Author archives: David Closson

Prayer Point #6: Pray for Honest Reporting

by David Closson

March 31, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

For most Americans, life looks very different today than it did two weeks ago. As the coronavirus has spread, tens of millions are now working from home, watching online worship services, and following CDC social distancing guidelines. According to a recent Fox News poll, 92 percent of Americans are now concerned about the spread of the coronavirus. This concern is reflected by the millions who watch President Trump’s daily press briefings. In fact, 57 percent of Americans report an increase in their television intake. Given this heightened media consumption, honest reporting is more crucial than ever. Thus, Christians should pray for the members of the media who are reporting on the coronavirus. Here are a few specific ways to pray.

First, pray that reporters and journalists would accurately report updates about the virus. Pray that they would not seek to peddle conspiracy theories or politicize the threat. This year is an election year, and unfortunately, many in the media see everything, including the coronavirus, through a partisan political lens. In some instances, conservative media personalities have been too quick to dismiss missteps from Republican leaders, while liberal reporters have been too quick to criticize President Trump and his team. We must pray that everyone in the media—conservative, mainstream, and liberal—would put aside their political agendas and commit themselves to reporting the facts relevant to public health and safety.

Second, pray for wisdom in reporting. Admittedly, there is a lot of information to track related to the coronavirus. In addition to the president’s daily press conferences, governors and mayors are also giving daily remarks about how their respective states and cities are combatting the spread of the virus and protecting their people. Each day, the World Health Organization, CDC, and other governmental agencies put out information. There is a deluge of virus-related information released each day, and some of it is more accurate and helpful than others. Pray that news organizations and reporters would have the wisdom to know what they ought to report.  

Third, pray that reporters would employ an appropriate tone when conveying the latest news. We are living in uncertain times, and many people are anxious and fearful. Of course, certain updates and stories require a more impassioned tone. However, the public is not well-served when media personalities sensationalize aspects of certain stories to boost ratings or make a political statement. Pray that reporters, journalists, and producers would maintain a measured, thoughtful, and analytical approach as they convey the latest news to the public. Pray that no one would stoke fear where it is unwarranted.

And fourth, pray for the health of those in the media. Many reporters must leave their homes and venture into public spaces to report updates or cover the latest press conference. Others who work in media such as producers, audio engineers, camera operators, writers, make-up artists, and others must still come into work. Pray that none of these people come into contact with or spread the virus. Finally, pray for the families and loved ones of those working in media; pray for their health and safety as well.

Prayer Point #5: Pray for Health Care Workers and First Responders

by David Closson

March 26, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

As the nation continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus, governors around the country have issued stay-at-home orders, telling citizens to avoid non-essential work and errands. Tens of millions of Americans are teleworking, and people are intentionally avoiding public places. But as the majority of our fellow citizens quarantine and practice social-distancing, American health care workers and first responders are on the front lines, providing essential care to those directly affected by the virus. There are five specific ways Christians can pray for these workers.

First, pray that doctors and nurses will have wisdom as they care for patients. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new virus, and medical professionals and scientists are still learning about it. Therefore, doctors need discernment when deciding how to treat each patient, especially those with underlying medical conditions. Pray that they will have wisdom and empathy when conversing with the patients’ family and loved ones.

Second, pray for the physical health and well-being of these workers. Health care workers, especially those working in hospitals, are working 12-hour shifts, 3-4 times a week. Many of these workers are physically exhausted, and the virus consumes their thoughts. Pray they have endurance and strength in the days and weeks ahead. Pray their immune systems remain strong and that they will not contract the virus.

Third, pray for their mental fortitude and encouragement. Nurses and doctors are tired, and they are interacting daily with those who have the virus. With no foreseeable end to the crisis, and with all indications pointing to a major influx of positive tests, it is easy to become discouraged. Pray that those on the front lines would fight discouragement and find joy amidst their work.

Fourth, hospitals in states hit particularly hard by the outbreak are reporting a shortage of medical equipment such as masks and ventilators. Pray that local, state, and federal authorities, working together with medical equipment providers, will be able to meet these needs. Pray that any shortages will quickly be met and that hospitals and clinics will have the life-saving equipment they need to meet increased demand.

Finally, pray for the families of our health care workers. Many health care workers are self-quarantining at home, afraid they might become a carrier to their families. Pray for the spouses and children whose routines have been upended by the outbreak. They, too, are making tremendous sacrifices during these challenging times.

Prayer Point #4: Pray for the Vulnerable

by David Closson

March 25, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

The New Testament book of James is very practical. Written by Jesus’ close relative, the epistle gives concrete, down-to-earth advice to the Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Throughout the letter, James encourages his readers to put their faith into action by meeting physical needs and serving vulnerable communities. He exhorts his readers to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (1:22). Elsewhere he asks them, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (2:14). James does not undermine the Bible’s teaching of salvation through grace (Eph. 2:8), although he does challenge Christians to live out their faith in tangible ways. As certain industries and people groups begin to feel the effects of quarantining and social distancing, James’ message of active faith becomes even more relevant and timely.

This memorable verse captures James’ heart for the vulnerable: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). In a first-century patriarchal context, widows and orphans were the most vulnerable members of society, which is why James mentions them specifically in his letter. As far as James is concerned, it is pointless for his readers to be well-versed in theology if they fail to show God’s love to those most in need.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, authorities have told us that immunocompromised people (those with medically compromised immunities, including surgery patients, transplant patients, and those with some chronic underlying health conditions) are especially at risk and vulnerable during this time. We should pray for these people, specifically for their protection and health.

Other vulnerable people include those with disabilities and special needs, foster children, and those with health care needs who might be negatively impacted by the present strain on the health care system. We should also pray for the unborn, who remain vulnerable at this time.

Additionally, pray for the elderly, who are at an increased risk of contracting the virus. Many who live in assisted living or nursing homes are unable to leave their apartments or receive visitors for the foreseeable future. Pray that God would comfort and encourage them. Also, pray that local churches would find creative ways to serve the elderly in their communities.

Also, pray for students who are being required to vacate university and college housing with very little notice. While many of them can return home to their families, some cannot, and are scrambling to find alternative accommodations. Pray for international students unable to return to their home countries.

We should also remember to pray for hourly workers in retail, restaurant, hospitality, and service industries. Many have lost their jobs or have seen a dramatic decrease in hours due to the coronavirus. Still others, such as grocery store workers, must continue reporting to work and interacting closely with the public. Pray that God will provide for their needs and that those presently out of work will be able to return to work soon. 

Finally, pray for the health care workers and emergency personnel who are all on the front lines of keeping us healthy and safe. Pray that they would have the tools necessary to treat the sick and to protect themselves from getting sick. Pray that they would have health, rest, and encouragement during this stressful time.

Prayer Point #3: Pray for Church Leaders

by David Closson

March 24, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

As Americans continue working from home and abiding by the government’s request for social distancing, churches around the country are coming up with creative ways to serve their congregations and communities. These include hosting “drive-in” worship services; live-streaming services and church gatherings through Facebook Live, Zoom, YouTube Live, or other services; sending short videos and devotionals to church members; and using their facilities and parking lots as staging areas for food distribution.

These ideas, and others, can be found on FRC’s new resource page for churches: FRC.org/church 

As the work of the church continues, Christians need to pray for their pastors and church leaders. Specifically, we should pray for wisdom as these leaders continue to evaluate best practices for caring for their members during these anxious times. Pray that they will have the discernment to faithfully shepherd the congregations under their care, even if they are unable to physically gather for the foreseeable future (1 Peter 5:2). Pray also for creativity, as pastors and church leaders think of innovative ways to engage and serve their members.

For many churches, the interruption in weekly gatherings has impacted giving. While most medium and large churches already utilize online platforms to facilitate tithing, many smaller churches have not used this technology before, or their members are unfamiliar with it. Therefore, pray for the financial well-being of churches and sacrificial giving among Christians. A national crisis presents many opportunities for the church to engage in mercy ministry, but the church cannot do this work without enough financial support.

Christians should also pray for the physical health and safety of their pastors. Many pastors are working around the clock to care for their members. Whether visiting them in-person (while following CDC social distancing guidelines), calling them on the phone, or using other means of communication, church leaders are working hard to stay connected to their members. Pray for their strength and stamina. And pray for their families who are making tremendous sacrifices during this time as well.

Also, pray for clear gospel proclamation. As many churches turn to digital media to broadcast their worship services, pray that preachers will faithfully teach God’s Word and that many will hear and respond to the gospel. Amid the busyness of caring for their members and the changes in their routine, pray that pastors will have enough time in their week to study Scripture and prepare faithful sermons. Pray that these sermons will be the means God uses to save sinners.  

Finally, the coronavirus outbreak has forced churches to hold services in new, creative ways. This interruption in our routine should remind us that the persecuted church around the world is regularly forced to gather in unconventional ways. As we pray for our local pastors and church leaders, let us also remember persecuted Christians and their leaders around the world.

Prayer Point #2: Pray for Government Leaders

by David Closson

March 20, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis. In this blog series, we’ll be unpacking these points for you a bit more as we pray for an end to the coronavirus.

Christians are called to pray for those in positions of authority at all times (1 Tim. 2:2). This is especially true during a national emergency. Pray for President Trump, Vice President Pence, governors, mayors, and all those making decisions related to public health and safety. Pray for a spirit of bipartisanship as lawmakers work together to protect people.

As the world faces mounting social and economic pressure related to the spread of the coronavirus, Christians need to pray for those who are responsible for crafting their nation’s response. In the days ahead, government leaders will have to make difficult decisions regarding public health and safety. They will have to make decisions about the economy, as the markets continue to fluctuate, and businesses and non-profits face an uncertain financial future. Decisions about transportation, education, the use of public facilities, and upcoming elections must be made as well.

Trying times require wisdom. And those making decisions at the highest levels of government need divine wisdom as they make decisions that affect millions of people. As Christians, we know God calls us to pray for our political and civil leaders. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul writes, “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.” Christians should pray for our government leaders every day—especially in the current crisis.  

Christians should commit to frequently praying for the following leaders:

  • President Trump
  • Vice President Pence
  • Secretary Alex Azar (HHS)
  • Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Treasury)
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force
  • Governors and mayors across the country
  • All health care workers and public health officials

Specifically, we should pray they’ll have the wisdom to process all the information they receive about the virus, courage to make the right decisions, and stamina as they work long days. We should also pray for their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And we should pray for the families of these leaders who are making tremendous sacrifices as well.

We should also pray for government leaders around the world as they fight the coronavirus in their own countries. We should pray that leaders will work together in a spirit of cooperation. And along these lines, we should pray for a spirit of bipartisanship as American lawmakers work together on legislation designed to help and protect people. Pray Republicans and Democrats put partisan politics aside and unite in common purpose to address a wide range of issues.  

A powerful verse on the power of prayer is James 5:16. In this verse, James writes, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (KJV). James’ encouragement to Christians is that our prayers are powerful and effective. God promises that He hears and acts on the prayers of His people (Psalm 34:15). Claiming these promises, let’s lift up our government leaders in prayer during this crisis.

Be Not Afraid”: How Christians and Church Leaders Can Respond to the Coronavirus

by David Closson

March 19, 2020

At Family Research Council, our mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. This mission guides all our work, including our advocacy for religious liberty, life, and biblical values. It also informs our response to the coronavirus, which, as we are well aware, is now a pandemic.

President Trump has declared a national emergency and released new guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, including avoiding discretionary travel, discouraging eating out at restaurants, bars, and food courts, practicing good hygiene, and limiting social gatherings to 10 people or less. We believe if the steps recommended by the CDC and the White House are followed, there is a good chance we can “flatten the curve” and lessen the impact of the spreading virus on our health care system.

Over the past week, Christians from around the country have asked important questions about how to respond faithfully to the threat posed by the coronavirus. Specifically, many are wondering how churches should respond to the ongoing crisis. We believe there are a few appropriate responses to all of this.

First, Christians must pray. On Sunday, March 15, President Trump called for a National Day of Prayer in response to the calls of evangelical leaders. We must continue praying that God’s grace and mercy would fall upon us and that we would turn our eyes toward Him in this time of great need. To guide our prayer (which should be ongoing), FRC’s President Tony Perkins outlined several ways we can pray for the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus in the days and weeks ahead. We encourage everyone to read these prayer points and use them to guide your own prayers.

Specifically, Christians should commit to frequently praying for the following leaders:

  • President Trump
  • Vice President Pence
  • Secretary Alex Azar (HHS)
  • Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Treasury)
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force
  • Congressional leadership
  • Governors and mayors across the country
  • Other officials in the administration and those at all levels of government who are dealing with this crisis
  • All health care workers and public health officials

Second, we should comply with mandates and recommendations from those in authority. Under normal conditions, it would be impermissible under our laws and the Constitution for the government to tell a church when it can or cannot meet. But certain emergencies, such as natural disasters and pandemics, do present temporary but substantial risks to public health and safety. As long as the government is not singling out and targeting religious gatherings for restriction (while permitting non-religious gatherings to take place), it is allowed to enact policies restricting all gatherings of a certain size in cases like this.

Biblically, Romans 13 reminds us that God instituted the governing authorities whom we should obey so long as they do not require us to disobey God. And while gathering for regular worship is not an optional part of the Christian life (Hebrews 10:25), FRC does not believe it is wrong to temporarily suspend corporate in-person meetings if the authorities believe it is in the community’s best interest. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses and Aaron detailed instructions about quarantines in cases of infectious disease (Leviticus 13-14). When there were outbreaks of disease, the priests served as public health officials and imposed guidelines for quarantining people, infected garments, and even houses. In the New Testament, Jesus called us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31), and we believe in a case like this, the best way to practice neighborly love is by following the guidance of health and public safety experts.

The church can still meet and gather together in different ways. While not every church need adopt all these practices, there are ways we can still “gather” in the days ahead while ensuring we don’t contribute to the spread of the virus:

  • Encourage church members to drive to a parking lot, but stay in their cars and tune into shortwave radios used to broadcast church services.
  • Meet in small groups instead of one large gathering.
  • Suspend larger gatherings but keep the church office open.
  • Livestream services or other church gatherings and use texting or online chat groups to stay connected (churches with more advanced technological assets such as teleconferencing capabilities or other established systems to livestream events may partner with other churches to help them stay connected to their congregants).

Here are some ways churches can think about serving in the current times:

  • Offer benevolent funds to those facing financial hardship.
  • Provide housing for students who are being required to vacate school housing.
  • If possible, keep food pantries well stocked and include cleaning and sanitizing products.
  • Think of creative ways to serve older members, such as picking up groceries and prescriptions. Establish a way to check in on those who may be living alone, the elderly, or other vulnerable people.

Here are some practical tips that churches can implement, and educate their members on, to help prevent further spread of the virus:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Provide and require members to use hand-sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol while on church property.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Thoroughly and repeatedly clean high-contact surfaces and objects.
  • Encourage sick or at-risk members to stay home and seek medical care.
  • Minimize panic by educating members and preparing for disruptions in service.

The Department of Health and Human Services has also released a list of Recommended Preventative Practices for faith-based and community leaders, which we encourage you to read.

We also encourage you not to neglect your regular financial offering to your place of worship. The church as an institution is always crucial to society, but at times like these, its care for communities in need is especially needed. Your financial support helps do that. If you don’t have electronic banking, most church offices remain open, so please drop your contribution off with your church so that ministry can continue.

Finally, followers of Jesus should maintain a posture of trust while taking appropriate precautions. In times like these, when anxiety, misinformation, and uncertainty abound, it is tempting to become fearful. But while it is important to take all precautions and follow the latest updates from the authorities, Christians should not panic. During this time of increased fear, we must remember that we have been given a “spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).

Our God is sovereign. The coronavirus did not take Him by surprise. He is still governing and sustaining the world (Col. 1:17). Human tendencies naturally pull society’s discussion of all this in the direction of panic and fear. But the Scriptures are clear: “Be not afraid.” Bible-believing Christians can model a spirit of trust as they remind each other of God’s promises and character. This grounding will enable us to care for and serve those around us.

Prayer Point #1: Pray for an End to the Spread of the Virus

by David Closson

March 18, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis. In this blog series, we’ll be unpacking these points for you a bit more as we pray for an end to the coronavirus.

The first prayer point is that Christians should pray for an end to the spread of the virus. The Bible teaches us that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the world (Gen. 1-2; Col. 1:17). Because God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent, nothing—including the coronavirus—ever takes Him by surprise or is outside His control. For Christians, this is an important and precious truth to remember in this time of uncertainty. Although the future is uncertain, we know and trust the One who controls it.

The coronavirus did not take God by surprise; He is still governing and sustaining the world (Col. 1:17). Pray for God’s healing mercy and that He would graciously bring this pandemic to an end. Pray for healing for all those affected by the virus.

God Delights in Prayer

Throughout Scripture, God’s people are given constant reminders of His care for them. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” In Matthew 6:26, Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Jesus teaches here that God cares for every single person made in His image. Nothing happens to His children—good or bad—without first passing through God’s gracious hand. 

In addition to stressing God’s care for His people, Jesus often encouraged His followers to pray (Mat. 6:5; Luke 18:1). For example, in Luke 11:9, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Elsewhere, the New Testament is clear that Christians are expected to pray. Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul exhorts the church to “pray without ceasing.”

But the Bible does more than encourage believers to pray; it says God delights in the prayers of His people. Consider Proverbs 15:8b, which says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” Because God delights in our prayers, we ought to readily bring them before Him.   

God Answers Prayer

A second truth is that God answers prayer. The Bible is full of examples of men and women who cried out to God and received answers to their prayers. For example, when the Israelites were sojourning in the wilderness, their sin resulted in a severe punishment: fiery serpents released in their midst. In response to the peoples’ desperate cry and Moses’ prayer, God provided a bronze serpent that the people could look at and receive healing (Numbers 21:6-9).

Another example of remarkable healing in response to prayer is 2 Kings 20. In this passage, Hezekiah, the King of Judah, falls ill, and the Prophet Isaiah tells him that he is going to die. Hezekiah immediately cries out to God. Before Isaiah can leave the room, God tells him to return to the king with the good news: “Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you” (2 Kings 20:5). The answer to Hezekiah’s prayer was 15 more years of life. 

There are many examples in the New Testament of Jesus healing people. Often, Jesus healed men and women who asked Him for help. For example, in Matthew 8:1-4, Jesus heals a leper who asks for healing. Additionally, Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant (Mat. 8:5-13), the synagogue ruler’s daughter (Mat. 9:18-26), two blind men (Mat. 9:27-31), a deaf man with a speech impediment (Mark 7:31-37), and the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30) in response to personal requests for deliverance. In one significant passage, Jesus himself prays before raising Lazarus back to life (John 11:41-42). These examples underscore the significance of bringing our requests for healing and deliverance to God. He not only hears our prayers, oftentimes He chooses to provide healing and relief.

Finally, in Hebrews 4:16, Christians are encouraged to “draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” In this current time of need, Christians should pray that the virus would stop spreading, the affected would be healed, and all those quarantined and feeling alone would be comforted. Pray also that doctors and scientists will be successful in creating a vaccine for the coronavirus.

These are difficult times, but Christians serve a God who hears, delights in, and answers our prayers. Let us approach Him humbly yet with confidence, asking Him to graciously bring this pandemic to an end.

Callous and Cruel: The Senate Fails to Uphold Human Dignity

by David Closson

February 26, 2020

Yesterday, the United States Senate voted on two significant pieces of legislation: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Although a majority of senators supported the bills, both fell short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture (i.e., end debate and move to a vote on the bill) and overcome a Democrat-led filibuster.

The Senate voted 53-44 on the Pain-Capable cloture vote and 56-41 on the Born-Alive cloture vote. The votes were largely along party lines. Two Democrats (Casey and Manchin) voted in favor of Pain-Capable, and three (Casey, Manchin, and Jones) voted in favor of Born-Alive. All Republicans voted for Born-Alive, while two Republicans (Collins and Murkowski) voted against Pain-Capable. The three Democratic senators currently running for president (Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren) were not present for the vote, though all have voted against both measures in the past.

From a Christian worldview perspective, the Senate’s inability to pass these pieces of common-sense legislation represents a massive moral failing. Unfortunately, opponents of the legislation—including the abortion lobby—launched a massive misinformation campaign to deny the need for these bills.

First, they denied scientific evidence that babies in utero can feel pain at 20 weeks. Doctors understand this scientific reality, which is why they administer pediatric anesthesia during fetal surgeries. This reflects an understanding that fetal surgeries have two patients: the mother and the child.

Moreover, the legal framework under Roe v. Wade allows abortion up to the moment of birth. Currently, unless individual states take legislative action to restrict abortion later in pregnancy, abortion on demand is legal through all nine months of pregnancy. According to FRC’s new pro-life map, 22 states allow abortion on demand right up until birth. The United States is one of only seven countries in the world (including North Korea and China) that allow abortion after 20 weeks.

Considering these facts, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is a necessary bill, and the Senate’s failure to pass it reflects a callous and cruel disregard for the dignity and value of human life.

Second, opponents of Born-Alive denied that infants can be born alive following an abortion procedure and claimed the bill was a solution in search of a problem. However, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2003 and 2014, at least 143 infants were born alive after an abortion procedure and later died. Moreover, only eight states require reporting data on infants who survive abortion, meaning the available data is almost certainly an underestimate. FRC has identified at least 170 additional born-alive abortion survivors, beyond the 143 abortion survivors reported in the CDC’s death statistics. This means there are, at an absolute minimum, over 300 cases of infants surviving an abortion.

Born-Alive explicitly requires health care practitioners to exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to an infant who survives an abortion as they would for any other baby born at the same gestational age. To reiterate, children who have already been born are the focus of this legislation. Thus, this bill is not even about abortion; it’s about born-alive infants!

Moreover, the legislation would create criminal penalties for any health care provider who fails to render medical aid to infants born alive and for any health care facility that does not report a failure to provide care. Although a 2002 federal law defines born-alive infants as full persons, there are currently no provisions in the law to hold abortionists accountable for killing or denying medical care to infants who survive abortion.

The failure to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act amounts to a moral dereliction by every senator who voted against it. The fact that 41 senators could not take a stand on infanticide is horrifying.

A person’s worldview has consequences. In the political arena, this is certainly true; a legislator’s worldview provides the framework for his or her policies and political positions. Yesterday, a minority of United States senators disclosed a worldview with a deficient moral framework when it comes to caring for the most vulnerable members of society. The worldview divide in the Senate on this issue could not be starker, as evidenced by yesterday’s votes.

The Trump administration revealed its own worldview with the issuance of a statement of administrative policy shortly before the Senate’s vote. In part, the statement said: “Our most helpless Americans cannot protect themselves from pain or from those who would callously allow them to die. The government, therefore, has a compelling responsibility to defend the rights and interests of these babies, including to be free from excruciating or unnecessary pain. All babies have the same dignity. They should not have to endure pain, and they should receive critical life-saving care regardless of whether they are born in a hospital, at home, or in an abortion clinic.”

Christians should pray for every senator who voted yesterday. We should thank God that most senators voted to protect babies who feel pain and babies who are born alive following abortion procedures. We should also grieve that so many senators lack the compassion to stand up for children who need their help. We should lament their decision to vote “no,” and commit to praying that their hearts and minds will change.

Netflix’s Mocking of Christians Is Not Sitting Well With Brazilians

by David Closson

December 18, 2019

Netflix is facing considerable pushback following its release of a film that contains profane, anti-Christian content. The film, titled The First Temptation of Christ, was produced by a Brazilian YouTube comedy group called Porta dos Fundos, which is known for producing irreverent content. The film depicts God and Mary as illicit lovers and Jesus as a closeted homosexual, among other things.

Outraged Netflix subscribers in Brazil and around the world are calling for the film’s immediate removal. One petition protesting the film has already collected over two million signatures since the film debuted on December 3.  

Described by the filmmakers as a “Christmas Special Show,” the plot follows Jesus as he returns to Nazareth for his 30th birthday party. Accompanying Jesus to the party is an effeminate and flirtatious character named Orlando. Conversations with Jesus’ family strongly imply that Orlando is romantically involved with Jesus.

Explicit and sexually suggestive language is used throughout the film, and many scenes are scandalous and outright blasphemous from the perspective of biblical Christianity. For example, Mary smokes marijuana, one of the wise men hires a female escort, and Jesus gets high off a “special tea.” God is depicted as a good-looking, talented, and likable character, while Joseph is portrayed as an incompetent carpenter. Furthermore, the film portrays Joseph as being jealous of God for the relationship he has with Mary. In one shocking scene, God reveals to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus that he had intercourse with Mary, which resulted in her pregnancy. In a subsequent scene, God and Mary appear ready to kiss before Joseph interrupts.

Toward the end of the film, it is revealed that Orlando is Lucifer—evidently, he successfully seduced Jesus in the desert. While Jesus is summoning up the courage to fight him, Orlando/Lucifer forcibly kisses Mary. The movie concludes with Jesus killing Lucifer and accepting the call to spread God’s message.

From the perspective of a biblical worldview, there are a few points to be made. First, the film intentionally seeks to provoke and offend Christian sensibilities. The notion that Jesus is gay and has a homosexual lover contradicts the evidence of Scripture and its clear teaching on the immorality of homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10).

Second, the portrayal of God as a sex-obsessed deity is reminiscent of the sordid escapades of Greek gods and goddesses and in no way resembles the God of biblical Christianity. The depiction of God in this film is utterly blasphemous. In Christianity, blasphemy is the act of showing contempt or lack of reverence for God. The third of the Ten Commandments prohibits such irreverence: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Christians believe the name of God is holy and how we use God’s name ought to express the reverence that is due to him. The commandment forbids more than just the verbal misuse of God’s name (e.g., as an expletive): it also condemns any abuse of God’s name in “ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious, or wicked” ways. Without a doubt, the film misuses God’s name by portraying Him in a manner that is diametrically opposed to how He is presented in the Bible.  

While Porta dos Fundos insists The First Temptation of Christ is merely satirical, the film has proven divisive in Brazil, a nation that is home to 120 million Catholics—more than anywhere in the world. The controversy is not surprising, then, as the film depicts Jesus in ways that are alien to Scripture.

It is worth noting that caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that are much less profane than how God and Jesus are portrayed in The First Temptation of Christ have provoked massive protests in Islamic countries. Most famously, Muslim terrorists attacked the office of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015 after the magazine depicted Muhammad in an unflatteringly light. Twelve people were killed and 11 wounded in the attack.

When films with sacrilegious content offend the sensibilities of believers, the question of free speech and censorship often arises. The First Amendment protects offensive speech, certainly. However, important questions ought to be asked. Such as, why do companies like Netflix think it is acceptable to violate basic standards of decency when it comes to religion? Why do many producers and directors think it is acceptable to attack the beliefs of millions of devout Christians in the name of “art”?

While it is no longer socially acceptable to malign people for their sex, race, or nationality, it is unfortunately still acceptable to bully and make fun of Christians and their beliefs. That is why Netflix and other media companies do not hesitate when providing a platform for a film as profane as The First Temptation of Christ. These companies think Christians are easy targets who will not fight back. Therefore, they believe they can continue to belittle and mock Christians through their films, art, and music with few repercussions.

However, it appears that Christians in Brazil have had enough and are pushing back. They should be applauded for voicing their objection to this offensive material. By uniting their voices, they are sending a clear message to Netflix that sacrilegious content like The First Temptation of Christ has no audience in Brazil and that movie makers should respect religious belief if they want an audience.

What the LA Times Gets Wrong About Religious Freedom

by Travis Weber , David Closson

August 21, 2019

Last week, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule clarifying the rights of religious employers to contract with the government without being forced to violate their religious beliefs. After decades of court decisions and disparate interpretations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is no wonder that some religious organizations are fearful of working with the federal government because they don’t have clarity on what they can and can’t do. It makes sense that the Department of Labor would want to clarify their rights now.

Yet yesterday’s Los Angeles Times’ Editorial Board threw cold water on this idea, claiming the proposed rule would “dramatically expand the [religious liberty] exemption,” which they believe makes “little legal sense” and threatens to erode what was “once broad and bipartisan support for the idea that the government should accommodate sincere religious convictions.”

Yet are these gripes accurate? Hardly. In reality, as the proposed rule makes clear, the Department of Labor is simply aligning its interpretation of religious exemptions with years of federal court decisions and the definitions in Title VII itself. For years, Title VII has protected religious people from a wide array of faith groups equally. So what is the LA Times so scared of? The reason seems revealed in the title: “Trump’s new ‘religious freedom’ rule looks like a license to discriminate.”

Unfortunately, the assumption of the LA Times appears to be that Christian conservatives are using religious freedom as a “pretext for discrimination.” Yet LGBT issues are not specifically addressed anywhere in the proposed rule. It is the idea that LGBT-related claims might be affected by religious freedom claims that has the LA Times up in arms. If the editors read the rule more carefully, they would see that it actually addresses sincerity as an important component of a religious freedom claim, and “conceal[ing] discrimination” has been dealt with by courts assessing these Title VII claims. The LA Times and others espousing this line of thinking don’t get to pick and choose when religious freedom applies. It either does or it doesn’t, and if the Title VII definitions were acceptable for decades, they should still be acceptable today.

Religious freedom is a virtue that benefits the common good; it does not favor Republicans over Democrats or Roman Catholics over Muslims. Thankfully, the Trump administration recognizes these basic truths and is protecting religious employers of all faith backgrounds. If the LA Times researched how the Title VII religious exemption has functioned in the past, it would see that it benefits various religious minorities in a host of different circumstances. Indeed, one of the cases referenced in the proposed rule—LeBoon v. Lancaster Jewish Cmty. Ctr. Ass’n—features a Jewish organization. Just a few years ago, the Supreme Court—in an opinion authored by Justice Scalia—applied Title VII to protect a Muslim employee’s rights against her employer.

Thus, to argue that faith-based organizations should not be able to run their business according to their religious beliefs represents a truncated view of religious freedom. There is no legitimate reason that a faith-based organization should lose out on a federal contract for simply adhering to their religious beliefs, and the proposed rule is right to remedy that.

The LA Times editorial is a reminder that people from all religious backgrounds must continue to help shed light on the reality that religious freedom is a good that serves all people.

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