Greatest “Football” Coach, and Pure Love

by Chris Gacek

June 17, 2014

The quadrennial playing of the World Cup soccer (“football”) tournament began last weekend and will last several more. As the tournament approached, many, many articles, especially in European papers, have focused on this worldwide competition. The Financial Times (FT), for example, published a small section with several lengthy feature articles about the World Cup in its June 7/8 weekend edition.  The weekend FT is a wonderful amalgamation of articles on a wide variety of international topics including the arts, sports, travel, real estate, books, gardening, and hard news.

This World Cup section contained a brilliant article by Jimmy Burns on Vincente Del Bosque, perhaps the greatest soccer coach in Spain’s history. Presently Del Bosque is the coach of the Spanish national team that received a drubbing at the hands of the Netherlands last week.  That said, Spain’s only World Cup tournament victory came in 2010 under Del Bosque’s leadership. There have been many other victories and honors in his career, and Burns provides a masterful overview of the coach’s professional achievements.

That said, it was another aspect of the story and Del Bosque’s life that gave the article a transcendent quality.  At the beginning of the piece, Burns informs us that Del Bosque, 63, has three children including Alvaro, age 24, who has Down’s syndrome. It is here that Burns describes a touching dimension of Spain’s 2010 World Cup campaign:

While Del Bosque’s Spain was winning the country’s first ever world cup in 2010, Alvaro became an unofficial member of the squad. Afterwards Del Bosque wrote him a letter, now reproduced with his permission in a new Spanish biography. “It wasn’t Iniesta’s goal, or Iker Casillas kissing Sara, his journalist girlfriend while being interviewed by her on TV which moved me to tears. It was seeing you on TV, saying that you felt proud of your Dad, that you always wanted to help, that your heart was with him.”

How beautiful. The article then proceeds at length to discuss Del Bosque’s career and the current state of Spain’s 2014 World Cup efforts.

As Del Bosque and Burns take leave of each other, Burns returns to Del Bosque’s family and Alvaro:

Our meeting ends as it began, with family. Del Bosque’s daughter, Gema, 21, picks him up in the family car. “Can I give you a lift anywhere?” Del Bosque asks me. Before we say goodbye, I ask about his son Alvaro. A big smile comes over his face as he shows me a photograph of Alvaro in a suit working behind a desk. “We’ve achieved what we set out to achieve, which is to find him work.” Alvaro, he says, has come to mean more to him than anything else. “I’m not very expressive of my feelings. I am not a great one for words. I am not very lyrical. I am quite a practical person. But when I think of pure love, it is what I feel for Alvaro.”

Isn’t it fascinating that so many parents of Down’s children say similar things about the exquisite nature of these innocent souls? Del Bosque is known for being a “big-hearted” decent man: “Spain’s Man of Honor,” as the article’s title informs us. Is it unreasonable to suppose that Alvaro is responsible for many of those qualities? I don’t think so.

Review: God’s Not Dead

by Kathy Athearn

April 22, 2014

What would you do if your college philosophy professor told the class to write “God is dead” on a piece of paper, sign it, and hand it in, or else risk 30% of your grade? In the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” a freshman named Josh Wheaton is told just that. Josh looks around the room and watches everyone do just as the professor said. But as a Christian, he can’t bring himself to do it. As a result, the professor tells him that he must present his argument for why God is NOT dead to the entire class for the next several weeks. Then the class will vote on whether God is dead or alive.

Josh is now sacrificing grades in his other classes in order to devote time and energy to prove that God’s not dead. He also faces pressure from everyone —his parents, girlfriend, friends —to just let it go, and let the professor win his argument. But Josh just can’t do it. A local pastor helps him to stand up and defend the Truth, reminding him of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Josh does a masterful job of arguing for God’s existence, angering his professor and slowly impacting his classmates. Josh knows that his purpose in life is to glorify God in every area of life, and he’s not going to let anyone frustrate or distract him.

As we witness the erosion of religious freedom in our country (especially for orthodox Christians) and we hear about the horrific persecution and massacre of Christians in other parts of the world, it is easy to become discouraged or disheartened. But I hope you take the time to watch “God’s Not Dead.” It is a positive, hope-filled movie that will inspire you to stand up and speak the Truth in Love. As our Redeemer said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world! (John 16:33b)

Kirsten Dunst Is a Good Sociologist

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 21, 2014

I know virtually nothing about contemporary stars and starlets, other than having consistently to turn away from the images of the substantially disrobed young “entertainers” displayed on the jumbotron across from my office in advertisements for their latest performances. Pornography, by any other name, ain’t art.

But I’m aware of the actress Kirsten Dunst for two reasons: Her memorable performance as a child in 1994’s “Little Women” and the fact that “Dunst” is a fine German name, not unlike my own (she apparently has dual U.S. and German citizenship; warum nicht?).

Now, however, Ms. Dunst is much in the news for having the audacity to say what she thinks of gender roles, to wit:

I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued … We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking – it’s a valuable thing my mum created. And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armour. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work”.

Wow - how revolutionary! The idea that gender is not a social construct but actually has to do with biology, neurology, morphology, physiology, etc. is an affront to the received orthodoxy of the feminist left, many of whom have piled-on with a predictable combination of derision, illogic, non-sequitur reasoning, and obscenity.

Yet Ms. Dunst’s view corresponds with the science far more than do the opinions of her attackers. Consider the words of Oxford-trained neuroscientist Zeenat Zaidi: “Studies of perception, cognition, memory and neural functions have found apparent gender differences. These differences may be attributed to various genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors and do not reflect any overall superiority advantage to either sex”.

So, men and women are different, and being a stay-at-home mother who cares for her children is something to be honored, not scorned: For affirming these self-evident truths, Ms. Dunst is being labeled “dumb” and ‘insufferable,” among the more printable adjectives.

Whatever the merits or demerits of her various film roles, Ms. Dunst has “committed truth” in the public square, and for this deserves strong support from those who believe that a child needs a male dad and a female mom, and that the distinctions between the two are immutable and beneficial.

So, to my fellow German-American Kirsten Dunst: Herzlichen Glückwunsch, fraulein. Können Sie Ihren Stamm Anstieg (sincere good wishes, young lady; may your tribe increase)!

For more FRC resources on male-female complementarity, see “Complementarity in Marriage” and “Truth is the Greatest Weapon

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