Category archives: Religion & Culture

Ending the Secular Witch Hunt

by Peter Sprigg

August 26, 2016

Review of:

It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, by Mary Eberstadt (New York: Harper, 2016).

Mary Eberstadt offers a concise diagnosis of the growing problem of hostility to religious freedom in the Western world, in her new book, It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies.

Her historical analysis notes that, contrary to progressivist myths about Christians exercising “theocratic” power, the influence of religion has been generally in decline ever since the French Revolution. However, she cites two recent historical events as triggering a more virulent hostility to religion—the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which raised concern about the dangers of religious fanaticism; and the Catholic priest sex abuse scandals revealed in 2002, which solidified cynicism about institutional religion.

Eberstadt also cites two key legal battles in which the secular left discounted the importance of protecting religious liberty—the HHS contraceptive mandate in Obamacare; and the Supreme Court’s 2015 redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The Obama administration’s insistence on forcing an order of Catholic nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, to pay for abortifacient contraceptives is cited as an example of how the poor—supposedly the subjects of progressive concern—are subordinated to other ideological goals. She points out the abundances of charitable works and social services provided by religious believers, and notes that these agencies simply cannot be replaced by their secular or government-run counterparts. Yet secular progressives prefer to shut such agencies down (like they have Catholic adoption agencies that dare give preference to mother-father households) rather than allow dissent from the progressive worldview. Another chapter highlights how Christian education—whether in the form of student groups, distinctively Christian institutions, or homeschooling—has also been in the crosshairs of the Left.

Eberstadt argues, however, that the secular progressivism is not merely anti-faith, but actually represents a competing faith, explaining that “the sexual revolution has given rise to a new secularist faith of its own whose founding principles are the primacy of pleasure and self-will.” This faith actually mirrors Christianity in some ways, with its own “secular saints” (Sanger, Kinsey), “foreign missionaries,” “quasi-demonology,” and “canon of texts and doctrine.”

They believe they are in possession of a higher truth,” Eberstadt explains, “and they fight to universalize it.” This helps explain the ferocity of their attacks upon those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian morality—“the only remaining minority that can be mocked and denigrated … [n]ot to mention fired, fined, or otherwise punished for their beliefs.”

Eberstadt does not hesitate to describe the attacks on believers as a “witch hunt”—and to compare them directly and in detail with similar “moral panics” in the past, including the day-care sexual abuse hysteria of the 1980’s, the McCarthyism of the 1950’s, and the granddaddy of them all, the Salem witch trials of 1692. “‘Bigot’ and ‘hater’ are the new ‘wizard’ and ‘witch,’” she explains; “epithets that intentionally demean and dehumanize.” Yet even serious consequences—like the armed assault upon the Family Research Council offices in Washington in 2012—has not deterred activists like those at the Southern Poverty Law Center from employing such inflammatory language.

Progressives claim that conservative Christians are on “the wrong side of history”—but Eberstadt flips that argument on its head, declaring that “today’s ideological stalking and punishing of Christians is going to look contemptible in history’s rearview mirror.”

This leads to the most distinctive aspect of Eberstadt’s argument. Unlike others who have written on similar topics, Eberstadt does not say the solution is for Christians to mobilize and defend themselves. Other witch hunts were not ended by their victims, and she warns that this one will not be, either. Instead, she calls on liberals themselves to return to liberal values—such as tolerance, freedom of speech and association, and respect for true diversity. We must, she says, “agree to disagree”—affirming “the right to be wrong,” as author Seamus Hasson has put it.

American history already gives us the model for this resolution of the culture war, Eberstadt argues—Thomas Jefferson, whose misunderstood “wall of separation between Church & State” was intended to protect religious liberty, not to stifle it.

Empirical and philosophical critiques of the sexual revolution are legitimate subjects for debate,” Eberstadt asserts, and those who disagree with them should nonetheless “do the right thing by listening to what [critics] have to say, and acknowledging their American right to say it.”

People on both sides of the culture wars would gain by reading and heeding Eberstadt’s thoughtful analysis.

(Note: Chris Gacek and I interviewed Mary Eberstadt about her book on the FRC daily radio program, “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” on August 18. That interview can be heard here.)

How to respond to the “After School Satan Clubs”

by Travis Weber

August 10, 2016

As has been widely reported the last several weeks, a group called the “Satanic Temple” is looking to set up “After School Satan Clubs” (ASSC) in public schools around the country. What should we think of this, and how should we respond?

From the group’s name, one would presume these clubs are teaching about demonic activity. But a glance at their website shows them prominently proclaiming that they seek to teach “based upon a uniform syllabus that emphasizes a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious world view,” and explaining their view that “Satanism is a religion that endorses scientific rationalism as our best model for understanding the natural world.” They don’t actually believe in Satan.

So why not name the clubs “humanist” or “atheist” clubs? Perhaps these activists realized this would not draw the public attention like the name “Satan” would (the actual Church of Satan rejects the ASSC’s methods). The Satanic Temple has already agitated in the name of its “religion” by “creating a gigantic bronze statue of Baphomet for the lawn of the Oklahoma State House, opening city council meetings with Satanic incantations, [and] distributing coloring books featuring the dark lord to schools across the country.” So why do they want to draw public attention and provoke?

These atheist and humanist activists simply don’t like the fact that children could be exposed to the message of Christianity, and appear to want to pick a fight with Christians. They say they want religion totally eliminated from schools, and the group’s homepage prominently displays: “DONATE TO HELP US COUNTER EVANGELISM IN SCHOOLS.” Their main purpose appears to be to try to shut down Christian clubs in schools. How would they accomplish that?

In Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the Supreme Court held that when a school opens up a limited public forum to a certain type of speech, it cannot discriminate against groups looking to use that forum based on the viewpoint of their speech. The ASSC organization seeks to use these forums for its clubs. If the ASSC merely wanted the same opportunity as everyone else to speak their viewpoint, that would be understandable. But their whole purpose seems to be driven by an animosity toward Christian clubs; hence the provocative name.

They are aiming to do that by provoking school administrators into shutting down the limited public forum entirely. As the group’s website states: “Our goal, ultimately, is to place an ASSC in every school where the Good News Clubs, or other proselytizing religious groups, have established a presence.” Group members have said: “We would like to thank the Liberty Counsel specifically for opening the doors to the After School Satan Clubs through their dedication to religious liberty… So, ‘the Satanic Temple leverages religious freedom laws that put after-school clubs in elementary schools nationwide.’ That’s going to be the message.”

The ASSC organization appears to be trying to upset enough parents that school officials would close the forum to all groups (the fact that the group is based in Salem, Massachusetts, seems designed to aid its publicity stunt). If the forum is not open at all, then no clubs get to speak.

Though this would include the ASSC clubs, these activists appear to be fine with this as long as that puts an end to the Christian clubs too. As the ASSC founder reportedly told PEOPLE magazine, “[i]f they would get rid of the Good News clubs, there wouldn’t be a need for the After School Satan program.” In other words, the very purpose of the ASSC is to shut down the Good News Clubs. The ASSC organization, presuming parental outrage, is hoping school administrators take the bait and close the forum rather than allow the “Satan clubs” to operate.

What should we think about all this?

First, school administrators should not be deterred. The ASSC organization would love nothing more than for the school forum be shut down to all groups, including Christian groups. The forum should not be shut down out of concern for this group’s presence (its name does not even line up with what it is teaching anyway). It can be given a place among other student groups, and we can let the battle in the marketplace of ideas play out. Ultimately, neither rationalism nor demon worship can provide the hope and healing offered by Jesus.

Second, we should not look at this as a set-back, but as an opportunity, in at least two areas:

  • The ASSC organization is using a forum which is open to all under the Good News Club case. Why not use this opportunity to make sure that children are aware of their right to start Christian clubs if they don’t exist? As one Family Research Council event recently highlighted, let us also make sure school officials, administrators, and teachers are aware of the legal protections for religion in the public school. The forum is open—make sure we are using it!
  • If the ASSC organization wants to start a spiritual discussion, whether on the national stage or local school, let’s welcome such a discussion. The group’s use of the term “Satan” gives everyone an opportunity to discuss…Satan. Let’s explain his role in the Bible, his power to tempt humans away from God to our own detriment, and the good news that Jesus provides a way out of that temptation. Even if the ASSC organization wants to fall back on rationalism, let’s welcome an invitation to open up the Bible and rationally examine its claims: that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. He’s either Lord, liar, or lunatic. But nothing else. All must make a choice.

Both humanism (the worship of human progress) and actual devil worship will fail to offer humans a solution to our dilemma of the sense that something is broken, that something is just not right in the world. Only a restored relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ can do that. Every day, we are already seeking opportunities to tell the world this good news before it’s too late. This is just another opportunity, planted right in our lap! Let us go forth and proclaim the Gospel!

Christians and Public Life: Politics, Culture, and Bearing the Light of the Gospel

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 23, 2016

Since our first parents fell from a pristine garden head-long into the morass of sin so long ago, the inability of their heirs to extricate themselves from the moral swamp that is our nature has been the salient characteristic of human history.

Yet redeemed in Christ, His followers are called by Him to live in a manner worthy of His Name, of His character and His commission. Among the ways we’re called to do so:

  • Demonstrating in our own lives that His way is good, and that those who know and follow Jesus have found grace and truth;
  • Defending the weak, healing the broken, welcoming those fractured by the dissolution of their families, and upholding our God-given right and mandate to live-out, without repression, the implications of our faith in His Son;
  • Proclaiming that His standards are here for both individual and social well-being, and that when followed, we gain “a culture in which human life is valued, families flourish, and religious liberty thrives.”
  • Affirming that His self-revelation in creation, our consciences, and our reason is sufficiently clear for us all, Christians and non-, to understand what’s morally right and wrong for us personally, in families, in civic life, and in the professions;
  • Creating and celebrating “the good, the true, and the beautiful” such that all aspects of our lives reflect the loveliness of our Creator; and
  • Sharing the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, rose from the grave, and is Lord of all, and that He offers new and eternal life to all who will trust in Him alone for forgiveness.

To the second bullet, no one is weaker than an unborn child, and no one more vulnerable to predation than her mother at a time of crisis. No one is broken like the person who has departed from God’s plan for human sexuality. No one is needier than a child needing a father or a woman deserted by her husband. And no one can fully realize the nature of his humanity, that of being an image-bearer of God, without the freedom not only to worship Him privately but also to obey Him publically.

Yet we know that complete victory is impossible: As long as sin remains man’s inherent lot, God’s Kingdom, something Jesus warned us is “not of this world” (John 18:36), can never be built on earth. If we say we can usher-in Revelation’s promised “new earth” (Revelation 21:1) without Jesus, we would do well to reflect on a place called Babel.

On the other hand, if all we want is a place of political ease, one in which cultural comfort is the norm, we follow a false god. While the broad affirmation of Judeo-Christian values is, in any culture, welcome, it is insufficient. Social serenity in a world whose prince is darkness itself should never be the disciple’s chief end. We deceive ourselves if we think that those who disagree with us will just slink away if Christian values become more well-received in our culture and reflected more closely in our laws.

What, then, do Christians want? We cannot achieve comprehensive transformation. We are obligated to do justice and stand for righteousness. We will never be without opposition, at least if we’re living as God wants. And as the foundations of American cultural and political life crumble, that opposition will become increasingly savage and uncompromising.

We need to seek to do good to all men, in matters private and public. We need to take into our homes the abused and discarded. We need to advance legislation that affirms human dignity, opportunity, and hope. Private acts, public law. Both.

We need to be obedient to God. This means being winsome and gracious, bold and truthful. These qualities are not mutually exclusive, especially since Jesus embodied them (Matthew 21:12, Mark 10:13-16, John 1:14).

Toward some, we must be respectfully but firmly confrontational (Proverbs 28:1). Toward others, we must be gentle and aim to persuade (Proverbs 15:1). In doing both, depending on the people involved and the needs of the moment, we uphold the truth and proclaim grace.

Truth without grace is only severity. Grace without truth is mere sentiment.

Some argue that if only Evangelical believers were “nicer,” society would be less disposed to stereotype and dislike us. There is never any justification for being obnoxious or dehumanizing others. Yet however warm we are in the presentation of truth, there will be those who hate us; Jesus promised this (John 15:8). Christians are to be patient and persuasive, but we do well to remember that the most gracious Man Who ever lived was nailed to a cross. It’s not all about grace or all about truth. Both/and, now and forever.

We also need to focus on the things that matter most to God in the moment in which we live. Here in the United States, what are those things? I submit that the most salient issues are the destruction of 2,700 unborn children daily and the victimization of their mothers; the hydra of radical sexual autonomy as the highest good; the pending abolition of the family as grounded in one man and one woman in covenantal union, for life; and the pre-governmental duty of man to God and the consequent necessity of the state to safeguard our ability to live-out this duty as individuals conceive it (as long as such a conception does no violence to others).

This is not to suggest that a number of other issues, whether related to race, economic injustice, crime, and so forth are not important.

Yet nothing is more final than death, and death’s most cherished handmaiden in our time is unrestricted access to abortion on demand.

Nothing is more beautiful than sexual expression as intended by the One Who designed it, and nothing more debasing than sexual expression that deviates from that design.

Nothing is more foundational to human well-being and societal flourishing than the family, and as the family as we have known it starts fading like Alice’s Cheshire cat, children suffer and adults are wounded.

Nothing is more fundamental to our very beings than the fact that we bear the image and likeness of God. Thus, when Christians’ capacity to relate to Him as we believe He desires is curtailed by the state, the fullness of what it means to bear that image is diminished.

Prudence in judgment and persuasion in appeal must be the guardians of our witness. Principled compromise is sometimes achievable. As we exercise sound political and cultural judgment and seek to convince our fellow citizens of the goodness of our agenda, we can do much good and dissuade at least some of our countrymen from courses that will only hurt them and all of us.

However, some compromises are inherently unprincipled and must never be made. Whether that relegates believers to minority status or not is immaterial. We serve an eternal King, not temporal cultural approval.

Whatever the outcome of our endeavors, American Christians engaged in the public life of our nation (and to one degree or another, that should be all of us) must imitate their Savior in character and wisdom, courage and faithfulness, now and until He returns, regardless of political outcomes.

This is why we serve and contend as we do, for by so doing we herald the Gospel to a sin-besotted world, whether overtly or more subtly. Jesus is Lord, is real, and is the one true Light Who offers forgiveness and everlasting hope to all men.

Question of the Week

by Daniel Hart

May 9, 2016

With every passing day, it seems, Christian values are increasingly being pushed out of the public square and out of public policy. What can ordinary Christian citizens do to make their voices heard in their day to day lives and in Washington? FRC is here to help. Every Monday starting today here on the FRC Blog, we will publish a Question of the Week that we receive, along with our answer.

Feel free to send us a question you may have about how you can better live out your faith beyond the four walls of your church, or about any specific value that FRC continues to stand for, whether it be life, marriage and family, or religious liberty. Go to frc.org/contact-frc and enter “Question of the Week” in the Subject line. Thank you for standing with us!

 

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Question: FRC seems to be good at getting information out. This is great, but I feel helpless in the grand scheme of things. There is so much discussion and it does not seem to get us anywhere. How can we stand up for ourselves together as a Christian family, in a respectable Christian manner? It’s the first time in my life that I am sometimes afraid to wear my cross. I do it anyway, because I am very strong in my faith and I love Jesus, but I do feel a bit uneasy at times. Thank you for your time.

FRC: We’re encouraged by your desire to glorify God in the public square. As God’s stewards on earth whose entire purpose for living is to give all glory, honor, and praise to Him in every sphere of life, God has called many of us to work for Him in the public square—some of us in Washington, D.C., others at the state level, and still others at the local level. Thank you for realizing the importance of Christians being active members of society who are willing to promote biblical family values to our government officials. First, do your civic duty by voting according to your Christian conscience. In addition, you can write emails or make calls to public officials at the local, state, and federal levels, and encourage neighbors, friends, and co-workers to do the same. (You can do this by signing up for our Alerts here.) For more information on how you can get involved in the public square, please go to the volunteer page on our website at frc.org/volunteer. Please also ask your pastor if he would like to join our pastors network at watchmenpastors.org, and consider creating a Culture Impact Team at your church: cultureimpact.org. Please continue to pray for our nation and its leaders. This is the most influential action we can take: may God’s will be done. God’s Word is a source of great comfort and hope. Proverbs 21:30-31 says, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Thanks again for your desire to help us transform our culture for God’s glory. May He bless you.

What’s Next in a Blurry Culture

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 21, 2016

Ideas have consequences, Richard Weaver reminded us years ago. What someone believes will affect his behavior. What society endorses will consummate in certain results.

We are living in a time when blurry is the new normal. As Christian rocker Randy Stonehill wrote years ago:

    Right is wrong and wrong is right
    White is black and black is white
    I think I just lost my appetite
    Stop the world I wanna get off

Well, his last plea cannot be fulfilled (and where would we go if it could?), but his larger point—moral confusion is one of the gods of the age—is more valid by the day. Here are some scenarios that are wholly possible at a time when gender is seen as “fluid,” petulant insistencies are seen as “rights,” and petty (and often fabricated) emotional duress is seen as “micro-aggressive.”

Transgender use of restrooms and showers: A man, clothed in attire traditionally identified as masculine and short, crisply-parted hair, walks into a women’s locker room at a gym. The women there are upset and demand he leave. His response: “I am a transgendered man who prefers wearing men’s clothing and cutting my hair in a manner consistent with accepted norms for professional male hairstyles. But I identify as a woman and have every right to be here.”

Marriage: Three men and two women insist upon the right to marry. They argue that the definition of marriage as the union of only two people is arbitrary and culturally-based. They assert that their affection for and commitment to one another, and their free volitional choice to unite in matrimony, entitle them to legal marriage. They cite Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s statement in his Obergefell opinion that “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” If two people become something greater than once they were, how much greater will five? Who is anyone to say that the five of them don’t mutually fill one another’s needs uniquely?

Legal accountability: “A Connecticut judge declined on (April 14) to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the maker of the assault-style rifle that a gunman used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School to fatally shoot 26 people before killing himself,” reported the New York Times earlier this month.

How about this: A woman is hit by a drunk driver and experiences physical trauma. She sues the manufacturer of the vehicle’s tires for enabling the guy behind the wheel to automate his car and, in his drunken state, hit her.

Hate speech and coercive silence: Is it hateful to quote a Bible verse, express a controversial opinion, or hold an unpopular view? Fascism was supposed to have been America’s enemy in the Second World War; is it now our accepted modus vivendi?

The University of California, Los Angeles Graduate Student Association approved a resolution Wednesday calling those who do not support a pro-Palestine agenda ‘Islamophobic’,” according to reporter Peter Fricke. This is but one example of hundreds, even thousands, of how the Left is seeking to compel uniform cultural allegiance to its agenda and the silencing of those who resist it.

Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown Law Center professor and an Obama appointee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, makes it very clear that religious liberty is subordinate to the special privileges of people who identify as lesbian or gay:

For all my sympathy for the evangelical Christian couple who may wish to run a bed-and-breakfast from which they can exclude unmarried, straight couples and all gay couples, this is a point where I believe the “zero-sum” nature of the game inevitably comes into play. And, in making that decision in this zero-sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people.

What’s next? How about these:

  • Teaching the eternal destruction of those who refuse to trust in Christ as their Savior and Lord is made illegal as it is “hateful.”
  • Telling one’s daughter she must dress as a girl is deemed “oppressive” and “genderist.”
  • Preventing people from eating certain foods because they are deemed inherently unhealthy, or in some way tracking the eating habits of ordinary citizens so as to restrict their intake of various kinds of foods.
  • The Supreme Court voiding all laws against full legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages.

Oh, wait…

The Left’s (Papal) Selective Hearing

by Daniel Hart

April 15, 2016

In yet the latest example of cognitive hypocrisy by the Left, Sen. Barbara Boxer berated a Catholic priest during a hearing on Wednesday for not explicitly agreeing with Pope Francis’s views on the causes of climate change.

It’s at once a maddening yet unsurprising phenomenon: to trumpet the Pope’s stature as a moral authority whenever it is most convenient by belittling those who disagree with him on a scientific issue like climate change, while at the same time remaining entirely silent and apparently having complete disregard for anything he says about matters of faith and morals, like abortion, cohabitation, same-sex marriage, etc.

As the priest pointed out during the hearing, Pope Francis does not and would never claim to be “infallible” or even have any sort of professional expertise in matters of science. It is only “when he speaks on moral issues, such as abortion and contraception and the like, then he speaks on magisterial authority.”

In his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) released on April 8, Pope Francis wrote these eloquent words in regard to the weakening of marriage and the family:

No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society. But nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?

Some societies still maintain the practice of polygamy; in other places, arranged marriages are an enduring practice… In many places, not only in the West, the practice of living together before marriage is widespread, as well as a type of cohabitation which totally excludes any intention to marry.” In various countries, legislation facilitates a growing variety of alternatives to marriage, with the result that marriage, with its characteristics of exclusivity, indissolubility and openness to life, comes to appear as an old-fashioned and outdated option. Many countries are witnessing a legal deconstruction of the family, tending to adopt models based almost exclusively on the autonomy of the individual will. Surely it is legitimate and right to reject older forms of the traditional family marked by authoritarianism and even violence, yet this should not lead to a disparagement of marriage itself, but rather to the rediscovery of its authentic meaning and its renewal. The strength of the family “lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love. For all a family’s problems, it can always grow, beginning with love.”

On the one hand, it’s great that the Left is so eager to revere the Pope’s words (Sen. Boxer emphasized several times in the hearing that she wasn’t just citing anyone, but “the Pope”). Maybe someday they will find the time to actually engage and wrestle in their souls with what Francis says in the area of faith and morals, not just in the cherry-picked topics that happen to align with their agenda.

Obeying God, Not Men

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 5, 2016

In a serious, probing article in Christianity Today, political scientist David Koyzis argues that American Christians are facing an increasingly hostile culture, one which may drive them to a position of respectful but undeniable defiance to a usurping state. 

As FRC has documented, there are far too many examples of believers in our country whose convictions concerning the Savior’s truth outweigh their willingness to accede to government’s demands.  Will this become more widespread?  Undoubtedly, if we refuse to use the political tools we possess to defend our God-given liberties.

Koyzis’s piece is cautious and thorough.  Not every reader of this blog will agree with all of his conclusions, but his efforts to be faithful to Scripture’s demands are admirable and there is much truth to be gleaned from his observations.  As we might be coming to a time when, as the Body of Christ, we will need to “obey God, rather than man,” as Peter put it (Acts 5:29), honest followers of Jesus should contemplate what might be required of them.

Below, I excerpt a few passages from the article I found particularly bracing. 

Among (American) believers, complaining about Caesar’s heavy yoke can look like an affront to victims of genuine persecution—the violent kind meted out by ISIS fighters. It all adds up to a strong presumption that unless there’s a clear family resemblance to the civil rights movement, civil disobedience is simply beyond the pale.

But given the trend lines of our culture, it’s time to rethink this presumption. Christians face intensifying pressure to compromise their convictions and conform to secular ideologies. Calculated lawbreaking won’t be the right response to every government provocation, and it should never be undertaken lightly—especially in democratic societies where offensive laws can be debated, protested, and changed. But no one who confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord can meekly submit to the proposition that man-made laws are sacred and inviolable. We need to restore a bold willingness to treat principled resistance as a live possibility, rather than a relic of a bygone era … (Emphasis mine)

Where we can change laws and constitutions, let’s make every effort to do so. But it’s no secret that Christian convictions run seriously afoul of the spirit of the age. Caesar’s edicts may create situations where living them out puts us on the wrong side of the law.

Civil disobedience is our very last resort, to be contemplated only with fear and trembling. But by no means can faithful believers rule it out of bounds.

Stand with the (Unstoppable) Persecuted” Church on Sunday, April 17th

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 31, 2016

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is unstoppable.  Consider what happened last year when 21 Christians were beheaded on a beach along the shores of the Mediterranean:

Undaunted by the slaughter of 21 Christians in Libya, the director of the Bible Society of Egypt saw a golden gospel opportunity. “We must have a Scripture tract ready to distribute to the nation as soon as possible,” Ramez Atallah told his staff the evening an ISIS-linked group released its gruesome propaganda video. Less than 36 hours later, “Two Rows by the Sea” (the story of the Libyan victims) was sent to the printer. One week later, 1.65 million copies (had) been distributed in the Bible Society’s largest campaign ever.

We weep with the families of those slain and pray for their killers.  But we also rejoice that what man planned for evil, God has used for good (Genesis 50:20).

Yet even as human evil can be employed by the Lord of all for His glory, He never excuses or countenances it, and He calls on His people to oppose it (see, as just one of many scriptural examples, Psalm 82:3-4).

That’s why FRC and our allies Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, In Defense of Christians, and the Institute on Religion and Democracy are hosting “Stand with the Persecuted Sunday” on April 17th.

We are calling on churches across America to “view a brief, two-minute video, distribute a special bulletin insert, and spend time in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters internationally.”

To learn how your church can participate, go to http://frc.org/stand.  Stand with “the least of these, His brethren,” and thereby stand with the unstoppable Lord Jesus Himself.

MEMO TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT: CHRISTIANS WERE MURDERED IN LAHORE. THAT’S C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N-S

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 28, 2016

Yesterday, “Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility” for a suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan that killed at least 69 people and wounded about 300. Why? Jamaat-e-Ahrar makes its reason very clear: “Its spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said in a statement that Christians were the target.”

The Taliban murders Christians on Easter Sunday: This is the essential headline of myriad news reports, at home and abroad. But you’d never know that Christians were in the killers’ bulls-eye from the U.S. State Department’s news release. “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan. This cowardly act, which targeted innocent civilians in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, has killed dozens and left scores injured,” says the statement. No mention of the Taliban. No mention of Islamism and it’s brutal aggression. And no mention of Christians.

What happened yesterday in Lahore was the mass murder of Christians by Muslim radicals. This is not a statement of bigotry or an overreaction to violence. It is not inflammatory or hostile or anti-Muslim. It is a statement of fact, based on the remarks of the killers’ official spokesman (a sickening thought — barbarians have a “spokesman”) and the indisputable carnage at a park where Christian children were playing after Sunday services.

Yet this administration cannot summon the moral courage to say what actually and obviously occurred. This is repulsive and a shame to our country, which proclaims itself “the home of the brave.”

Former federal prosecutor and expert on radical Islam Andy McCarthy, in a recent lecture at Hillsdale College, said, “In the real world, we must deal with the facts of Islamic supremacism, because its jihadist legions have every intention of dealing with us. But we can only defeat them if we resolve to see them for what they are.”

The Obama Administration lacks such resolve. Its fear of giving offense exceeds its willingness to defeat our enemies. Brussels, Lahore, San Bernardino, 9-11: the list goes on and on, as does the Islamists’ intention of destroying us.

It is hard to know how to destroy an ideology grounded in a fanatical faith. But at least we can destroy those of its adherents intent on spreading their faith through vicious brutality. We must do this, even if it necessitates a recognition that such destruction could be a multi-generational endeavor. The security of 320 million Americans and the dignity of human life worldwide demand it.

Listen to FRC’s Executive Vice-President, Lt. Gen. (ret) Jerry Boykin, talk with FRC President Tony Perkins about the threat of radical Islam in a March 21 broadcast of Tony’s “Washington Watch” radio program.

A Win for Religious Freedom in the Military

by Travis Weber

March 9, 2016

A federal judge notched a win for religious freedom last week by ruling in favor of a Sikh Army captain requesting an exemption to grow his hair and beard for religious reasons. This ruling is a positive reaffirmation of RFRA’s application in the military context, and is proof that the statute can be used to protect service-members’ rights while not impinging on the unique needs of the military.

In response to Captain Singh’s exemption request, the Army directed him to go through several batteries of tests with his gas mask and helmet on to determine how they would perform while fitted over his head and facial hair. This order was unique, however, for the Army regularly grants beard exemptions for all sorts of reasons without requiring the testing it directed Captain Singh to go through. Moreover, around the same time the Army was imposing these onerous burdens on Captain Singh, he successfully completed a previously scheduled standard gas mask test with other soldiers from his unit.

It was obvious to anyone that the Army was making Captain Singh jump through hoops, and the Court granted his request to stop the Army from making these burdensome demands on him after concluding his RFRA claim would likely succeed. He had shown a sincere belief that was substantially burdened by the testing, and while the Court recognized the Army “unquestionably has a compelling interest in ensuring the health and safety of military personnel,” the specific tests required of Captain Singh are not the least restrictive means of accomplishing this interest. As the Court noted, “[i]ndeed, conducting or commissioning a study of the efficacy of helmets and gas masks for soldiers donning a variety of unshorn hair, beards, and/or head coverings, which does not target one particular Sikh soldier merely because of his request for a religious accommodation, would be more effective in furthering the government’s compelling interest in ensuring the health and safety of its soldiers.” The Court also observed that “medical exceptions and ‘relaxed grooming standards’ are granted without such specialized information” as the Army claimed it needed from Captain Singh.

On balance, this ruling reaffirms the principle that robust religious exercise for those of all faiths can occur in the military consistent with the unique demands it must impose on its members in order to maintain readiness and accomplish its mission.

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