FRC Blog

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

by Arielle Del Turco

January 20, 2022

President Joe Biden assumed office exactly 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.

No Biden-era disaster is more prominent or caused more human suffering than the mishandling of the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The quick rise of the Taliban led to an economic collapse in a country where most people already lived below the poverty line. Now, desperate and mournful Afghan parents are selling their daughters into child marriages just to feed the rest of their family for a few more months and survive the winter.

Although the Taliban promised to respect human rights, women are feeling the brunt of that lie. Afghan women who served in the military or police are in hiding, as are female athletes. Afghan girls and female university students have been kept at home and out of school, maybe forever. The United States spent 20 years investing in women’s rights efforts in Afghanistan. After one year of Biden’s leadership, all of that progress is down the drain.

Vulnerable Afghan religious minorities might have the most to lose with the rise of the Taliban. This year’s World Watch List from Open Doors named Afghanistan the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. Yet, religious minorities were not included among the Afghan groups who received Priority 2 status from the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

Meanwhile, our adversaries feel confident testing the president, and Biden’s weakness on the world stage has given them every reason to do so.

Certain Biden gaffes have left policy wonks wondering if the president even knows what he’s talking about. He seemed to abandon a long-term policy of strategic ambiguity about how the United States would respond if China invaded Taiwan, forcing the White House to backtrack and say the policy hadn’t changed. When a military conflict is at stake, Biden’s gaffes are not endearing—they’re potentially deadly. Biden should be taking practical steps to support Taiwan, including selling it necessary defense weapons and welcoming Taiwanese leaders in international forums as the island’s legitimate government.

Ukraine also has reason to feel uncertain of the United States’ support. Earlier this week, Biden indicated that “a minor incursion” of Russian forces into Ukraine might not be met with much pushback. It’s an abominable thing to say when Ukraine is vulnerable and Russian troops have amassed along its border. European allies were flustered that the president would make such a statement openly.

U.S. relations with some American allies are more strained than before. When the Biden administration negotiated a deal in secret to sell submarines to Australia, it effectively canceled an earlier agreement between France and Australia, one that was critical for France’s defense industry. To the French, it was a slap in the face. France responded by recalling its ambassador to the United States, a move reflecting heightened tensions between the two countries.

This month, the Biden administration withdrew its support for a proposed natural-gas pipeline from Israel to Europe, a decision with negative economic ramifications for Israel and Europe. This reversal from the Trump administration’s position is frustrating our friends and pleasing Russia and Turkey. Biden sold himself as someone who would “repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.” Sadly, some American allies in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East might not think that goal is being achieved.

Of course, U.S. promotion of religious freedom abroad—championed by former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—is waning. Although Rashad Hussain took the reigns as the new ambassador-at-large this month, the momentum on international religious freedom has drastically diminished under Biden’s leadership.

In November, the Biden administration removed Nigeria from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) on religious freedom, despite increased violence against Christians in rural Nigerian communities throughout the year. The move gives Nigerian leaders who failed to protect religious communities from violence a free pass.

President Biden neglected to host a Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, an annual gathering of foreign diplomats and world leaders to strategize promoting religious freedom around the world. The Trump administration held two such gatherings in Washington that were widely deemed successful. It’s time to bring the Ministerial back. The problem of religious persecution hasn’t subsided, and neither should U.S. government attention on the issue.

Biden’s first year in office has been full of foreign policy challenges, many of his own making. A clear “Biden Doctrine” might not yet have come into view, but a year of foreign policy marked with blunders, chaos, and human suffering is a shame—not merely for the American people who entrusted Biden with our foreign policy, but for people around the world. The Biden administration’s actions will have countless ramifications for years to come.

Continue reading

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

by David Closson

January 18, 2022

Since 1993, the United States has formally observed Religious Freedom Day on January 16. The day honors the nation’s first religious freedom law, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, passed in 1786. Like other presidents before him, 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.

In his proclamation, President Biden described religious freedom as a “cornerstone of who we are as a Nation” and a “vital aspect of our American character.” The president also said that “protecting religious freedom is as important now as it has ever been.” On these points, the president is right. Enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, religious freedom is central to our national identity. But even though the president’s comments rightly place religious freedom as essential to the American way of life, his administration has unfortunately failed to meaningfully protect the rights of the faithful.

For example, following his inauguration on January 20, 2021, the new president issued an executive order that requires federal agencies to interpret federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination as also prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In doing so, Biden expanded the holding of the problematic Bostock v. Clayton County U.S. Supreme Court decision far beyond its intended scope of employment discrimination.

On February 4, 2021, President Biden issued a memorandum on “Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World.” This memorandum “reaffirms and supplements” an Obama administration executive order that sought to ensure “United States diplomacy and foreign assistance promote[s] and protect[s] the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons everywhere.” What this really means is imposing the far Left’s human sexuality agenda onto other countries, including U.S. allies with laws upholding natural marriage and human sexuality. This is just one example of how instead of prioritizing religious freedom overseas, the Biden administration has given preference to radical LGBT policies.

Another example is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) memorandum issued on February 11, 2021, which applied the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision to the administration and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. The likely ramifications of this action could include HUD-funded shelters for battered women being mandated to allow biological men to be housed alongside women, where they may share private spaces such as sleeping quarters and bathrooms.

On February 14, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order dismantling the previous administration’s White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, replacing it with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The accompanying fact sheet revealed that the office would function as an intersectional advancement of progressive policies—a shift away from preserving religious freedom and towards ensuring religious entities that want to work with the government do not operate according to their religious beliefs that are counter to the LGBT agenda.

On March 8, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order establishing a White House Gender Policy Council. The accompanying fact sheet states that the council will “aggressively protect” certain groups, including the LGBT community, in its endeavor to “advance equal rights and opportunities, regardless of gender or gender identity, in advancing domestic and foreign policy.” The removal of the scientific and biological parameters of sex will prevent this council from adequately protecting and addressing the needs of biological women.

The same day, President Biden issued another executive order declaring that “the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions)” to ensure they line up with the LGBT agenda.

On March 26, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memorandum on the application of Bostock to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, paving the way for schools’ mandatory acceptance of gender identity ideology. In addition, President Biden issued a statement on May 17 recognizing “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia,” which celebrates the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declassifying homosexuality as a mental disorder. He touted the administration’s work on the issue and called on Congress to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would erode the freedom of houses of worship, religious schools and students, and faith-based organizations.

When he was inaugurated last year, President Biden inherited a federal bureaucracy accustomed to defending religious freedom. Under the previous administration, America’s “first freedom” had been prioritized and actively protected. For example, the DOJ vigorously enforced laws that protected prayer and religious expression. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its Office of Civil Rights to enforce federal laws that protect conscience rights and religious freedom. The U.S. State Department hosted an annual ministerial highlighting religious freedom issues abroad. In other words, the Trump administration embraced policies that valued religious freedom and actively protected the rights of people of faith.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration has managed to undo or undermine many of these policies, relegating religious freedom to the backseat while pursuing radical policies couched in “anti-discrimination” language.

Less than a decade ago, President Barack Obama commemorated Religious Freedom Day by declaring, “individuals should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind—and of the heart and soul.” The idea of living out one’s faith means that one’s convictions apply to the whole of life. True religious freedom means someone should have the freedom to believe what they want in terms of doctrine and theology and have the freedom to order their life according to their deepest convictions.

Unfortunately, despite the pro-religious freedom rhetoric, the Biden administration is failing to protect these rights and is seemingly working overtime to roll back some of the hard-won protections secured by the previous administration.

Continue reading

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of January 9)

by Family Research Council

January 14, 2022

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

1. Update: Swimmers Pool Their Resources to Fight Trans Onslaught

For parents in the stands at a recent Ivy League swim meet, there was only one way to describe it: “messed up.” In the head-to-head match-up of two “transitioning” athletes (one male-to-female, another female-to-male), most of the sports world is still rattled. Moms and dads who were there to witness it say they still can’t shake the image of one swimmer’s scars from a recent mastectomy.

2. Update: Dems’ Comparison to Pearl Harbor Bombs

The best person to host a “democracy summit” probably isn’t someone who wants to undermine elections, use the courts to subvert the rule of law, and thinks the best kind of government ignores individual freedoms. But then, Joe Biden probably isn’t the best person to lead a democracy either.

3. Blog: Don’t Let Biden Off the Hook for the Disaster He Left in Afghanistan

The media has largely moved on from the Afghanistan debacle, and many are all too eager to sweep the consequences of President Biden’s botched withdrawal under the rug. Yet, the repercussions will last lifetimes. Currently, hundreds of Afghan parents and family members are seeking help for their starving children.

4. Blog: China’s Tragic War on Uyghur Women

Recently, an independent tribunal in the United Kingdom released a judgment that found the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur people to be consistent with the legal definition of genocide. Multiple governments have made the same pronouncement, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Belgium.

5. Washington Watch: Roy Blunt, Ken Paxton, Kevin Miller, Hayden Ludwig

Tony Perkins was joined by Roy Blunt, U.S. Senator from Missouri, to discuss the upcoming vote in the U.S. Senate to change the filibuster and pave the way for the elections takeover bill. Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, discussed President Biden’s Atlanta speech pushing the Democrats’ elections takeover bill. Kevin Miller, Administrative Pastor of Foothills Church in El Cajon, California, gave an update after California state government officials shut down his church’s preschool over COVID protocols. And, Hayden Ludwig of Capital Research Center shared his research showing how left-wing ‘dark money’ groups are funding Senator Schumer’s secretive anti-filibuster campaign.

6. Washington Watch: Jeff Landry, Simon Calvert, Connor Semelsberger, David Closson

Joseph Backholm was joined by Jeff Landry, Louisiana Attorney General, to analyze the Supreme Court oral arguments regarding two of President Biden’s vaccine mandates. Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs at the Christian Institute, discussed a European Court of Human Rights ruling in favor of a Christian bakery that declined to create a same-sex wedding cake. FRC’s Connor Semelsberger detailed how American opposition to the Build Government Bigger Bill has dampened support among Democrats in competitive races. And, David Closson, FRC’s Director of the Center for Biblical Worldview, explained why Christians must form a biblical worldview and what the Bible says is the role of government regarding vaccine mandates.

7. Washington Watch: Katherine Johnson, Joni Ernst, Todd Rokita, Mike Braun, J. Christian Adams

Tony Perkins was joined by FRC’s Katherine Johnson to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court blocking Biden’s OSHA vaccine mandate for businesses but allowing the vaccine mandate for health care workers to go into effect. Joni Ernst, U.S. Senator from Iowa, talked about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moving forward with votes on an elections takeover bill and radically altering the filibuster. Todd Rokita, Indiana Attorney General, gave an update on his lawsuits against the Biden vaccine mandates and discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Biden’s vaccine mandates. Mike Braun, U.S. Senator from Indiana, commented on the Senate HELP Committee voting to advance Robert Califf’s nomination to head the Food and Drug Administration. And, J. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel of Public Interest Legal Foundation, responded to Senator Schumer’s claim that the GOP is passing voter suppression laws at the state level.

Continue reading

On Religious Freedom Day, Let’s Recommit to This Fundamental Human Right

by Arielle Del Turco , Lela Gilbert

January 14, 2022

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.

Much of that amendment animates Jefferson’s views and visions for America:

…no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.

The First Amendment—approved by Congress on December 15, 1791—emerged from Jefferson’s writings, and the freedoms enshrined in it have become known as American “First Freedoms.” Thankfully—although not without increasing opposition—religious freedom continues to be the law of the land in the United States.

But unfortunately, as we observe Religious Freedom Day in 2022, much of the world increasingly rejects America’s point of view about religious liberty. In country after country, there are no such boundaries. And today, the two most vicious enemies of religious freedom globally are radical Islamism and communist and post-communist regimes.

In the Middle East, Christians continue to be attacked by radicals and driven out of their historic homelands.

In Iraq, “Beginning in 2014, ISIS drove Christians from Mosul and their traditional homeland in the Nineveh Plains … From 1.5 million Christians in 2003, the Chaldean Catholic church now estimates a population of fewer than 275,000 Christians.”

In Iran, Islamist state authorities continue to arrest converts to Christianity on absurdly false charges. For example, Article Eighteen reports:

Christian convert Hadi (Moslem) Rahimi has begun serving his four-year prison sentence for “acting against national security” by attending a house-church and “spreading ‘Zionist’ Christianity.” The 32-year-old delivery driver, who has a nine-month-old daughter, turned himself in to Tehran’s Evin Prison on Sunday morning (9 January)…

Interestingly, despite ongoing marginalization, injustice and violence, innumerable conversions from Islam to Christianity in Iran continue to be reported, even being called a “Christian Boom.”

At the same time, across Africa, attacks on Christians are becoming increasingly violent and frequent. In Nigeria, massacres of Christians are being viewed by international observers as an unfolding genocide. Stories of massacres, mass kidnappings, and torched homes and churches are commonplace.

Meanwhile, in recent months, after America’s abrupt and ill-conceived departure from Afghanistan in August 2021, religious violence is skyrocketing. At the same time, it has become apparent that an underground Christian community, comprised almost entirely of converts from Islam, numbers as many as 10 to 12,000. The Taliban—Afghanistan’s radical new rulers—are systematically seeking out and killing those new believers along with other religious groups who do not conform to their extreme Islamist ideology.

In Pakistan, Christians and others are imprisoned on bogus “blasphemy” charges, often accused by neighbors as revenge for unrelated disputes. Even when those accused of blasphemy are acquitted or released on bail, they are in danger of mob violence. Such is the situation for  Nadeem Samson, who was released on bail on January 6, though his lawyer warns that “when Nadeem Samson is going to court he can be killed anytime.”

At the same time, post-communist regimes such as the Chinese government continue to marginalize religious beliefs that conflict with the state’s official atheist ideology. Well over a million Uyghur Muslims are held in internment camps and used as a source of slave labor. House church pastors such as Pastor John Cao are serving unwarranted prison sentences after being targeted due to their ministries. The country’s burgeoning surveillance state puts all citizens at risk as they are tracked for any actions that might be out of favor with the government—actions including going to church.

In North Korea, known Christians risk their very lives. Those who escape North Korea and are returned by Chinese authorities are particularly endangered as they are suspected of encountering Christian missionaries and churches in China. One North Korean defector said, “If you tell them that you went to a church and believed in Jesus, they would not stop at just beating you.” Other Christians are known to languish in harsh political labor camps with no prospect of ever being released.

Religious Freedom Day is an opportunity to pause and remember the profound importance of this right. As we continue to enjoy our own blessings and opportunities to share our faith, let’s remember those around the world longing to freely live out their faith.

Continue reading

Is Diversity a Biblical Goal?

by Joseph Backholm

January 14, 2022

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).

Appropriately, the church has taken a leading role in the effort to bring unity and racial reconciliation where it is needed. In some cases, this has led some church congregations and denominations to place a special emphasis on cultivating racial diversity in their midst.

For example, the Acts 29 church planting network, started by Mark Driscoll and now led by Matt Chandler, has a Diversity Initiative. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has a Kingdom Diversity Initiative. Hillsong Church says they are “committed to providing strategic direction to enable us as a global church to make progress in racial diversity and equity.” Various Christian colleges have published their “Christ-centered rationale for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

All this emphasis on diversity begs the question: should church congregations be making a concerted effort to be racially diverse?

There are many things Christians are commanded to do, including loving one another (Rom. 13, John 13), honoring one another (Rom. 12:10), accepting one another (Rom. 15:7), being at peace with each other (Mark 9:50), serving one another (Gal. 5:13), carrying each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and forgiving one another (Eph. 4:32). There are no exceptions for people who don’t look like you, talk like you, or think like you.

But nowhere does Scripture command us to have racially diverse congregations.

Of course, this does not mean racial diversity is wrong. It can often be helpful. But it is not specifically a moral good because nowhere does God say that diversity is a virtue in and of itself.

It is beyond dispute that the Kingdom of God is racially diverse. Not only are the world’s 2.3 billion Christians spread all over the planet, but John’s vision of heaven in Revelation gives a glimpse of what the diversity of heaven looks like: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Rev. 7:8-9). Heaven is diverse.

This vision of different people praising the same God is beautiful and even aspirational, but it does not mean that racial diversity is inherently virtuous. We know this because if that same group of people pictured in John’s vision were chanting “Hail, Satan!” it would be no consolation that they are a diverse assembly. What we intuitively understand—but must say—is that racial diversity can be a sign of something good but is not something good in and of itself. Racial diversity could be a sign of discipleship, but is not a form of discipleship.

In one sense, this is simply practical. It would be silliness, for example, to tell a group of Christians in remote places like the jungle of the Congo or the mountains of India that they need more racial diversity. In some places, racial diversity isn’t realistic. But this point is not merely practical. If we emphasize the secondary over the primary, we end up with the wrong goals.

The primary goal for Christians is to love God and others. We rightly see racism as a violation of God’s commandment to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31) and may see racial diversity as evidence that racism is not present. This is logical, but there is a risk. The emphasis on racial diversity as the antidote to racism may create a situation where we see racial diversity not as evidence of love but as a form of love. As a result, diversity has become an end unto itself.

The problem with confusing diversity for the sake of diversity with real, biblical love is that it puts the cart before the horse. In a world where diversity is a form of love, communities that are “diverse” are inherently better than those that are not. In a world where diversity is a form of love, we inevitably value people differently based on their ability or inability to contribute to our diversity. Christians can’t subscribe to this mindset. In addition, while efforts to be diverse are nearly always well-intentioned, the temptation to appear diverse can easily become self-centered. Only God knows when we’ve crossed the line from trying to love people well to trying to look good, but the line exists.

Consider an analogy from Acts 5. Ananias and Sapphira were a couple in the early church who made a public display of generosity. However, they intentionally misrepresented their gift, and God put them to death for it (Acts 5:1-11). Generosity is a good goal; wanting to look generous in the eyes of our fellow man is not. In the same way, it can be good to be diverse but not if we are merely wanting to look diverse. If God is more concerned with the condition of our hearts than the complexion of our skin—and He is—we should be, too.

What every Christian can do, in all times and all places, is love people the way Jesus does. In communities where people look different, the love of Jesus will transcend racial barriers and bring people together. In communities where people look the same, the love of Jesus will transcend other boundaries, including class, politics, age, or sex.

None of this means that concerns about racism are invalid or that the church should not be part of the solution. Our call to seek justice, provide hospitality, and care for the marginalized will create a community that some might call diverse. In addition, when people share pain and frustration about the brokenness of the world, we should be slow to speak and quick to hear. But racial diversity that honors Jesus will never be achieved by making it our primary objective. It will, however, inevitably develop as Christians follow the example of Jesus. Seeking Jesus will lead to racial diversity; seeking racial diversity will not lead to Jesus. Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount seem to apply here: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

No doubt, the emphasis on diversity is well-meaning, but it comes with real risks. If we pursue diversity with more passion than we pursue love, we are very likely going to miss both.

Continue reading

Don’t Let Biden Off the Hook for the Disaster He Left in Afghanistan

by Arielle Del Turco

January 10, 2022

The media has largely moved on from the Afghanistan debacle, and many are all too eager to sweep the consequences of President Biden’s botched withdrawal under the rug. Yet, the repercussions will last lifetimes.

Currently, hundreds of parents and family members are seeking help for their starving children. Last year, the United Nations warned that one million Afghan children were at risk of starvation, and now many are struggling to make it through the winter.

On the best of days, Afghanistan has a near-universal poverty rate. Now, a famine and economic collapse are making it virtually impossible for many to meet their families’ basic needs. In sheer desperation, some parents are being driven to sell their young daughters into future marriages just so the family will have a few months’ worth of food. It’s an unthinkable choice—but one that some feel is their only chance to evade death by starvation when there is no work to be found.

One father’s decision has him in agony. He told CNN reporters that he could no longer sleep at night because he sold his nine-year-old daughter into marriage. The guilt and shame have “broken” him. Following unsuccessful attempts to find work, even traveling to the provincial capital, he said, “We are eight family members. I have to sell to keep other family members alive.” The money from the sale will feed the family for only a few months.

Sadly, the economic collapse in the wake of the Taliban’s rise was predicted and shouldn’t take Biden administration officials by surprise. The question now is how to respond.

The U.S. government is rightly being careful to avoid giving any financial aid to the Taliban. And although the United States donated funds through international humanitarian aid groups, Olivia Enos, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, has pointed out that current aid levels are expected to meet only 40 percent of the anticipated needs to get through the winter months. The Biden administration should seek effective solutions to get substantial help directly to suffering Afghans.

When it comes to promoting religious freedom in Afghanistan, the U.S. government has always fallen far short. The past 20 years of U.S. involvement in the country failed to produce a cultural acceptance of religious freedom or pluralism. The consequences continue. And for the Afghan Christians most endangered by the rise of the Taliban, the Biden administration’s actions (and inaction) were shameful.

Although certain groups of Afghan nationals were given Priority 2 (P-2) designation for the U.S. refugee program—which allows more direct access for individuals to apply when they are at immediate risk—religious minorities were not offered P-2 status. This is in spite of the Taliban openly threatening religious minorities and the number of minorities who would have utilized the program being small and manageable. The Biden administration should fix this error and extend P-2 status to Afghan religious minorities.

When private NGOs tried to help vulnerable Christians, women, and others fleeing the Taliban, the State Department was accused of thwarting these rescue efforts. Josh Youssef, president of Help the Persecuted, helped organize refugee flights out of Afghanistan with endangered religious minorities. When he reached out to the State Department for help, he was told that he would have a better chance of the plane taking off if there were LGBT-identifying persons on board.

But religious minorities aren’t the only people with reason to fear. Amid the Taliban’s rollback of women’s rights, many women who had public professions are scrambling to hide their identities. Female athletes are on the run, changing locations every few weeks to avoid being caught and punished by the Taliban.

Women who served in the Afghan military or police are also hiding. Samima, who served in the Afghan Air Force, fled to a new location with her husband after she received phone calls from Taliban fighters and the Taliban began going door to door looking for former Afghan military members. She told The Wall Street Journal, “Thousands of girls like me are receiving threats, face an uncertain future and are being tracked by the Taliban.”

Countless Afghan girls and female university students have been kept at home and out of school since the Taliban’s return. For many, their dreams were put on hold in 2021, perhaps permanently.

Meanwhile, there are still Americans who remain stuck in Afghanistan. Not to mention the countless Afghan allies who worked for the U.S. military and were promised protection in just such a circumstance as a U.S. withdrawal.

The White House would be happy for us all to forget that the grossly mishandled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan ever happened. But we must not. America spent 20 years involved in this country; the people of Afghanistan deserve better than to be abandoned and ignored in their hour of most dire need. Furthermore, the American people deserve far better leadership than President Biden has shown throughout this ordeal largely of his own making. By electing Joe Biden, Americans entrusted him with our foreign policy. The resulting human suffering in Afghanistan ought to be remembered as a grave stain upon Biden’s presidency.

Continue reading

Archives