Month Archives: January 2022

The Filibuster: Guardian of the Republic

by Worth Loving

January 31, 2022

Many items on President Joe Biden’s agenda have already passed the U.S. House of Representatives only to be dead on arrival in the Senate. This is due to the filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to move any piece of legislation. Recently, many Senate Democrats have been pushing to eliminate the filibuster in the hopes that some of Biden’s more partisan agenda items will finally reach his desk. But because two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have refused to go along with their party’s prevailing narrative, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) cannot get the 50 votes he needs to change the Senate rules and do away with the filibuster.

What follows is a brief explanation of what the filibuster is and why it is so important.

Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution gives the House and Senate the broad authority to “determine the rules of its proceedings.” This allows the House and Senate to determine how bills will be voted on, how committees will be assigned, how long a bill may be debated, and much more. Although the House does not allow for unlimited debate on a bill, the Senate does through a tactic known as the filibuster.

In its early days, the filibuster manifested itself through long speeches from senators on the floor. As long as a senator could stand and talk, voting on a bill or nomination would be delayed. The filibuster was used in the very first session of the U.S. Senate. Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay wrote that the “design of the Virginians was to talk away the time, so that we could not get the bill passed.”

It wasn’t until 1917, at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, that the Senate adopted a formal process for a majority to end debate and force a vote, a concept known as cloture. Senate Rule 22 required a two-thirds majority to invoke cloture. In 1975, the threshold was lowered to three-fifths (i.e., 60 votes of 100).

Fortunately, the legislative filibuster has been preserved so that a simple majority cannot ram through legislation from the House. Last week, thanks to the efforts of Senators Manchin and Sinema bucking their party leadership, the filibuster lived to see another day. But you can count on Democratic leadership to continue berating these senators with the hopes of breaking their resolve so they can change the rules and push their agenda through the Senate with the barest of majorities.

America has a bicameral (i.e., two-chambered) legislature in order to protect two valid, competing interests. The House allocates representation based on population in order to reflect the will of the majority, while the Senate gives each of the states equal representation so that larger, more populated states would not have complete control of the legislative process.

The U.S. Senate is a fundamentally different body than when it was created in 1789. In a conversation with Thomas Jefferson, George Washington reportedly said that the Senate was intended to “cool” legislation from the House of Representatives, just as a saucer cools hot tea. The Founders realized that the directly-elected House of Representatives would be subject to sudden changes from the will of the people every two years. Therefore, they set up the Senate differently in order to “cool” those passions. Senators were originally selected by state legislatures for six-year terms with the intent that they would thoughtfully deliberate legislation to come up with something mutually beneficial to all the states rather than constantly focusing on reelection. That process lasted for over 120 years until 1913, when the ratification of the 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of senators. With the 17th Amendment, the U.S. Senate was fundamentally changed and began to resemble the House of Representatives more and more. Yet the filibuster remained as one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Senate.

The Senate has long been described as the world’s greatest deliberative body. The Founding Fathers never intended legislation and nominations to be rushed through. Rather, they envisioned a body of thoughtful and deliberate debate, a sometimes long and arduous process that would prove frustrating for both political parties but nonetheless a process that would eventually produce a mutually beneficial result for the entire country. It might be tempting for a majority party to eliminate the filibuster for short-term political gain, but to do so would remove one of the last tools that makes the Senate different from the House.

In 1831, a young French aristocrat named Alexis de Tocqueville took a nine-month trip to the United States to discover what made America unique from other nations. He compiled his observations in his book Democracy in America. In it, de Tocqueville spoke highly of the American form of government and the national culture. However, he warned of what he called the “tyranny of the majority,” the inclination of whatever political party happens to be in control to push their will on the entire country. For 233 years, the U.S. Senate has mitigated the tyranny of the majority. And although the 17th Amendment significantly diluted the uniqueness of the Senate, it still remains distinct from the House, in part because the minority are given a voice through the filibuster.

In the current Senate, the legislative filibuster is the one thing preventing a radically different America. It is the one thing that will keep President Biden from signing key parts of his radical agenda. It will continue to block Democrats from passing the Equality Act, repealing the Hyde Amendment, and codifying Roe v. Wade. In short, it will stop Democrats from fundamentally transforming American government, which could then fundamentally transform America. If minority voices are to continue being heard and respected in the U.S. Senate, we must protect the filibuster at all costs.

D.C. Sirens Remind Us That Every Abortion Has at Least Two Victims

by Mary Szoch , Joy Zavalick

January 28, 2022

On January 27, sirens on 4th Street Northeast in Washington, D.C., announced an ambulance’s arrival at the Carol Whitehill Moses Center, the city’s Planned Parenthood. According to witnesses, a woman who appeared to be in pain was escorted out of the abortion facility and into the ambulance as a second emergency vehicle arrived as backup.

The Carol Whitehill Moses Center’s website states that they offer chemical abortions, as well as surgical abortions “up to 19 weeks and 6 days after the start of your last menstrual period.” One pro-life witness to the scene explained that Thursdays are the days when women further along in their pregnancies—between 12 and 20 weeks—are scheduled for abortions. At abortion businesses, the arrival of an ambulance is tragically more common than the industry would have women believe.

Planned Parenthood is not the only abortion facility in the D.C. area carrying out abortions after the first trimester. In fact, D.C. and Maryland offer no protections for the unborn, with both jurisdictions allowing children in the womb to be killed throughout the entirety of pregnancy. Anyone who cares about women should be troubled by the fact that several of the people carrying out abortions in the D.C. metro area have had malpractice lawsuits brought against them.

LeRoy Carhart, an abortionist who is infamous for carrying out extremely dangerous late-term abortions, has sent more than 10 women to the hospital over the course of his career, including one teenage girl and two women who ultimately died. Carhart has been sued by multiple women asserting that his abortion procedures caused them serious injury and left them permanently sterile.

Despite the numerous charges against Carhart, the supposed advocate for women has happily continued carrying out his signature late-term abortions. In a 2019 BBC Panorama documentary with Hilary Andersson, when he was asked, “And you don’t have a problem with killing a baby?” Carhart responded, “Absolutely not. I have no problem if it’s in the mother’s uterus.”

Currently, Carhart is facing two malpractice lawsuits. The first is from a woman who suffered a perforated uterus and torn-open bowel as the result of a late-term abortion carried out by abortionist Elizabeth Swallow at Carhart’s business. The second is from a woman who suffered a perforated uterus, massive hemorrhaging, trauma to her appendix, and an incomplete abortion that left most of her partially-beheaded baby inside.  

Another D.C. late-term abortionist, Caesar Santangelo, operates his business just blocks from the White House. In 2018, a medical malpractice/wrongful death lawsuit was filed against him by the family of a woman who received a dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure at his business to remove her naturally-miscarried child. Santangelo, who had no hospital admitting privileges at the time, failed to call an ambulance for 13 minutes after the woman’s oxygen levels fell, and she turned blue. Sadly, once at the hospital, the woman was declared dead. An autopsy revealed that Santangelo botched the procedure, leaving her with a perforated or lacerated uterus and pieces of her preborn baby in her bloodstream and lungs. 

Abortion advocates often claim that more women will die by dangerous “coat hanger” procedures if Roe v. Wade is overturned. However, women must be reminded that even legal abortions are not safe procedures—they carry great risks and are often carried out by con artists who prove daily that they can get away with murder. One D.C. witness to yesterday’s tragedy observed that, fortunately, two women who were entering Planned Parenthood left the facility after seeing the ambulances.

It is important to note that abortions are not only dangerous when they impact the women who misguidedly choose them; every “successful” abortion ends in the death of a precious child. Every human life possesses inherent dignity and worth—whether it is a baby girl who was just conceived or a woman sitting in the waiting room of an abortion facility. Abortion is undeniably evil even when mothers emerge physically unscathed.

Incidents like the emergency at D.C.’s Planned Parenthood are not new phenomena. Abortionists are aware of the danger that they pose to women, and many shamelessly continue to practice even after maiming mothers. If women will not reject abortion to protect their babies, then they should at least consider the danger that they themselves face before placing their own lives in the hands of killers.

When Liberal “Truths” Come Home to Roost, We Get Lia Thomas

by Joseph Backholm

January 28, 2022

You might have heard about Lia Thomas, a swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania who, after swimming on the men’s team for three years as Will Thomas, now competes on the women’s team. The results have been predictable. As of December, Thomas had recorded the fastest times in women’s college swimming in the 200 and 500 freestyle and won a 1650 meter freestyle event by nearly 40 seconds. It turns out men are very fast women.

The reaction has also been predictable. Yes, a few see it as a sign of “progress,” but most people instinctively recognize the injustice and insanity of it all. The crowds have been known to sit silently after Thomas completes a race and wait for the first female swimmer to finish before applauding. Although the NCAA insists the emperor’s new clothes are beautiful, it seems the onlookers aren’t buying it.

Those who are most frustrated might not fully appreciate how this all came to be. One female Penn swimmer has expressed her frustration anonymously out of fear of retribution. She told The Daily Wire that “I am typically liberal, but this is past that. This is so wrong. This doesn’t make any sense.”

Apparently, she sees no connection between her “typically liberal” values and what she now experiences on her swim team. That’s a mistake.

Thomas’ teammate likely equates being “liberal” with being “tolerant” and “nice.” She probably grew up encouraging people to live “authentically” so they could be happy. But now, those chickens are coming home to roost.

Another anonymous teammate explained in a different interview how the situation is affecting the team. “They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in it, they’re going to lose. Usually, they can get behind the blocks and know they out-trained all their competitors and they’re going to win and give it all they’ve got. Now they’re having to go behind the blocks knowing no matter what, they do not have the chance to win. I think that it’s really getting to everyone.”

It’s helpful to remember how we got here. Ten short years ago, same-sex marriage was illegal in most places, but the campaign to legalize it was going strong. At that time, few were claiming boys can become girls. In fact, the movement mocked the idea that same-sex marriage diminished the two halves of humanity in any way. They said this was just about the freedom to “be who you are” and “love who you love.”  

Two things happened during the national debate over marriage that the Penn women’s swim team would do well to think about. First, our society embraced the idea that living “authentically” is the greatest thing a person can do. Second, we accepted the notion that the differences between men and women weren’t significant enough for the law to be concerned about.

For the transgender movement, the most difficult work was already done. Americans had been convinced that denying someone else’s truth made you a bad person, and along came Lia Thomas expressing the desire to live “authentically” while also claiming the differences between men and women weren’t significant enough to be concerned about.

Thomas’ new teammates want to object, but they agreed with the premise long ago. Either truth is personal, or it isn’t. Either we all have the right to live “authentically,” or there are ultimate truths we need to understand and embrace lest we destroy ourselves. These are binary choices, and many who took the path most traveled are becoming upset when they find out where it leads.

We all should have known better, and some of us did, but, in general, we were too busy feeling to think. The slogans were too easy to agree with and the social credit associated with being on the “right side of history” was irresistible. It was intoxicating to dream of a world just over the horizon—after we eradicated all the Neanderthals—where everyone could do what made them happy without judgment, bigotry, and hate. People were personally so excited about the potential of being able to do whatever they wanted that they did not adequately consider what might happen if everyone else did whatever they wanted, too.

In this case, they joined the swim team and beat you by 40 seconds. But it can get worse. Unless Thomas’ teammates and everyone else who enabled the status quo reevaluates what we’ve been doing for the last decade, they will long for the day when their greatest concern was men on their swim team.

Holocaust Remembrance Day: “Never Again”

by Chris Gacek

January 27, 2022

Today, January 27, marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was on this date in 1945 that Soviet troops took control of the extensive Auschwitz labor and extermination complex that the Nazi Reich operated from 1940-45, finally liberating the remaining survivors.

Of the 1.3 million people who were taken to Auschwitz, 1.1 million were murdered. Of that number, 865,000 Jews were killed by lethal gas upon arrival. Others succumbed to starvation, disease, beatings, execution, and medical experimentation.

The Red Army soldiers experienced shock and disbelief as they approached and liberated the camp. These were hardened men, having fought the Nazis since June 1941.

In December 1941, they had retreated to the outer perimeter of urban Moscow. Yet, they fought their way back after turning the tide of the war in late 1942 and were in the outskirts of Krakow, Poland, approaching the pre-war German-Polish border.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Holocaust Encyclopedia” has a page devoted to giving a brief descriptive overview of the “Nazi camps.” The Encyclopedia states that in its 12 years of existence, the Nazi state “established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos).” And these were used for a “a range of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people thought to be enemies of the state, and for mass murder.” Imagine the death and destruction Soviet soldiers witnessed walking through the tragic scenes the Nazis left behind in Auschwitz.

In addition to the carnage in the camps, there was the endless destruction brought about by the war itself being fought eastward to Moscow and back to near-Germany with millions of men bombing, shelling, and shooting apart so much of the pre-war civilization that existed in these regions. They must have already seen many horrific sites in the past several years, yet Soviet soldiers were appalled by what they saw in Auschwitz. The level of brutality and depravity seen there was beyond comprehension. Of course, it still is.

Yet, the Nazis did not operate haphazardly. Hitler held to a racial hierarchy of human life. In it, the most despised were the Jews. The Nazis targeted the Jews and psychologically manipulated the German people to “other” them.  They accused the Jews of being the source of every sort of evil in the world. Thus, their complete extermination would be a paramount goal of the Reich’s war aims.

The Holocaust is unique for its horror and scale in world history. In the other cases, the perpetrators of genocides targeted a people group because they occupied territory that that the perpetrator wanted free and clear: They lived next to each other, one group had to go. The extermination of the Jews by the Reich was a different thing altogether. Hitler sought the killing of the Jews in all places.

When the Nazis invaded North Africa, they brought SS killing teams to hunt down Jews in Africa. The Isle of Guernsey, Corfu, Tunisia, Norway, Sicily, the Caucuses—all became killing fields for Jews. There was no realpolitik reasoning for it. 

Hitler sought a metaphysical purge of the Jews from the earth reminiscent of the same demonic drive exhibited in the Book of Esther (Esther 3:5-6). Satan hates God, and he hates the Jews for their relationship with Him. It is a hatred that never rests.

There has never been anything like the tragedy of the Holocaust. That is why we observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We remember the victims, and we renew our commitment to Never Again allow this to happen.

Beauty Will Save the World (Part 1): How Mary Cassatt’s The Boating Party Illustrates the Interdependence of the Family

by John Sumereau

January 27, 2022

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the great Russian writer, famously observed that “Beauty will save the world.” In this spirit, this blog series will focus on great works of art and how they reveal new layers of meaning to the inexhaustibly rich themes of life and human dignity, marriage and family, and religious freedom.

***

Mary Cassatt, born in Philadelphia in 1844, lived nearly all her adult life studying, collecting, and creating avant-garde artwork in France. She never married. She never bore children. But the decades-long gaze she fixed, through the sensitive and thoughtful eyes of a truly great artist, bore lasting fruit as a towering tribute to the beauty of motherhood. 

Few are unfamiliar with Cassatt’s touching portrayals of mothers and their babies absorbed in the routine exercises of homelife. Bathing, feeding, sewing, reading, often doing nothing more than exchanging a look or a touch with the children in their laps, Cassatt’s mothers are immersed in a shared existence. This is the very opposite of the individualism the artist’s own commitment to art required her to adopt. But an authentic search for beauty, the most essential virtue of an artist, demands an unflagging fidelity to truth. And Mary Cassatt was too great an artist to ignore the exceeding goodness of the road she left untaken.

Unique among Cassatt’s finished works is the large-scale painting she titled The Boating Party (1893). The painting’s central figures, a mother and her softly squirming baby, resemble any of a hundred other pieces by the artist. But now the frame has been widened. We are permitted to see the rare figure of a father, and it is not unreasonable to assume that there is significance in this uncommon element. What clues does it give us to Cassatt’s attitudes and beliefs about the other half of parenthood to which she has devoted so much attention? The figure himself is unsurprisingly obscure. We see him from behind, his dark clothes strongly contrasting with the sun-drenched scene that we join him in beholding. The father is a lonely figure. He propels the boat forward only by physically pulling away from his family. His dependents face their helmsman.

All at once we glimpse the fragility of the mother’s and child’s shared world. Their relationship, as saturated with love as the figures are with sunlight, is seen perched on a small boat blown by the wind and floating on deep waters. The mother looks expectantly at her captain, visibly aware of her reliance on him, but warmly expressing, if not love, at least a willingness to love; a hope that her vulnerability will find shelter under his headship, permitting a true love to grow. There is something ominous about the man, and the dynamic composition hinges on the tension of vulnerability. Yet Cassatt refuses to give us any explicit indication of treachery on the part of the father, and, indeed, there is no reason to suspect that any exists. We are merely aware of his absolute importance to their continued flourishing. 

Is this painting a confession of the necessity of co-dependency? Or is it a protest against it? Perhaps it’s both, but much more importantly, it is a call to parents. The Boating Party lays bare the delicate architecture of interdependence that makes up a family. Our modern society has become allergic to dependence. We’re encouraged to pursue self-sufficiency and self-reliance. There is little doubt that this widespread fear of interdependence is a natural reaction to the many instances of abuse, neglect, and abandonment we learn about so often. But Mary Cassatt saw plainly that true fruitfulness and fulfillment can only be found in vulnerability. 

And the one figure who looks in the direction the boat is traveling, the child, asserts the impact of her parents’ fidelity to their calling both on her own future and the future of humanity.

John Sumereau graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Art from the Penn State School of Arts and Architecture in 2013. John lives in Winchester, Virginia with his wife and three children, whom he currently supports by working as an ultrasound tech at a local hospital. His artwork can be seen on the John Sumereau Art Facebook page.

The Human Costs of China’s Demographic Collapse

by Arielle Del Turco

January 25, 2022

Last week, China announced that its birth rate hit a record low in 2021 after five years of decline. In 2021, China’s population growth rate was up a measly 0.034 percent, while the number of births per thousand people fell to 7.52 in 2021 from an already low number of 8.52 in 2022.

Years of propaganda and policies discouraging families from having more than one child have had a major impact. Now, Chinese officials are scrambling to come up with ways to reverse the self-inflicted damage.

For over three decades, China brutally enforced its one-child policy, even utilizing forced abortions and sterilizations. The damage wrought by the policy is not just psychological or cultural, but also physical. A Wall Street Journal article on China’s urging of parents to have children notes that “multiple abortions impact women’s bodies and infertility is a possible consequence,” according to anthropologist Ayo Wahlberg.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders first instituted the one-child policy due to their concern that the growing population would strain the economy. Now, they worry about the economic cost of slowing population growth and the possibility of population decline. Mainstream media outlets cover the possibility of China’s population decline mainly as a troubling development for the rising power’s economy. Rightfully so. China has an aging population and fewer young workers to support the elderly. 

A decline in the birth rate—and certainly a population decline overall—would have high economic costs. But it will also have a human cost; that’s because families matter. Individuals belonging to a healthy family will have a support system when they age. Children and families can act as a hedge against loneliness (especially in old age) and lend purpose and meaning to life. These benefits cannot be underestimated. With population decline, nations will lose much more than numbers.

In China, the ramifications already harm millions. Most Chinese adults born under the one-child policy have no siblings and bear the weight of supporting their elderly parents alone. And only children whose parents are also only children lack the larger support network and community of an extended family.

Nothing illustrates the human cost of population decline quite like the bizarre cultural phenomena it is currently causing in Japan. For Japanese brides or grooms with few family members, “relatives” can be rented to attend weddings. For those who want the affection of a pet without the responsibility of caring for them, robot pets and rental pets are increasingly common. Meanwhile, there are now so few people that one in eight houses sit vacant; so many that there is a term for them—akiya.  

The Institute for Family Studies points out that low fertility rates very directly impact the lives of those who experience “missing births,” including “rising loneliness to aging alone to less happiness.”

Chinese leaders are scrambling to undo the damage of the one-child policy and encourage births, but some think it may be too late. There’s an air of fear in China regarding having children. It’s impossible to believe that decades of propaganda against having additional children (and abusive measures taken against families that do) is not largely to blame for this. Many couples view having multiple children as too much of a burden. Education and extracurricular costs for children are extremely high, and a culture that prioritizes career growth undercuts the importance of family.

Repressive government policies against ethnic minorities only exacerbate China’s demographic challenges. In Xinjiang, Chinese authorities are committing genocide against the Uyghur people by preventing births through forced abortions and sterilizations. The brutality of the atrocities being carried out in this region is difficult to comprehend, and women of reproductive age bear the brunt of these policies. If Chinese leaders truly want to raise the birth rate, a good first step is to stop committing genocide.

After decades of tinkering with population control, Chinese leaders have not learned their lesson. The number of children a couple is allowed to have is currently up to three, but any limitation should be removed. Chinese people—and Uyghur people—ought to be free to have as many children as they desire.

Chinese leaders should resist the temptation to use heavy-handed policies to force a rise in the birth rate. Instead of coercive measures to fix its demographic issues, they should focus on affirming the inherent value of every human life and the deep importance of families.

The world is beautiful and full of adventure. Instead of worrying about fleeting career advancements or economic gain, couples should open their hearts to invite more children in to enjoy it. Having kids can be scary—but they can also make you a better person. Governments don’t need coercive policies; they need only to affirm the profound importance of families, a truth people know deep down but need reminded of. In China and all countries experiencing lower birth rates, a change of heart about children and families can make all the difference.

The Limits of Human Happiness: The Danger of Trying To Find Our Identity in Our Feelings

by Dan Hart

January 24, 2022

In a recent interview, pop superstar Adele told Oprah that the reason she divorced her husband and created a broken home for her then six-year-old son was because “she realized she was ‘ignoring’ her own happiness.” Similarly, Honor Jones, a senior editor at The Atlantic, wrote recently that, even though she “loved [her] husband,” who she had three young children with, she was breaking her family up because she “felt that [her husband] was standing between [her] and the world.”

This 50-year-old-and-counting trend of “no-fault” divorce, in which a husband or a wife chooses to split from their spouse because of a feeling rather than a concrete transgression like abuse or adultery, is part of a larger phenomenon that has been happening in Western society for decades now: the ascendence of feelings and emotions as the definitive barometer of who a person is.

Arguably, we are seeing this trend more explicitly in our current American moment than we ever have before with the advent of transgenderism—the idea that one can change their “gender” because of being unhappy with one’s biological sex. Just as with no-fault divorce, the choice to become transgender has proven to have very real negative consequences that not only affect the health of the individual choosing to identify as transgender (through harmful hormone therapy and surgeries that do not resolve the person’s unhappiness) but also society (through classroom indoctrination, bathroom privacy violations, and the assault on women’s sports, among other harms).

In our “live your own truth” society, consuming pornography, participating in premarital sex, and committing adultery are acts that cannot be judged by others if they feel right to the individual in the moment, despite the trail of brokenness and victimization left in their wake. Furthermore, we are seeing highly-charged feelings about America being a “racist” and “white supremacist” country driving a nationwide movement to establish intensely divisive “Critical Race Theory” policies in schools and places of work, despite clear, commonsense evidence that “systemic” racism does not exist in America.

The right to act on strongly-held feelings—no matter how it may affect others—has become an idol in our culture, and the damage that this causes is plain to see. While feelings and emotions are an important part of being human, they do not ultimately define us, and we must carefully discern whether or not to act on them. If we want to flourish as a society, it is critical that we have a grounded, biblical perspective on our emotions, which continually shift from day to day like the changing winds.

The Pursuit of Happiness

In this country, we can trace the privileging of feelings back to our founding. Ever since Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement in the Declaration of Independence that among our “inalienable rights” bestowed on us by our Creator is “the pursuit of happiness,” the concept of “happiness” has held a prominent place in the American heart.

But what is happiness? At best, what we associate with or describe as happiness is often a fleeting feeling of contentment or pleasure. According to Thomas Aquinas, this “imperfect happiness” is the only form of happiness that can be obtained on earth. For most of us, even when we are doing something we thoroughly enjoy for an extended period of time, a genuine, all-encompassing feeling of happiness is usually short-lived. If one were to continually strive for one’s own version of happiness at every turn, it’s easy to see the disaster that would unfold—someone acting on every whim and urge regardless of the consequence or the effect on others.

Yet, there is no denying that happiness in its essence is a good thing and is wonderful to experience. Even so, what’s interesting about happiness is that we tend to experience it when we don’t necessarily expect to. It could be when we are simply on a walk, and the beauty of nature strikes us in a way that we weren’t anticipating. Or it could be in a more predictable context, like when we are engaging in an activity that we find pleasure in such as reading a good book or playing guitar. What’s fascinating, though, is that even when we do something in order to be happy, there is no guarantee that we will feel happy. This speaks to the ephemeral nature of happiness—it is a gift that is given to us from above. When we grasp for it, it is often just out of our reach. Perhaps this is what Jefferson meant when he wrote of the “pursuit” of happiness—we seek it because of how good it makes us feel, but we don’t always find it.

When we look at Scripture, we find that happiness or its synonym joy is almost always connected with seeking God and the virtues. For example, Psalm 146:5 proclaims: “Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Proverbs 3:13 declares: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding.” In Psalm 92:4, the psalmist writes, “You, O Lord, have made me happy by your work. I will sing for joy because of what you have done.” In another passage, King David actually commands happiness, writing, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11). 

These verses tell us something about what should be of ultimate importance to our earthly life and Who we should ultimately seek.

The Limited Offerings of the World

A natural question to ask here is, why? Why should we seek after a God we cannot see? A large part of the answer lies in the nature of the world. At the end of the day, as Bishop Robert Barron has so eloquently written and spoken about, “nothing in this world finally satisfies the deepest longings of our heart.” When we think of our most cherished and memorable experiences and feelings in our lives—the most delicious meal, the most mind-bendingly electrifying movie, the most beautiful mountain view, the most exhilarating athletic achievement, the most stimulating conversation—what do they all have in common? They all inevitably end, fading into the mists of the past, and we are plunged headlong into the next moment or the next day, which usually isn’t nearly as memorable. Even our loved ones will eventually die, ending our most cherished relationships. So what can we learn from this universal (and somber) certainty?

One thing we can learn is a fundamental truth about being human: We all have a deep desire for lasting happiness which points to something beyond anything this world can offer. Built into every human heart is an insatiable hunger for ultimate love, ultimate goodness, ultimate beauty, ultimate truth. As wonderful as our best moments on earth are, they only leave us wanting more. But why? Why would God create us this way? C.S. Lewis, in his great work The Problem of Pain, gives a perceptive, poetic answer to this confounding question:

The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world; but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

Knowing that ultimate fulfillment can never come on earth, our hunger for it nevertheless drives us to continually seek it. In this pursuit of happiness, it is often our deeply felt emotions and feelings that drive our actions. But as we have seen, unless these feelings are directed toward good things that ultimately come from God, we will not only be chronically unhappy, but we will also end up falling into wrongdoing, hurting ourselves and those around us.

The Fulfillment of All Desire

Our Heavenly Father knows our needs and the deepest longings of our hearts (see Matthew 6:25-33), but He also gives us the freedom to choose to follow those longings in the way we choose to do so. This is why we must remain anchored in God’s Word and follow His laws laid out for us in Scripture, so that our emotions and our deepest longings will naturally fall in line with the things of God—those things that are by nature true, good, and beautiful.

This is the wonderful reality about the unique gifts and talents that we are all blessed with: everyone can express their ultimate longing for God in their own way by pursuing truth, goodness, and beauty through music, athletics, writing, building houses, repairing cars, homemaking, or any of the multitude of good things that fills the earth. God delights in giving His children good gifts. As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). At the same time, our natures tell us that ultimate fulfillment won’t come from these finite gifts, for as Christ said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

When we live our lives without God, however, the results are plain to see. We end up straining and grasping for fulfillment moment by moment, without a fixture of truth to guide our hearts. We attempt to “live our truth” by following whatever earthly thing we think will make us happy, eternally confounded by its finiteness.

May we instead live in the promise of the “food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27), forever consoled and strengthened by the hope and truth of the One who has set all people free (John 8:32), who will eternally fulfill every desire in our true home—the world to come.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of January 16)

by Family Research Council

January 21, 2022

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Virginia Finds Hope in the Gov Compartment

Of all the things in short supply right now, optimism may be the hardest to find. After 12 disappointing months of an administration whose domestic and foreign policy failures are rivaled only by the number of illegals crossing the border, Americans everywhere are desperate for some sign of hope, some indication that the country they love isn’t completely lost.

2. Update: Hollow the Leader: Biden’s Empty Year Takes Its Toll

If you thought your week was bad, Joe Biden’s was worse. In a matter of hours, Biden witnessed the end of the private employer vaccine mandate at the Supreme Court—followed, that same afternoon, by a death blow to two of the Left’s signature priorities: the crusade to end the Senate filibuster and his raging attempt to takeover U.S. elections.

3. Blog: Is Diversity a Biblical Goal?

While racial tensions reached a fever pitch in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death, the issue is not new. Two thousand years ago, Paul addressed the issue of race in his letter to the Galatian church when he said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

4. Blog: Religious Freedom Day: The Biden Administration Is Failing To Uphold Our First Freedom

Since 1993, the United States has formally observed Religious Freedom Day on January 16. President Joe Biden released a proclamation acknowledging the day. Although the president’s comments on religious freedom were mostly encouraging, it is difficult to appreciate his rhetoric when many of his actions throughout the first year of his presidency have undermined the freedoms he claims to support.

5. Washington Watch: Michael Waltz, Ken Blackwell, Greg Phares, Meg Kilgannon

Tony Perkins was joined by Michael Waltz, U.S. Representative for Florida, who discussed the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ken Blackwell, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance and former Ohio Secretary of State, shared how President Biden is misusing Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy to push a federal government takeover of elections. Greg Phares, former Baton Rouge police chief, shared, in light of the terrorist hostage situation at a Texas synagogue, how security training saves lives. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Education Studies, commended newly inaugurated Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin for his first executive actions on education.

6. Washington Watch: Bob Good, Mike Rounds, Caroline Downey, David Closson, Nury Turkel

Tony Perkins was joined by Bob Good, U.S. Representative for Virginia, who gave an overview of President Biden’s education policies in his first year in office. Mike Rounds, U.S. Senator from South Dakota, discussed the Democrats pushing an elections takeover bill and gutting the filibuster. Caroline Downey, News Writer for National Review, talked about emails showing that Dr. Fauci and NIH Director Collins dismissed prominent scientists who endorsed the lab-leak theory on the origins of COVID. David Closson, FRC’s Director of the Center for Biblical Worldview, reflected on President Biden’s first year in office. And, Nury Turkel, Commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Chairman of the Board for the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), discussed the Golden State Warriors co-owner saying that “nobody cares” about China’s persecution of Uyghurs.

7. ProLifeCon Digital Action Summit

As we look forward to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, pro-life legislators, organizations, and activists share resources and hope for digital activism in the #prolife movement.

Counseling Bans in Canada and West Lafayette Threaten the Free Speech of Pastors and Counselors

by David Closson

January 21, 2022

In today’s sensationalized news environment, most of the stories we read or hear about rarely deserve our immediate and undivided attention. However, two recent developments related to so-called “conversion therapy bans” merit attention from Christian pastors, counselors, and parents. These bans threaten the rights and responsibilities of those tasked with teaching, discipling, and caring for the people in our churches, ministries, and families.

The first story comes from West Lafayette, Indiana, where the city council recently proposed an ordinance prohibiting the practice of so-called “conversion therapy” by unlicensed counselors. While these counseling bans are not new, the scope and reach of the proposed ordinance go beyond almost anything we’ve seen previously. By intentionally targeting unlicensed professionals, the ordinance would subject pastors and counselors to hefty fines for having conversations with church members and counselees about what the Bible teaches about unwanted same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria.

The proposed West Lafayette ordinance is likely unconstitutional. As written, the ordinance explicitly infringes on the speech rights of pastors, parents, and counselors. However, before taking a closer look at the shocking details of the proposed ordinance, it is important to understand the history behind the push to ban such counseling.

Counseling bans have become an important goal of the LGBT lobby. As public opinion on LGBT issues has shifted, there has been a concerted effort to enact bans on counseling pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity. By and large, these bans mandate that counselors use a “gender-affirming” model of care with their clients, meaning that licensed health care professionals and counselors are prohibited from discussing unwanted same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria with their clients (even if the patient and/or parents choose such counseling).

Although the media and the LGBT lobby use the term “conversion therapy” (which evokes images of discredited practices such as electroshock or other pain-inducing methods), counseling bans intentionally use broad language that includes talk therapy. In other words, counseling bans prevent counselors and mental health care professionals from counseling in a way consistent with their sincerely-held religious beliefs and deny patients the right to choose such counseling. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have counseling bans in place.

For Christian pastors and counselors, the proposed ordinance’s inclusion of unlicensed counselors is very significant. Although the city “strongly discourages” those with professional licensure through Indiana’s Professional Licensing Agency from “engaging in conversion therapy with a minor person,” it currently stops short of prohibiting the practice because the city lacks the authority to do so.

The proposed ordinance defines conversion therapy as “any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.” Because there are no ecclesial or ministerial exceptions, any guidance, advice, or encouragement from a pastor or Christian counselor about addressing unwanted same-sex attraction is prohibited. Violators of the ordinance would be fined $1,000 for every violation.

If passed, the ordinance would immediately affect a West Lafayette counseling ministry operated by Faith Church. Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries provides 60-80 hours of counseling each week and follows a counseling model known as biblical counseling, which offers support and guidance by applying biblical principles to people’s needs.

The second recent development in this area comes from Canada, where parliament recently passed a new law that bans so-called “conversion therapy.” Passed without debate or discussion, the bill, known as “C-4,” went into effect on January 7. C-4 amends the criminal code to criminalize conversion therapy, which is broadly defined as a “practice, treatment or service” designed to:

  • change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual,”
  • change a person’s identity to heterosexual,”
  • change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth,”
  • repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behavior,”
  • repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity,”
  • repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned at birth.”

Moreover, the legislation describes as a “myth” the belief that “heterosexuality, cisgender gender identity, and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.”

Although it is unclear how C-4 will be enforced—and there is hope that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which explicitly protects the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression” (as well as the freedom of conscience and religion) will protect the speech of pastors, counselors, and parents—the fact remains that Canadian law now equates orthodox Christian beliefs about human sexuality with harmful “myths” and “stereotypes.”

Describing the biblically-based views of millions of Canadians as “myths” is discriminatory and intolerant, but that’s not even the worst thing about C-4. Under the guise of preventing “conversion therapy,” legislators in Canada have enshrined contested gender ideology into law. The broad manner in which this new counseling ban defines “conversion therapy” opens the question of whether Christian pastors and ministers will be in violation whenever they preach and teach about Christian sexual ethics. Moreover, it would appear that talk therapy—the practice of simply having conversations—related to sexual orientation and gender identity would transgress C-4. If so, Christian counselors and even parents could face criminal penalties for talking to children about the Bible’s teaching on sexuality.

Pastors in Canada and the United States are speaking out about C-4. In Canada, the Canadian Religious Freedom Summit encouraged pastors to read a statement to their congregations on January 9 expressing their concern about the new law and their intention to continue preaching the “whole counsel of God.” In the United States, John MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church, encouraged pastors to preach on biblical sexual morality on January 16. According to The Daily Wire, at least 4,000 pastors in the United States responded to MacArthur’s call by preaching on texts such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Timothy 1:10.

Incredibly, but not surprisingly, YouTube removed a clip from MacArthur’s sermon that Grace Community Church had posted to the site. In the clip titled “Transgenderism is a War on God,” MacArthur stated, “God made man male and female. That is determined genetically, that is physiology. That is science. That is reality. This notion that you are something other than your biology is a cultural construct intended as an assault on God. The only way you can address it, honestly, is to say, ‘God made you and God made you exactly the way He wanted you to be. You are not only fighting God in His physical creation, you are fighting God in His sovereignty. You are fighting God in His spiritual relationship to you.’ This is a war on God.”

For the offending statements, YouTube censored MacArthur, claiming that the comments on transgenderism violated their “hate speech policy.” This is just the latest example of Big Tech suppressing Christian views on sexuality.

Although it remains to be seen how C-4 will be enforced, the passage of this bill is not promising for pastors, counselors, and other ministry leaders in Canada. They need support, encouragement, and prayer as they face an uncertain legal terrain. And those of us in the United States must remain vigilant to ensure that lawmakers in the United States understand that tens of millions of Americans do not want their freedom of speech or religion infringed in a similar fashion. Counseling bans are wrong and have to go.

Like Canada’s new law, the West Lafayette counseling ban discriminates against orthodox Christian beliefs pertaining to sexuality. Although courts could find the ordinance unconstitutional, the discussion and debate surrounding it reveal the growing hostility toward those who hold orthodox Christian beliefs. The utopia of the cultural revolutionaries is a world where the teaching of Christian sexual ethics is outlawed, counselors are restricted to providing so-called “affirmative” practices only, and parents are prohibited from raising and discipling their children in line with biblical principles. Coming at a time when a Finnish member of parliament is being criminally prosecuted for her biblical speech on sexuality (her trial begins next week), these developments paint a foreboding picture.

Christian pastors, counselors, parents, and policymakers need to recognize our cultural moment and push back against this growing threat of counseling bans. If we don’t, the next generation will have less freedom to teach and live out God’s Word.

Equality Ends at the Door of an Abortion Facility

by Joy Zavalick

January 21, 2022

The theme of the 2022 March for Life is “Equality begins in the womb.” The abortion industry has caused great detriment to the goal of equality in the United States. It is an affront to the inherent human dignity of children in the womb, and it distances their mothers and communities from the dignity they deserve.

Pro-life state administrations such as Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s understand that equality begins in the womb; Youngkin has expanded the role of his chief diversity, opportunity, and inclusion officer to incorporate serving as an ambassador for the unborn. As Louisiana State Senator Katrina Jackson has also vocalized, “It’s racist to fund abortions.” When discussing the desires of her 60 percent African American constituency, Jackson says, “I’ve never been in a group of African Americans who’ve asked me to fund abortion.”

When leaders like Youngkin and Jackson speak up for the unborn, they are representing children that are majority non-white, economically disadvantaged, or prenatally diagnosed. As they do so, the abortion lobby is making it clearer than ever that disadvantaged populations are of no importance to them except for profit. After all, minority and impoverished communities are their target demographic.

In 2019, non-Hispanic black mothers obtained abortions 3.6 times more than non-Hispanic white mothers, causing black babies to account for 38.4 percent of those aborted, despite only representing 14 percent of the national population in the same year. According to a letter to Planned Parenthood signed by over 100 black leaders, in cities such as New York, more black children are aborted every year than are born alive.

Why is the abortion rate for black babies so disproportionately high? Could it be because 79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of minority neighborhoods?

The eugenic foundations of the abortion industry are no secret. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, famously espoused birth control as a means of eliminating those who she saw as unfit for life. In Sanger’s article “Birth Control and Racial Betterment,” part of the February 1919 edition of The Birth Control Review, she bemoaned that even sterilizing those who were “unfit” was not a sufficient solution: “These measures do not touch those great masses, who through economic pressure populate the slums and there produce in their helplessness other helpless, diseased and incompetent masses, who overwhelm all that eugenics can do among those whose economic condition is better.”

Despite Sanger’s blatant racism and discriminatory tendencies, her memory and life’s work have not been universally repudiated. The extent of Planned Parenthood’s national efforts to distance themselves from Sanger’s legacy are limited to subtle gestures, such as ceasing to present the Margaret Sanger Award since 2015 (although the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s website still calls the award their “highest honor”). Though rioters have toppled statues of America’s Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, Margaret Sanger’s bust is still on display in the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Those born with disabilities have also been a central target of the abortion industry. The New York Times recently reported that prenatal tests screening for rare disorders are wrong 85 percent of the time. Because of these tests and the eugenic mindset that has crept into American culture alongside the abortion industry, 63 percent of babies diagnosed with spina bifida and between 65 and 95 percent of babies diagnosed with cystic fibrosis are aborted. The message for Americans living with such conditions is loud and clear: if Planned Parenthood had their way, their lives would have been extinguished before they saw the light of day.

The abortion industry prioritizes its bottom line over protecting vulnerable women. Rather than championing requirements for women seeking abortion to visit a facility in person in order to be evaluated by someone who can recognize signs of sex trafficking and domestic violence, the abortion industry has instead advocated for the elimination of in-person dispensing requirements for the chemical abortion regimen in order to make abortion cheaper to provide. It thereby enables abusers to continue their exploitation without fear of discovery.

The abortion industry is a consistent source of inequality for both the unborn population and their mothers. As this year’s March for Life champions the equality of all human life, beginning in the womb, let us ceaselessly pray for an end to abortion and all forms of violence that insult the imago Dei.

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