Month Archives: February 2022

Praying for Leah Sharibu After Four Years in Captivity

by Arielle Del Turco

February 18, 2022

Four years ago, Leah Sharibu’s world was turned upside down. She went from being a normal schoolgirl in a rural region of Nigeria to being a captive of a faction of one of the world’s most notorious terrorist groups, Boko Haram.

On February 19, 2018, Boko Haram terrorists attacked the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State, in northeast Nigeria. They kidnapped 109 students. However, they quickly released all but one: Leah Sharibu.

The girls who were released said the terrorists would not free Leah, who was just 14 years old at the time, because she refused to renounce her faith in Christ and convert to Islam. The world has not seen or heard from Leah since, but multiple recent reports indicate that she is still alive.

Reverend Gideon Para-Mallam told Open Doors: “It has been almost four years since Leah’s abduction. What a traumatic experience for this teenage girl. But we are grateful to God that she is still alive. The news of her being alive should encourage our hearts to remain hopeful that one day Leah will be set free.”

Reports indicate that Leah may have two young children at this point, likely a result of rape and/or forced marriage to one of her captors. The truth remains unclear, but one thing is for sure—Leah needs our prayers. Here are three ways you can pray for Leah:

1. Pray for Leah’s release from captivity.

This weekend marks the beginning of Leah’s fourth year in bondage. Pray that her captors would have a miraculous change of heart. Also, pray that the Nigerian government—which has blatantly neglected the pleas for help from Nigerian Christians who are routinely victimized by terrorist attacks—would be motivated to locate and rescue Leah.

2. Pray for Leah’s encouragement and protection.

Persecution can place immense strain on one’s character, mental health, and walk with the Lord. Pray that the Lord would encourage Leah and give her the mental, emotional, and physical strength and perseverance she needs. Pray that no harm would come to her body from Boko Haram terrorists or others.

3. Pray for Leah’s family and the many Christians just like Leah who are facing persecution.

One often-forgotten consequence of persecution is the effect it has on the victims’ families. Since her kidnapping, Leah’s family has been distraught. Her mother does not even have proof that her daughter is alive. She has visited the United States to ask American leaders to urge the Nigerian government to help but has little to show for it. Pray that God would comfort Leah’s family while they wait and pray for Leah’s freedom.

Today, Leah is the face of so many persecuted people whose names and stories the world does not know. She reminds us of the price people pay to follow Christ. As we remember that Leah was captured four years ago, please also pray for the millions of others who face religious persecution in Nigeria, China, North Korea, Pakistan, and far too many other places.

Minority Neighborhoods Need Maternity Wards, Not Crack Pipes

by Joy Zavalick

February 16, 2022

The Biden administration has authorized a new $30 million grant program directing federal funds to purchase “harm reduction” supplies for drug users. It specifically targets minorities, or “underserved communities” like minority neighborhoods. Biden has defended the program by challenging rumors that the “safe smoking kits” funded by the program will contain crack pipes, although other safe smoking programs across the country have indeed distributed smoking pipes. Regardless, the question remains as to why passing out needles and smoking kits to addicts is thought to be meeting the greatest needs of minority communities.

The Biden administration seems to have missed the even deeper needs of underserved minority communities: access to grocery stores, pharmacies, and perhaps most importantly, birth wards and quality medical care. Given that February is Black History Month, there seems to be no better time than the present to consider the disproportionate lack of resources that underserved minority communities face.

Take the nation’s capital, for example. Washington, D.C.’s local government is separated into eight wards roughly equivalent in population size. Although ward boundaries are largely determined by geography, the unfortunate reality is that the wards divide the city’s population by race and socioeconomic status.

The combined population of Wards 7 and 8, which are separated from the rest of the city by the Anacostia River, is over 160,000 people, 90 percent of whom are black. Despite having population sizes roughly equivalent to the other wards, Wards 7 and 8 have a combined total of only three grocery stores. In contrast, the other six wards have a combined total of 71 (an average of 11.8 per ward). Ward 8 has only seven pharmacies to service its 80,517 residents.

There is only one hospital that services Wards 7 and 8—United Medical Center, a poorly-rated hospital that is planning to cease operating entirely by 2023. Notably, there is no hospital with a birth ward east of the Anacostia River, meaning that mothers in Wards 7 and 8 must travel across the river in order to deliver their children. This fact is especially concerning considering that Ward 8 has the highest birth rate in the city. The mortality rate for black mothers in D.C. is 71 per 100,000 live births—50 points higher than the national average of 20.1, which is already the highest rate for any developed country.

A solution to the disproportionately high black maternal mortality rate should include expanded access to the medical care that mothers and babies need to thrive. However, the abortion industry insists that the solution that will empower the black community is advancing abortion, which only ends unborn black babies’ lives. In a recent commentary on Black History Month, Planned Parenthood stated, “When restrictions are placed on birth control and family planning, Black communities bear a disproportionate burden.” For Planned Parenthood, abortion constitutes family planning.

In reality, the black population has the disproportionate burden of being targeted for abortions. Almost 80 percent of surgical abortion facilities are within walking distance of minority neighborhoods. In 2019, black babies represented 38 percent of total U.S. abortions, even though black Americans only comprise 14 percent of the U.S. population. A New York City Health Department report found that between 2012 and 2016, there were 18,299 more black babies aborted than black babies born in the city. Abortion does not empower the black population—rather, it is slowly shrinking it.

The Biden administration’s funding of “safe smoking kits” represents another failure to meet underprivileged communities in their blatantly obvious areas of deepest need. Minority communities need grocery stores, pharmacies, and real health care—not smoking kits, syringes, and abortionists waiting to kill their children.

As the United States celebrates Black History Month, the nation should pause to reflect on the current state of the union for under-resourced minority communities. Despite the immense progress made in the past century, there remain areas in which the black community is neglected or continuously targeted for harm. Initiatives like “harm reduction” programs for drug users and blocking protections for the unborn are red herrings that distract attention from the disparities in resources needed to promote human flourishing.

Praying for a Progressive President

by Joshua Arnold

February 15, 2022

Recently, President Joe Biden signed off on a successful mission in the ongoing fight against the ISIS terrorist organization, taking out ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. According to U.S. intelligence, al-Qurayshi “helped drive and justify the abduction, slaughter, and trafficking of the Yazidi religious minority in northwest Iraq and also led some of the group’s global terrorist operations.” FRC’s Executive Vice President Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin explained, “this was a guy that replaced Baghdadi as the head of ISIS.”

[Biden] deserves a lot of credit for this,” Boykin added. “It was a good decision. This was a good kill.” FRC President Tony Perkins agreed. “I commend the president for taking that action to stop this ISIS leader who had been linked to several terrorist activities in recent months that killed civilians and others.” Family Research Council often criticizes President Biden’s pro-abortion agenda, his promotion of LGBT ideology, and many other policies we believe promote what is morally objectionable. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). But in authorizing this military raid, President Biden did well.

While we often disagree with President Biden’s progressive priorities, we must remember that God commands Christians to honor their rulers (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17), and even to pray for them. The clearest biblical text on this is 1 Timothy 2:1-4, which reads:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

These verses contain three reasons to pray for our rulers. First, it pleases God. This should be the aim of every Christian. If we don’t delight to do what pleases him, it calls into question whether we really love him. Second, that they might be saved. Many rulers are not Christians—both in Paul’s day and in ours. They need Jesus’ righteousness to cover their sins and save them from the wrath of God just like every other person. Third, for the sake of our own hearts, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” We are called not to anger and bitterness and outrage, but “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). That’s only possible if you “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

There is another, less discussed reason to pray for our rulers, which Paul does not address in 1 Timothy 2, but which the recent American military strike illustrates perfectly. That is, that when a nation’s rulers govern well, everyone benefits, including God’s people. For example, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). How does this prompt us to pray for rulers? To answer that question, we have to understand Jeremiah 29.

The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon to counter false prophets who were promising the people a quick deliverance and return to Canaan. Jeremiah explained to the exiles that their exile would continue for 70 years before God would bring them back. Therefore, he sets forth three ways they should conduct themselves:

  • In verse 5 he says, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.” That is, work! Don’t be idle. Improve your property by your own labor.
  • In verse 6 he says, “Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.” That is, don’t neglect the family. Enduring this exile and returning from it is a multi-generational project. Build relationships with your neighbors and plant deep roots.
  • And in verse 7 he says, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). The Jewish exiles are commanded to seek the welfare of Babylon, their enemy and captor. Seeking the welfare of the enemy of God’s people would seem like rebellion against God if God himself had not commanded it. But God through Jeremiah explains that, during their exile, Babylon was their new home. Thus, their welfare was tied to its welfare.

How, then, could Jewish exiles with no political power (except for a few uniquely gifted persons like Daniel) seek the welfare of Babylon? God explains; they seek its welfare by praying to the Lord on its behalf. And what is praying for a nation if not also praying for its rulers? Their own welfare was tied to their prayers for rulers of Babylon.

How does this apply to us today? First, let’s remember that not everything in the Old Testament applies to new covenant believers in the same way that it did to Israelites under the old covenant, and living in the unique, God-ruled theocracy of ancient Israel. Next, let’s note that the letter in Jeremiah 29 is written not to Jews in Canaan, but to Jews in exile in Babylon. New covenant believers are exiles (1 Peter 1:1), whose “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Like the recipients of Jeremiah’s letter, we are living in a place that is not our home, but we are eagerly looking forward to the day when we will finally get to go home at last. Our situation is quite similar to that of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.

Of course, Christians have an additional mission. Israel under the old covenant was tasked with remaining a holy people, distinct from the surrounding nations. Christians are tasked with the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.

As we wait for Jesus to return, and as we make disciples, we should also work, raise families, and seek the welfare of our nation. And that includes praying for our nation’s leaders, whether we like their policies or not. We can pray that they would rule wisely and justly and for the good of all. We can pray that they would pursue policies that allow the gospel to flourish, and that glorify God. We can pray that God would reveal himself to them that they might be saved.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of February 6)

by Family Research Council

February 11, 2022

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

1. Update:  Pelosi Again Disqualifies Olympic Criticism

During the Olympic opening ceremony, China kicked off its Genocide Games with an obvious PR stunt; one of two athletes who lit the Olympic cauldron was a woman of reportedly Uyghur heritage. The unmistakable message China is promoting is that Western criticism is incorrect, that there is no genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinxiang, that the U.S. declaration of genocide is baseless propaganda.

2. Update: Natural Immunity: Don’t Follow the Science Cherry-Pickers

A new study from Johns Hopkins on natural immunity to COVID-19 might prove Anthony Fauci’s worst nightmare. “If you had a positive COVID test in the past, then you had a 99.3 percent chance of having circulating antibodies against COVID, and those antibodies were present up to 20 months,” explained Dr. Marty Makary on “Washington Watch.”

3. Blog: A Year of Biden’s Foreign Policy: Blunders, Chaos, and Human Suffering

President Joe Biden assumed office one year ago, and although he declared at a press conference yesterday that he “probably outperformed what anyone thought would happen” in his first year, Americans are frustrated—and rightfully so. When it comes to foreign policy alone, one can’t help but think that American interests are less secure and our allies more frustrated with us than last year.

4. Blog: On Religious Freedom Day, Let’s Recommit to This Fundamental Human Right

Each year on January 16, America observes Religious Freedom Day. Unlike many others, this observance wasn’t launched in the 20th or 21st century. Its first appearance dates back to a founding American document on the subject, penned by Thomas Jefferson in 1777. Less than 10 years later, the document was enacted into Virginia State Law, and later into America’s First Amendment.

5. Washington Watch: Roger Marshall, Jerry Boykin, Bob Fu, Meg Kilgannon

Tony Perkins was joined by Roger Marshall, U.S. Senator from Kansas, who discussed Democratic governors rescinding COVID restrictions as waves of polling show Americans are ready to move on with life. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, FRC’s Executive Vice President and former commander of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, discussed United States and Iran resuming nuclear talks. Bob Fu, Founder and President of China Aid Association and FRC’s Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom, talked about the growing repression of China on Christians and others. John Stemberger, President and general Counsel for Florida Family Policy Council, responded to President Biden’s comments on Florida’s bill that protects children from inappropriate sex and gender conversations in the classroom. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Education Studies, detailed FRC Action’s candidate school training event in North Carolina.

6. Washington Watch: Chris Smith, John Boozman, Michael Waltz, Marty Makary

Tony Perkins was joined by Chris Smith, U.S. Representative for New Jersey, who discussed the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and why many are referring to it as the “Genocide Games.” John Boozman, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, talked about the Senate Republicans’ letter to the DHS Secretary asking why taxpayer dollars are being used to fly illegal immigrants around the country. Michael Waltz, U.S. Representative for Florida, called out NBC for refusing to air his ad that criticizes China. And, Dr. Marty Makary, Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine & School of Public Health, shared the findings of his newly released study on natural immunity.

7. Washington Watch: Nihal Krishan, Craig Parshall, Dave LaRock, Nury Turkel, Tim Norton, Mark Harris

Tony Perkins was joined by Nihal Krishan, reporter for the Washington Examiner, to address Biden’s FCC nominee, Gigi Sohn, and the impact she could have on swaying the majority in the agency. Craig L. Parshall, attorney and special counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, shared whether Gigi Sohn’s confirmation to FCC could lead to reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. Dave LaRock, Virginia Delegate, discussed the voting happening in the Virginia House on a bill that gives families the ability to opt-out of mask mandates issued by school systems. Nury Turkel, commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious, talked about China’s treatment of the Uyghurs and the CCP’s propaganda during the Olympics. Tim Norton, a trucker from Brooks, Alberta, discussed his personal experience with Canada’s “Freedom Convoy”. And, Dr. Mark Harris, FRC’s vice president for the Association of Churches & Ministries, shared about FRC Action’s recent candidate training event in North Carolina.

Thinking Biblically About Missouri’s SAFE Act

by David Closson

February 11, 2022

Earlier this week, Missouri state representative Suzie Pollock introduced HB 2649, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act. If passed, this legislation would prohibit puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and so-called gender reassignment surgeries for minors. The bill also prohibits the public funding, insurance coverage, and referral of such procedures for minors. Arkansas became the first state to pass a SAFE Act last year.

There are many reasons for Christians to support the SAFE Act. These include protecting children from experimental procedures linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and sterility. Studies have also shown that 85 percent of children experiencing feelings of distress as a result of a perceived incongruity between their psychological, self-perceived “gender identity” and their biological sex eventually come to accept their sex around or after puberty. Puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries do not help children grow out of their gender distress. Moreover, there are risks, complications, and concerns associated with gender reassignment surgery for both males and females, as the procedures involve the alteration or removal of biologically normal and functional body parts.

In addition to practical, medical, and ethical reasons to support the SAFE Act, there are also theological reasons for Christians to support the legislation. If law is inherently pedagogical, Christians should support the passage of laws that tell the truth about the human body. And the truth about our bodies is that God made two distinct yet complementary sexes, male and female. Thus, although the SAFE Act focuses on protecting minor children for physiological reasons, there are theological reasons for Christians to support the underlying principles affirmed in this bill, namely, that one’s maleness or femaleness is inextricably tied to biological sex and integral to one’s personhood.

First, the most fundamental distinction between men and women relates to biology. Genetically, men have XY chromosomes; women have XX chromosomes. Thus, when a male asserts that he is a female, he asserts an objective falsehood in terms of biology and genetics. The reality of biological sex cannot be changed by so-called gender transition or reassignment surgery. Surgeries cannot change a person’s genetic blueprint, and while genital surgery may sterilize an individual, it cannot bestow the reproductive capacity of the opposite sex. In other words, a person remains in their biological sex regardless of the gender with which they choose to identify.

This difference between the sexes is taught in Scripture. Moreover, the nature of the difference (i.e., biology) is also affirmed. Genesis 1:26-27 explains God’s original design for the sexes:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

 So God created man in his own image,

    in the image of God he created him;

    male and female he created them.

In verse 26, the focus is on what the man and the woman have in common (i.e., they’re both made in God’s image and tasked with exercising dominion over the created world), but verse 27 highlights the difference (i.e., humanity’s creation as male and female). And this difference is crucial. According to the Bible, God did not create androgynous beings; He created two distinct yet complementary individuals. In other words, the creation of male and female is not accidental or incidental but central to God’s design of human beings created in His image.

Arising from the Bible’s teaching in Genesis 1:27 is the question of what constitutes the difference between the man and the woman. In other words, what is the nature of the difference?  Although increasingly disputed, most people agree that there is something different between male and female. However, it is the nature of this difference that is fiercely contested. Transgender ideology suggests that one’s self-perception determines maleness or femaleness; one’s reproductive structures are inconsequential to the discussion. According to this logic, one’s self-understanding would determine one’s so-called gender identity, but reproductive anatomy would not. But the context of Genesis 1 shows that biology cannot be divorced from maleness or femaleness; in fact, biology is the ultimate determiner of sex and gender.

The fact that biology determines sex is seen in Genesis 1:28 which says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” A key component of obeying God’s direction to Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply”—often known as the creation mandate—is procreation which is only possible with two biologically and genetically sexed individuals. Neither the man nor woman could fulfill God’s charge to fill the earth alone. In context, “male and female” in Genesis 1:27 must refer to the differing ways that human bodies are organized for sexual reproduction.

The implication of this teaching is clear. Even if someone feels strongly that they are “male,” they are wrong if their perception of their sex is not in line with their biological makeup. In a fallen world where the consequences of humanity’s initial sin affect our minds as well as our bodies, what we think about ourselves can be mistaken.

In other words, if someone is struggling with gender-confused feelings, a pastor, on the authority of God’s Word, can (and should) kindly tell them that their body isn’t lying to them. A person’s maleness or femaleness isn’t socially constructed. Rather, sex is something that is revealed by God in his special design of male and female bodies.

Second, there is a social dimension to the distinction between male and female. This dimension is touched on in Genesis 2:18, 21-25 which says,

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” …. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

   This at last is bone of my bones

    and flesh of my flesh;

  she shall be called Woman,

    because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

This passage shows that complementarity between the sexes is embedded in God’s good creation. In verse 18, the word “helper” designates a social role for Eve within her marriage to Adam—a role that is inextricably linked to her biological sex. Adam’s creation before Eve and his charge from God designates a social role within his marriage to Eve—a role that is likewise inextricably linked to his biological sex. He is to be the leader, protector, and provider within this marriage covenant.

As ethicist Denny Burk has argued, the implication of this teaching is that God has so made the world that there is a normative connection between biological sex and the social dimension of maleness and femaleness. The social roles of the first man and woman in Genesis 2 are inextricably connected to their biological sex. The New Testament reveals that these roles are not merely descriptive of the first marriage but as normative for every subsequent marriage (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:21-33). 

Additionally, the social order of the first family presumes a normative connection between biological sex and social roles designed for that sex. It also presumes that a man understands himself to be a man and that a woman understands herself to be a woman. Self-identity and bodily identity match one another.

Finally, the Bible teaches that the difference between male and female is good. Consider Paul’s reflection on the Genesis creation account in 1 Timothy 4:4-5: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”

Where does Paul get the idea that everything created by God is “good”? Paul is simply reading Genesis 1, which says that God looked at what he had made throughout the six days of creation and said that it was “good.” And when God made the first male and female bodies, he said it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Paul affirms that what was true about male and female design before the Fall is still true after the Fall. This means that even though God’s good design in creation may be marred by the Fall and by sin, God’s good design is not erased by the Fall and by sin.

The Bible is clear that the distinction between male and female is biological and social. In the biblical worldview, the differences between male and female are also “good” because God declared them good. The responsibility of Christians is to understand and believe these truths. Pastors especially must understand the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and disciple their congregations to think faithfully about them.

The logic of the transgender movement has become so ingrained in many places around our country that even some doctors—those who have pledged to “do no harm”—are willing to perform irreversible procedures that remove perfectly healthy organs on children experiencing gender confusion.

Our cultural moment provides an opportunity for the church to speak into this confusion. And while we pray for revival, we also need to see that barring a move of God in our nation, the culture is only going to get worse and that as the Overton Window shifts on how society thinks about sexuality, it’ll only get harder and harder to pass good legislation.

In short, the urgency of the moment and the weightiness of the subject matter (protecting children) is why legislators should take advantage of the opportunities we have to pass legislation like the SAFE Act. It is also why Christians everywhere should study God’s Word on what it means to be male and female and why we should teach these truths in our churches, Christian schools, and homes.

God’s Good Design for Marriage (Part 1): Male and Female He Created Them

by Joshua Arnold

February 10, 2022

This is the first part of a multi-part series on God’s good design for marriage.

It’s no secret that today’s popular culture opposes Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality. The Christian view of marriage has become so incomprehensible in America and throughout Western culture that it is seen as downright offensive. Recent examples include American tech giant YouTube removing a John MacArthur sermon clip on transgenderism as “hate speech,” the Canadian parliament approving a new law which could criminalize preaching and teaching against homosexuality or transgenderism, and Finland’s top prosecutor prosecuting a bishop on criminal charges for publishing a booklet titled, “Male and Female He Created Them.” All that was just last month.

Many Christians are influenced by our culture’s negative view of marriage—and not for the better. But we don’t have to listen to the culture’s lies; we have God’s Word, which is truth. The Bible says a lot about marriage, portraying it in such glorious splendor that the world’s flashy counterfeits look dim by comparison. Every Christian can afford to spend more time tuning out the world and tuning in to God’s Word. That is the goal of this series: to examine God’s good design for marriage, taking as our guide the Word of God itself.

This series will begin, appropriately, in the beginning, by looking at Genesis 1:26-31. Moses wrote Genesis for the people of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. Genesis describes God’s promise to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the beginnings of God’s relationship with man. In these verses, God’s creation of the world reaches its crescendo in the creation of man (that is, the race of mankind—men and women). Many Christian doctrines are grounded in these verses, but for the present, let’s consider three specific points.

1. God Created Man

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

Four times in two verses, Moses repeats that God created man. With any human creator, we readily understand that the creator has total power and authority over his creation. He made it, so he decides how it works and what purpose it serves. That is God’s relationship with man, as the frequent analogy of the potter and the clay depicts (Isaiah 29:15-16, Jeremiah 18:1-12, Romans 9:20-21). God has the sole, unquestionable authority and power to determine how mankind works and what purpose we serve. Men may not naturally like that very much, but reality does not conform itself to our desires. We are not gods.

Besides, complaining about God’s authority is foolishness because God’s purposes for mankind are far better than any we could invent for ourselves. We are created “in his own image.” An image, such as we find in a photograph or mirror, is not the thing itself, but it is “like” that thing. It bears a resemblance to it such that an observer can recognize the original in its image. In Genesis 5:3, we find similar language, “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” Just as a child looks like his parents, so God created man to look like God himself.

These are two ironclad reasons for the dignity of mankind and the sanctity of human life. We are created by God, so anyone who harms or criticizes another human being is harming or criticizing God’s handiwork, God’s prized possession. We bear God’s image, so anyone who harms a person is defacing an image of God’s character.

It’s fair to ask, in what way do humans bear the image of God? After all, “God is spirit” (John 4:24), so he doesn’t have a body like we do. And God is invisible (Colossians 1:15), so to say we literally look like him is nonsensical. The first answer is that, like God and unlike other creatures, we also are spirits. The second answer is that God uses metaphors of the body to describe himself in ways we can understand. In various places, the Bible speaks of God’s eyes (Genesis 6:8), ears (Psalm 18:6), mouth (Numbers 12:8), lips (Job 23:12), face (Matthew 18:10), nostrils (Isaiah 65:5), arm (Acts 13:7), hands (Hebrews 10:31), fingers (Psalm 8:3), back (Exodus 33:23), and feet (Exodus 24:10). Christians don’t understand these passages to mean that God literally possesses all these body parts. Rather, these metaphors describe God’s power in ways we can comprehend. God’s ears refer to what God hears. God’s mouth refers to what God says. Christian meditations on this question could fill libraries (here’s a summary), but, for our purposes, it’s sufficient to establish that God created mankind as an image of himself.

We also read, “male and female he created them.” This phrase helps us to interpret the rest of these verses; when it says God created “man” in his image, we can understand that the text is referring to the creation of both men and women—the entire human race. Another way to say the same thing is that the image of God in mankind is incomplete without considering both male and female. Thus, God’s relationship to his children is explained both as a father (Psalm 103:13) and as a mother (Isaiah 66:13). (This is not to say that God is feminine; God may nurture his children like a mother, but he is their Father (Isaiah 64:8). Scripture exclusively refers to God with masculine pronouns.)

Genesis teaches that men and women are both made in the image of God, and both participate in the inherent dignity of that image. Thus, Christianity has historically taught (usually in opposition to prevailing cultural norms) that men and women possess equal dignity and worth. Moreover, Christians have historically fought to protect the dignity and value of women. This is also why the transgender movement sweeping the Western world cannot be reconciled with Christian teaching. Transgender ideology teaches that gender is a social construct that can be altered and that bodies should be altered to conform to a person’s chosen identity. Christianity teaches that a person’s sex is an innate, immutable characteristic created by God to reflect his character. Thus, cosmetically altering a person’s body is defacing God’s image, lying about his character, and usurping his lordship.

Marriage is implied in this creation of male and female. John Piper writes in This Momentary Marriage, “Marriage is God’s doing because it was his design in the creation of man as male and female.” Jesus himself cites Genesis 1:26 as a prooftext for marriage (Mark 10:6, Matthew 19:4). We’ll explore this more in part two of this series on Genesis 2, where Moses explains that a man and his wife “shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Mankind exists to portray God’s image as male and female, according to God’s created order. God has the authority to order our lives because he is our maker. But he uses that authority for our good, as we will see in our next point.

2. God Blessed Them

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

It’s challenging to interpret what Scripture means by the phrase “God blessed them.” Perhaps a rough approximation would be “God made them happy.” The verses that follow explain how, beginning with a succession of imperative verbs: “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion….” If it was unclear from “be fruitful” (the Hebrew word for “offspring” is “seed,” see Genesis 3:15), the use of the word “multiply” makes it clear that God wanted the first human couple to reproduce. Genesis 1 teaches that human reproduction was part of God’s blessing on mankind from the very beginning. And they weren’t told to merely procreate at a replacement rate; they were told to “fill the earth.” Here are two blessings for mankind from God: sex within marriage and, as a result, plenty of children (see Psalm 127:3-5). The culture may mock these truths to its own detriment, but the Bible is very clear on them.

Another part of this blessing is mankind’s role as middle magistrates. God proceeds to tell Adam and Eve to “subdue [the earth]” and “have dominion… over every living thing.” Because of the image of God they bear, they are exalted to a position of authority over the rest of creation (see Psalm 8:5-8). Notice these verbs are all imperatives. While blessings from God, these are also commands from God. Mankind has authority over all creation but is itself under God’s authority. The centurion understood this (Matthew 8:5-13), but Adam and Eve rebelled (Genesis 3:1-7). Learning to live under authority and wielding authority well are crucial aspects of a healthy marriage, as we’ll see later in this series.

3. It Was Very Good

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

The last point to consider from Genesis 1 is that everything God made, in his infallible judgment, was “very good.” That includes God’s creation of mankind as male and female in his image, the institution of marriage, and the command to be fruitful and multiply. God designed marriage, and he declared that it was very good.

Perhaps this strikes you as incredible. After all, our world is filled with sad, painful stories of people suffering from spousal abuse, parental abuse, difficult marriages, gender dysphoria, and rebellious children. How could marriage and family relationships, with all the disorder and hurt we see in them, be designed by God and declared “very good”?

First, what we witness today isn’t God’s original design. The Bible explains that our familial relationships are cursed with pain and strife (Genesis 3:16) as the result of our first parents’ rebellion against God (Genesis 3:6). Through their disobedience, sin entered the world, bringing death and suffering along with it (Romans 5:12). As a result of sin, many things God designed for pleasure (like childbearing and marriage) are now full of pain.

But as we struggle against the effects of the curse, we can still affirm that God’s design is good. As we strive to live according to God’s Word, we will come to experience the goodness of his plan. It’s a duty that is filled with pleasure and joy.

Second, God designed marriage for other reasons, which weren’t revealed in Genesis 1. Just because God’s good design for marriage has been sadly marred and warped doesn’t mean that marriage can’t still fulfill some of its good purposes. But that’s for future parts in this series to explore.

Read part two.

Progressive “Deals” Are Usually Highways Going Nowhere Quickly

by Joshua Arnold

February 7, 2022

Conservatives in Congress keep falling for the same old trick. The other side will reach across the aisle and promise to have a sincere desire for bipartisan engagement on commonsense problem-solving for the good of the American people. Conservatives will eventually take their olive branch and then, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes enthusiastically, climb on board a bus that only turns Left.

Infrastructure” Bill

The most recent example is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on November 15 after 19 Republican senators and 13 Republican representatives voted with Democrats to pass it through both chambers (six House Democrats voted “no”). It was framed as a package to fund America’s infrastructure, an issue with bipartisan support that shouldn’t be controversial. This framing helped the bill pass a narrowly-divided Congress because everyone benefits from improved infrastructure.

But not so fast, warned The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial board. A memo from Stephanie Pollack, deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), laid out guidelines for distributing the funds that are almost as partisan as they are tedious. The memo states:

This Policy prioritizes projects that move more people and freight by modernizing and increasing the operation efficiency of existing roads and highways over projects that expand the general purpose capacity of roads and highways. Consistent with this Policy, FHWA will implement policies and undertake actions to encourage—and where permitted by law, require—recipients of Federal highway funding to select projects that improve the condition and safety of existing transportation infrastructure within the right-of-way before advancing projects that add new general purpose travel lanes serving single occupancy vehicles. (emphasis added)

The main idea this stilted, bureaucratic jargon fails to conceal is this: some projects will be prioritized over others.

On the list of winners are projects that “moderniz[e]” or “increase[e] the operation efficiency,” which is code for mass transit, or as the memo states elsewhere, “new and emerging technologies like electric vehicle charging stations.” On the list of losers are “projects that add new general purpose travel lanes serving single occupancy vehicles,” which the WSJ editors helpfully summarized: “She means cars.” In fact, before the FHWA will dispense roadway funds to help widen that over-traveled artery you take to work each day, it will “encourage—and where permitted by law, require” your state or local government to do something like add bus stops or run light rail down the median.

Thus, the “highway” funds (“only $110 billion out of $1.2 Trillion”) from the ostensibly-bipartisan infrastructure bill will benefit urban centers, where such projects are viable, over rural areas, where cars are a necessity. Part of the rationale (stated clearly in the memo) is hostility toward fossil fuels, a luxury opinion only rich urbanites can afford to indulge. But another (unstated) part of the rationale could be the growing rural-urban, red-blue political divide; the progressives who control and staff executive agencies don’t mind rewarding their allies and punishing their opponents. The WSJ editors conclude, “don’t be surprised when federal agencies continue to steer ‘bipartisan’ infrastructure funds toward progressive priorities.”

COVID-19 Relief” Bill

Of course, very few Americans care about “highways”—at most, they will care about a highway, the one they use most often. However, the case offers a particularly striking example of standard progressive tactics.

The other major bill passed into law during President Biden’s first year in office was the American Rescue Plan Act, which also passed with bipartisan support because it was framed as a COVID-19 relief measure, although much of the $1.9 trillion spent had nothing to do with coronavirus. That bill appropriated over $450 billion without making clear that these funds cannot be used to pay for abortions or go to abortion businesses. This is on top of the over $80 million that Planned Parenthood already received from the Paycheck Protection Program through previous COVID-19 relief bills. This supposedly non-controversial, bipartisan, must-pass bill may have been the largest abortion bill Congress has passed in a decade.

Women in the Draft

Last year, Democrats in Congress tried the same trick with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA funds our military every year, so Republicans are typically in favor of it. But in 2021, gender ideologues inserted a provision that would require women to register for the Selective Service. At the last moment, a handful of Republicans made removing that provision their top priority, but it nearly became the law of the land.

Obamacare

Progressives have been using this tactic for a long time. For example, when Congress was considering the Affordable Care Act in 2011, pro-life Democrats went along with their party’s overhaul of the health care system based on the guarantee that the bill would not fund abortions, and President Obama signed an executive order to that effect. Yet, Obamacare continues to subsidize abortions through health insurance plans.

Conclusion: Don’t Give in to Fake Compromise

For conservatives in Washington, bipartisanship is often a poorly-concealed snare. Bipartisanship requires shared values, and, generally speaking, the modern progressive Left isn’t interested in compromise, consensus, or finding common ground. The progressive Left is aggressively seeking power at any cost. They want to radically transform America. And to impose unpopular ideas on a “government of the people,” they have to lie about their intentions.

Sometimes people on the Right preemptively surrender the battlefield in search of peace. For example, for years, progressives have endorsed the far-Left Equality Act, which would establish special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity and expand abortion access in federal law over and above other federally guaranteed rights such as religious freedom, women’s rights, and parental rights. Some Republicans are so alarmed by the implications of this bill that they have proposed their own, “compromise” version, titled Fairness for All. Fairness for All is essentially just the Equality Act with insufficient religious carve-outs. But this so-called “compromise” only features concessions from one side. Progressives have dug their heels in so firmly on the issue that they aren’t even pretending to care about the proposal by these few Republicans. Both the Equality Act and Fairness for All would still radically reorient American law around LGBT identity categories. If that happens, I wouldn’t put my money on the survival of religious exemptions.

The problem with compromise in today’s political climate is that progressives don’t want compromise. When they offer a “compromise,” it’s almost always in bad faith. Sometimes compromise becomes a white whale, which some Republicans chase, heedless of prudence or the reality of the situation. And when they finally get their bearings, they realize they’re miles down a highway going nowhere quickly.

Biden Willfully Ignores America’s Pro-Life Heartbeat

by Joy Zavalick

February 7, 2022

On the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, President Joe Biden once again kowtowed to the abortion lobby by announcing a new task force on “Reproductive Healthcare Access.” This move was accompanied by a grant of $6.6 million to abortion businesses in seven states—with a total of $1,408,536 concentrated in Texas. Biden’s insistence on attacking the vulnerable in a state that has democratically chosen to protect unborn lives past detection of a fetal heartbeat is further evidence of what has always been true: Biden is incredibly out of touch with Americans’ pro-life values. Thankfully, faithful pro-life legislators are refusing to back down from protecting the unborn citizens of their states.

The pro-life movement is hoping 2022 will be the year the U.S. Supreme Court finally overturns Roe v. Wade. The focal point of this optimism is the Court’s upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case concerning whether Mississippi’s law protecting unborn children after 15 weeks gestation is constitutional. If the Court sides with the state of Mississippi, that could spell the end of the current legal precedent set by Roe and its companion case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which prevent pre-viability protections for the unborn.

Although the Dobbs case could bring a massive pro-life triumph if the Court sides with Mississippi, it is important not to lose sight of the many smaller-scale pro-life victories also happening in the states.

One of these victories recently took place in Lubbock, Texas. In May 2021, the citizens of Lubbock voted in favor of making their city a sanctuary for the unborn, with 62 percent supporting the lifesaving measure. Planned Parenthood initially attempted to block the city ordinance. But on January 21, it dropped its appeal, marking the first time since Roe that a law completely protecting the unborn beginning at conception survived a court challenge. This could prove to be a prophetic moment in the year the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe. Either way, it is proof of Texans’ dedication to protecting the lives of the unborn.

In another Lonestar state victory, the Texas Heartbeat Bill, which protects the unborn after the detection of a fetal heartbeat (typically around 3 to 4 weeks after fertilization), has once again survived a legal challenge thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court rejected a request to send the bill to a federal district court and instead returned it to a state-level court. The bill credits its survival to its unprecedented enforcement mechanism that allows private citizens to bring suits against abortionists or their accomplices. Since going into effect in September, the bill has protected an estimated 4,500 babies each month, resulting in over 15,000 Texan babies saved today.

The Texas Heartbeat Bill has inspired legislation around the country as states seek similar protections for their unborn citizens. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem announced two pro-life bills last Friday during the March for Life. One of the bills protects life after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, employing the same unique enforcement system as Texas. The other bill requires a physician to examine a woman in person before dispensing chemical abortion pills. This would add a level of protection for women from some of the abortion pill regimen’s serious health risks that are only increased by mail order or telemedicine prescribed pills. This bill would turn Noem’s existing executive order into law.

Another heartbeat protection was introduced in Arizona in January, and a Georgia bill to require in-person examinations prior to chemical abortions was introduced last Tuesday. In Nebraska, pro-life senators outdid the heartbeat bill they introduced earlier this year with a new bill that protects life from conception and only makes exceptions for medical emergencies. This influx of state-level legislation to protect life is essential, as an overturn of Roe would likely give states the opportunity to decide the level of protection they will offer the unborn. 

Although the overturning of Roe and Casey is the preeminent goal of the pro-life movement this year, advocates’ hopes for change do not rest in Dobbs alone but also in the smaller-scale victories. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (NIV). The pro-life movement is unwavering in its pursuit of justice for the most vulnerable humans. Regardless of the outcome in Dobbs, pro-lifers will find their motivation in the overarching goal of protecting defenseless babies.

In his speech at the March for Life, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who is the House Pro-Life Caucus Chair, encouraged the crowd of thousands when he said, “The injustice of abortion need not be forever.” Congressman Smith is correct in his hopes—the abortion industry is living on borrowed time so long as faithful pro-life advocates continue to persevere in efforts large and small. Despite his best efforts, President Biden cannot shake the pro-life heartbeat of the United States.

A Welcome Defeat of Assisted Suicide in Virginia

by Mary Szoch

February 4, 2022

Yesterday, the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee considered legislation legalizing assisted suicide, SB 688. Thankfully, with a vote of 7-7-1, this legislation failed. Modeled after similar bills across the country, SB 688 would have allowed a patient with a six-month terminal diagnosis to request and ingest medication for the explicit purpose of ending their own life.

Oregon was the first state to legalize assisted suicide in 1997. Since that time, nine other states and the District of Columba have also legalized it. Although proponents of assisted suicide argue it “empowers” everyone to dictate their end of life, this misguided desire for complete control has the unintended consequence of creating a culture in which certain lives are deemed unworthy of living.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, which has compiled over 20 years of data on assisted suicide, excruciating pain is not the reason most people choose assisted suicide. The top five reasons for choosing assisted suicide are the inability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable; the loss of autonomy; the loss of dignity; the feeling of being a burden on family, friends, or caregivers; and loss of control of bodily functions. These struggles are incredibly challenging, but they by no means devalue a person’s life. People facing struggles such as these need true compassion based in the willingness to share their suffering.

People with disabilities are some of assisted suicide’s strongest opponents. They recognize that every person has dignity and that many of the reasons deemed valid for ending a life are challenges people with disabilities overcome every day. Certainly, not everyone who lives with a disability has a terminal illness, but at some point, everyone who has a terminal illness will experience some form of disability. People aren’t choosing to end their lives because of their terminal illness but because of the disabilities caused by their terminal illness. Legalizing assisted suicide sends the message that a life with disabilities is not a life worth living.

In a profit-driven health care system, the odds are already stacked against people with disabilities. So states need to pass legislation protecting people with disabilities from discrimination—not legislation that allows insurance companies to choose to cover the cheapest option, lethal drugs, instead of actual care.

People with disabilities are not the only ones negatively impacted by this discriminatory practice. All people—especially minorities—who have disparate access to health care feel its effects. As Anita Cameron, minority outreach director for Not Dead Yet, said, “As long as racial disparities and disability discrimination exist in health care, assisted suicide cannot be the answer.” Sadly, in both Oregon and California, patients who would not have been terminal had they received medical care have been refused treatment and instead offered assisted suicide drugs.

Moreover, the option of assisted suicide prevents people with terminal illnesses from getting the mental health support they desperately need. Medical literature suggests that 25 to 77 percent of patients with terminal illnesses suffer from major depression. Yet, since its legalization in 1998, only four percent of patients who died through assisted suicide were referred for psychiatric evaluation. Tragically, instead of receiving the help they need, patients are offered the option to kill themselves. The assisted suicide legislation does not require family notification or the presence of a witness at the time of death. And so, those struggling with the desire to end their lives by taking the lethal drugs may simply suffer in silence until their death, with heartbroken loved ones left wondering if they could have done more.

The legalization of assisted suicide attempts to normalize and affirm the suicide of patients with terminal illnesses; however, it has the unintended consequence of normalizing and affirming suicide itself. For those suffering from suicide ideation, this has tragic consequences. The Centers for Disease Control reported a 49 percent increase in the suicide rate in Oregon from 1999-2010, as opposed to a 28 percent increase nationally.

The assisted suicide legislation proposed in Virginia disregards the value of human life and opens the door for exploitation and coercion. Pray that assisted suicide legislation would fail and for a renewed respect for the dignity of the human person—not only in Virginia but in all 50 states.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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