Author archives: Molly Carman

New Barna Research Reveals Extent of America’s Loss of Faith

by David Closson , Molly Carman

June 22, 2021

Last year, the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, under the direction of George Barna, conducted a national survey that found only six percent of American adults have a biblical worldview. In light of this finding, Barna conducted another survey to examine the shift in faith commitments over the past few decades in America. The results of this new survey have now been published, and Barna shared the results with FRC’s Joseph Backholm on Washington Watch. Barna noted that the survey reveals alarming declines in generational commitment to any particular worldview, stating, “This represents the most rapid and radical cultural upheaval our nation has ever experienced.”

The Cultural Research Center previously released the results of three other worldview surveys conducted earlier this year:

  • The first of these concluded that America’s dominant worldview is Syncretism, which isn’t actually a worldview at all but rather “a disparate, irreconcilable collection of beliefs” that people paste together to suit themselves.
  • The second survey concluded that America’s most popular worldview is what can be called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Components of this worldview include: “belief in a God who remains distant from people’s lives” and “the universal purpose of life of being happy and feeling good about oneself.”
  • The third survey found that Millennials are “substantially more likely” than previous American generations to “reject biblical principles in favor of more worldly spiritual perspectives and practices.”

The results of these surveys (which will be featured together in the 2021 edition of the Cultural Research Center’s annual American Worldview Inventory) provide a broader understanding of the state of worldview today and some of the most significant changes that have occurred over the years.

The survey discussed on Washington Watch concentrated on three areas—Hispanic faith, fastest-growing religious faiths, and Christianity’s status—and their associated worldview shifts over the past three decades (1991-2021). Barna remarked, “We have seen significant changes in the past, but I do not think that we have seen the quantity of change barreling down the freeway the way it is right now.”

Over the past three decades, George Barna has conducted a similar survey every year to assess worldview trends in America. Although the questions have not varied much year to year, Barna noted that when you consider the decline in biblical worldview and “you look at the combination of those factors, you get a pretty good sense of the heartbeat of America spiritually. And the changes there are so dramatic, that the size of those changes, the magnitude of the shift even surprised me a little bit.”

According to Barna’s research, Hispanics represent the fastest-growing demographic in America. Over the past 30 years, however, there has been a significant decrease in Hispanics who adhere to the Catholic faith, with a slight increase in Protestantism. Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in what Barna refers to as the “Don’ts” (those who don’t believe, don’t know, or don’t care if God exists). The increase in those with no religious affiliation suggests that assimilation into American culture increasingly means assimilation into secularism. As Barna noted, “Frankly, the culture is impacting the Christian church and the Christian faith more than the Christian church or Christian faith are impacting the culture.” Notably, increasing belief in reincarnation, declining belief in a literal hell, and the pervading belief that people are basically good are other indicators that Christianity is losing influence in America.

One of the survey results Barna found most surprising is the growth of the Islamic faith in America: “When I started measuring that [the Islamic faith] 30, almost 40, years ago, there was virtually no presence of Islam in America,” explained Barna, “Now, we see that that has been growing, slowly but significantly, to the point where it is no longer just an asterisk in the reports. Now, it’s a significant faith group. Right now, in America, it appears that the number of Muslims here outnumber how many Jews we have in America,” he concluded.

The “Don’ts” have also grown significantly: from only 12 percent of the population in 2011 to 34 percent in 2021. Significantly, 43 percent of Millennials are considered “Don’ts” in Barna’s research, meaning they don’t believe or know if God exists.

Survey results like these are troubling; they reveal important trends in our culture with missiological implications. As George Barna explained, “[A] shared consensus of beliefs and values no longer exists. We are moving into a very different culture where people are saying, ‘I don’t want the Bible, I don’t want God, and I don’t want the church.’”

But even though our culture does not want the Bible, God, or the church, it is important for followers of Jesus to remain faithful. As fewer people share our theological and worldview commitments, Christians will need courage that was not required of recent generations of believers. Of course, standing for God’s truth in a world that is increasingly dark spiritually can be difficult, and it’s not easy to stand alone. Thankfully, we can rest in God’s promise for those who stay rooted in Him and His Word:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

After 246 Years, Old Glory Still Endures

by Molly Carman

June 14, 2021

One of the most identifying symbols of a nation is its flag. In the United States, the stars and stripes that fly over federal buildings, schools, and on our front porches remind every American of the price of freedom. Although the design has changed over the years as the union grew, Old Glory has represented America since 1775. Because of the significance of this patriotic symbol, Americans observe Flag Day each year, remembering the history of the flag and the nation it represents, how it was made, and what the flag symbolizes.

The first design of an American flag was presented on December 3, 1775 and it was known as the Grand Union Flag. While the designer of the flag is not known for certain, it was first hoisted on the Continental Navy man-of-war USS Alfred, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 2, 1775, by Lieutenant John Paul Jones. On the first design, the section where the blue background and the stars now reside was originally occupied by a small British flag. This design was used until June 14, 1777 when the 13-star design was adopted as the official flag of the United States of America. According to the Library of Congress, “To date, there have been twenty-seven official versions of the flag, but the arrangement of the stars varied according to the flag-makers’ preferences until 1912 when President Taft standardized the then-new flag’s forty-eight stars into six rows of eight. The forty-nine-star flag (1959-60), as well as the fifty-star flag, also have standardized star patterns.”

The original design of the 13-star flag is credited to Elizabeth Griscom, more commonly known as Betsy Ross. Although no official documentation exists to confirm she was commissioned to design and manufacture the first American flag, it is accepted because of the accredited testimonials from her grandchildren. Betsy was born on January 1, 1752, as the eighth of 17 children in a Quaker family. After completing her education, she was apprenticed to an upholsterer named John Webster. She broke from her family when she married John Ross who did not follow the Quaker faith. Tragically, John died three years into the marriage, leaving Betsy a childless widow. According to the testimony of her grandson, it was soon after her husband’s death that she was visited and commissioned by George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross in the summer of 1776 to make the flag for the new nation.

Our flag has been celebrated in various ways throughout our nation’s history. However, the first official celebration of the flag was on June 14, 1870, which was the 100th anniversary of the Flag Resolution which declared Ross’s design to be the national flag of the United States. Bernard J. Cigrand was the first schoolteacher to organize a flag day event at a school and later was recognized as the “Father of Flag Day.” He inspired other teachers to add the holiday to their school calendars. This movement later led to an order by New York governor Frank S. Black in 1897 when he ordered that all public schools have an American flag displayed outside their building.

Flag Day continued to be recognized by various states throughout the following years and was consistently observed in 36 state and local governments until 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring June 14 as National Flag Day. Thirty-three years later, on August 3, 1949, President Harry Truman officially signed the holiday into law and the motion passed Congress that June 14 be recognized as National Flag Day.

Flag Day recognizes the banner that charged into battle as the united colonies fought for their independence in the Revolutionary War. As we salute the flag of the United States of America, we demonstrate our respect for those who laid the foundation of our nation. It is to the flag of the United States that we pledge our loyalty, our liberty, and our sacred honor. On Flag Day, it is appropriate to recite The Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Rosa Parks: A Woman of Quiet Strength and Faith Who Galvanized the Civil Rights Movement

by Molly Carman

March 31, 2021

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Women have played an important role in our nation’s history and the women in this series represent those who have faithfully, courageously, and humbly served their families, communities, and our nation. Don’t miss our previous installment on Abigail Adams, Fanny Crosby, Harriet Tubman, and Clara Barton.

Born and raised during the Jim Crow era, Rosa Parks became known as “The Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement.” Although she is best remembered for refusing to give up her seat on a bus, she also believed that taking a stand for equal rights was invaluable. Rosa had a tenacious and fiery disposition, but she believed that her strength was not her own, once declaring, “God has always given me the strength to say what is right.” Her endurance and faith spurred her on through the darkest nights and the lowest valleys, and her legacy continues to inspire today.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her parents separated when Rosa was only two years old, shortly after her brother Sylvester was born. She and her mother and brother moved to live with her maternal grandparents on their farm outside Montgomery. Rosa’s grandparents were former slaves and early advocates of the civil rights movement. She recalled her grandfather standing by the front door with a gun as the Ku Klux Klan marched down their street.

Rosa’s life with her grandparents was extremely formative. In her autobiography, she reflected:

Every day before supper and before we went to services on Sundays, my grandmother would read the Bible to me, and my grandfather would pray. We even had devotions before going to pick cotton in the fields. Prayer and the Bible became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength.

Rosa would continue to attend church her whole life. She was greatly inspired by the stories of other Christians who took a stand for their rights as she considered how she would stand up for her own.

When Rosa was 11, she began attending Miss White’s Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, a private Christian school. Her education continued at Booker T. Washington Junior High and Alabama State Teachers College, a high school. However, Rosa returned home before graduating to care for her dying grandmother and ill mother. Because she had not finished her education, Rosa took a position as a seamstress.

When Rosa was 19, she met Raymond Parks, a barber, who proposed to Rosa on their second date. They were married on December 18, 1932, and never had any children together.

Raymond encouraged Rosa to go back to school the following year and earn her high school diploma. After graduation, she worked as a secretary at Maxwell Air Force base, which was going through desegregation. Rosa and Raymond both became members of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1934. As chapter secretary, Rosa documented the most violent acts committed against blacks. The Racy Taylor case became national news because of Rosa’s work. In 1947, her reputation as a fiery activist grew, and she was asked to speak at the NAACP convention, where she received a standing ovation.

However, the civil rights movement began to change when Brown v. Board of Education was decided on May 17, 1954. As desegregation began in the schools, the NAACP believed it was time for the buses to desegregate as well. Rosa Parks was not the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat, but her story lit the flame.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa boarded a Montgomery city bus after a long day of work and sat in the middle section next to three black men. The bus driver, James Blake, was notorious for harassing black passengers. When a white man boarded the bus, Blake approached Rosa’s row and asked her and the other three black passengers to move to the back to make room for the white passenger. They all refused at first, but after the harassment continued, the other three all moved. Rosa did not move and remained seated alone. Blake threatened to call the police, to which she calmly replied, “You may do that.” Rosa later recalled:

I instantly felt God give me the strength to endure whatever would happen next, God’s peace flooded my soul, and my fear melted away. All people were equal in the eyes of God, and I was going to live like a free person.

Rosa was arrested and taken into police custody but was released on bail that same evening. She was later fined $14 but never paid the fine. Martin Luther King Jr. heard what happened and initiated plans for a bus boycott in Montgomery. Thirty-five thousand flyers were distributed, and the boycott began on the morning of Rosa’s trial. The boycott lasted for 381 days and was nearly 100 percent successful.

Although in many ways Rosa was the spark of the boycott, she was ignored and abandoned by many of her fellow black friends who said she was just stirring up trouble for them. She also lost her second job as a seamstress in January 1956. Rosa and Raymond’s reputations began to be slandered, and they received numerous death threats. Her husband was so overwhelmed that he suffered a nervous breakdown. In November 1956, a federal court ruled in favor of desegregating buses in Montgomery. After the law was first implemented, Rosa was photographed riding the bus next to reporter Nicholas C. Chriss, a white man, on December 21, 1956 (see image above).

Due to their continued harassment and financial struggles, Rosa and her husband moved to Hampton, Virginia and then Detroit, Michigan in 1957 to live with her brother and his family. While there, her health declined and she developed stomach ulcers, but struggled to afford the necessary medication. Thankfully, Raymond found employment and they became more financially stable for a time. The civil rights movement that Rosa helped spark led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race.  

Between 1977 and 1979, Rosa’s husband, brother, and mother all died of cancer. Rosa dedicated herself to civil rights advocacy and continued to receive death threats for most of her life. President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. In 1999, she was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005 in Detroit, Michigan. She was the first woman and the second African American to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. On February 4, 2013, on the centennial of her birth, her statue was unveiled in the Capitol. In life, Rosa saw it as her duty to stand strong in the face of grave injustice but also realized that the strength she needed could only come from God.

Clara Barton: Red Cross Founder and Civil War’s “Angel of the Battlefield”

by Molly Carman

March 26, 2021

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Women have played an important role in our nation’s history and the women in this series represent those who have faithfully, courageously, and humbly served their families, communities, and our nation. Periodically throughout the month of March, we will be sharing some of these inspiring stories. Don’t miss our previous installments on Abigail Adams, Fanny Crosby, and Harriet Tubman.

Clara Barton is primarily known for being the founder of the American Red Cross. However, she was also a pioneer for women working in the fields of nursing, government, and humanitarian aid. Throughout her long life, Clara was deeply dedicated to serving those in need. She wasted no time waiting to be told what needed to be done; instead, she took the initiative and saw to the needs of others herself. Today, she is remembered as one of the greatest humanitarians our country has ever known.

Clarissa (“Clara”) Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas Day 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts, the youngest of five children by 10 years. Her two older brothers, Stephen and David, taught her mathematics and how to ride bareback and climb trees. Her two older sisters, Sarah (“Sally”) and Dorothea (“Dolly”), taught her to read and write. Sadly, the Barton home was not a happy one. Mrs. Barton suffered from a mental illness (most likely bipolar disorder) and was unkind to Clara as a child. Older sister Dolly spent most of her life locked away in an upstairs bedroom after suffering a mental breakdown when Clara was six. However, Clara’s father, Captain Stephen Barton, loved Clara and gave her an example of hard work, persistence, and compassion. This example provided a foundation for the humanitarian efforts for which she would later become famous. Clara was raised in the Universalist church, and her autobiography gives testimony to the role her faith took in her work.

When Clara was 11, her older brother David fell off the roof of the family barn. His injuries rendered him bedridden, and doctors believed that he would not survive. Clara refused to accept their prognosis and spent the next two years nursing her brother back to full health. This was her first exposure to nursing, but it would not be her last.

Clara did not initially pursue a career in nursing, as it was a predominately male profession at the time. Instead, she acquired a teaching license and worked as an educator for 12 years before furthering her education at the Clinton Liberal Institute in New York. In 1852, she founded the first free school in the state of New Jersey. The school was successful, so much so that when it expanded and a new building was built, the board hired a male principal to run the school instead of Clara. She continued to teach at the school but suffered from health problems and her first of many mental breakdowns, and eventually resigned.

In 1855, Clara moved to Washington, D.C., and was the first female clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, earning a salary equal to that of her male peers. The adjustment was difficult, and some of her male coworkers harassed and slandered her on account of her being a woman. Her position was later reduced to a copyist, and then her job was terminated altogether with the election of President James Buchanan in 1857. She moved home to Massachusetts but later returned to D.C. when Abraham Lincoln took office, resuming her position at the Patent Office.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Clara was extremely aggravated by the lack of care given to Union soldiers traveling from the northern states to the southern battlegrounds. Many of these men were packed into train cars and not given food, water, or shelter when they stopped in the capital. Clara went to work acquiring supplies and helping in whatever way she could when the trains stopped at the station. She became particularly concerned with the number of wounded men who had been on the battlefield for days before receiving medical attention once on the train to a hospital. Because women were not allowed on the battlefield, she worked diligently to receive permission to transport supplies and medical care herself to the front lines.

Many women served as volunteer nurses during the Civil War, but their services were generally relegated to military hospitals, not the battlefield itself. On August 9, 1862, at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Clara Barton performed her first field duty. As she carried supplies to the wounded, comforted the dying, and stayed calm and collected through it all, the male nurses and surgeons working alongside her marveled at her instincts and gentleness. Clara’s service at the Battle of Antietam earned her the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield,” and her fame began to grow. She would go on to serve on a total of 16 battlefields, including every major battle in Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. General Benjamin Butler named her head nurse of his unit in 1864, even though she had no formal medical training. She would go on to instruct other female nurses as the war continued.

After the war, Clara coordinated efforts to locate lost soldiers. She and her colleagues received over 63,000 inquiries and were able to locate 22,000 soldiers, bringing closure to their families. The D.C. boarding house that she lived in is now home to the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum.

The stress of the war and recoveries of missing persons caused Clara to suffer a second mental breakdown, and she traveled to Europe for rest. While in Europe, she was exposed to the work of the organization that would become known as the International Committee of the Red Cross. Determined to provide similar humanitarian relief in the United States, Clara would later found the American Red Cross on May 21, 1881. The organization’s first relief operation was in response to the Great Michigan Fire of 1881, and it received its first congressional charter in 1900. Clara remained president of the Red Cross until 1904. She would then go on to found the National First Aid Society.

Clara Barton died of pneumonia on April 12, 1912, in Glen Echo, Maryland. Despite suffering from depression and physical and mental illnesses for most of her life, her pioneering work as a nurse and the immense compassion she showed for those in need inspired a wounded nation and continues to be a shining example of selfless love.

Harriet Tubman: A Leader to Freedom and a Servant of God

by Molly Carman

March 19, 2021

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Women have played an important role in our nation’s history and the women in this series represent those who have faithfully, courageously, and humbly served their families, communities, and our nation. Periodically throughout the month of March, we will be sharing some of these inspiring stories. Don’t miss our previous installment on Abigail Adams and Fanny Crosby.

Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, has been called “the Moses of her people.” Born into slavery, she started with nothing—no freedom, no education, and no riches. However, despite these deficiencies, she eventually acquired her freedom and led others to theirs. Abolitionist William Still said, “in point of courage, shrewdness and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-men, by making personal visits to Maryland among the enslaved, she was without her equal.” Harriet’s life and legacy were marked by her trust in God to guide and protect her.

Araminta “Minty” Ross, the woman who would eventually become known as Harriet Tubman, was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, to Benjamin Ross and Harriet “Rit” Green. She was the fifth of nine children. The exact date of her birth is unknown, but it is estimated to be around 1822. Three of Minty’s sisters were sold away from the family unit, two of them having to leave young children behind.

She experienced one of her worst beatings after getting caught with her finger in a sugar bowl and hiding for several days. Life on the plantation was hard, but Minty was taught spirituals from childhood that kept her spirits up. She attended church and believed that God was good no matter her circumstances.

Minty suffered a traumatic head injury as an adolescent when an overseer aimed a metal weight at a runaway boy and hit Minty instead. She would suffer from seizures and headaches for the rest of her life. This event likely played a role in igniting Minty’s fierce desire to be free.

Around 1844, Minty married John Tubman, a free man about five years her senior. Their marriage, though genuine, had no legal standing on account of Minty’s enslaved status. Minty still had to live on her enslaver’s land, apart from her free husband, and any children they would have had together would have been considered the property of her master. It was around this time that Minty changed her name to Harriet Tubman.

In 1849, Harriet’s master died suddenly and left the estate in considerable debt. Knowing that she would likely be sold away from her husband and family, Harriet resolved to escape to freedom. She later recounted, “I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” Harriet wanted her husband to go north with her, but he did not share her dreams and refused to go threatening to report her, but Harriet was determined.

Harriet made her first contact with the Underground Railroad when a Quaker woman visited the plantation and told Harriet that if she ever needed help—wanted to escape—then she could come to her house. On the night of September 17, 1849, Harriet ran away with two of her siblings, Ben and Henry. However, her brothers had second thoughts and turned back while Harriet continued on alone. Several historians believe that Harriet first took refuge on the farm of Jacob and Hannah Leverton.

Harriet was given assistance and provisions by members of the Underground Railroad, who advised her to chart her course by the North Star. She traveled over 100 miles before reaching Philadelphia—and freedom. She later recounted, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.” Harriet got a job as a maid, and while she loved her newfound freedom, she desired that her family could be free, too. “I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land; and my home after all, was down in Maryland; because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there. But I was free, and they should be free.”

Harriet began to make plans for the dangerous journey back to Maryland. Although highly discouraged to take the trip, she believed that God would protect her. The following quote has been attributed to Harriet: “Twasn’t me, ‘twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.” After bringing her sister and her sister’s children safely north, Harriet knew she wanted to help others. Eventually, she helped most of her family to freedom. She had wanted to bring her husband John north as well but was heartbroken to discover that he had remarried in her absence.

In 1850, the second Fugitive Slave Act was enacted, which allowed anyone to capture runaway slaves anywhere, even in the north—and there were hefty rewards. Free men resorted to fleeing to Canada to maintain their freedom. Harriet was scared, so she turned to her faith: “I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.” Harriet used her savings to buy a house in Canada for fugitive slaves, and in the winter months, she traveled back to Maryland in order to guide others to freedom. She never traveled the same route twice and depended on the Quaker farms along the way to assist her. Legend says slave owners despised her so much that they posted a $40,000 reward for her arrest, although this figure is disputed by some modern historians.

Harriet may have taken as many as 19 trips and rescued or otherwise helped upwards of 300 slaves. She recounted her stories and life events to her friend Sarah Bradford, who published her memoir, Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People. Of her rescue efforts, Harriet said, “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say—I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

During the Civil War, Harriet worked for the Union army as a nurse, scout, cook, and spy and became the first woman to lead a military operation in the United States. She rejoiced when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863. After the war, she returned to New York, married her second husband, Union veteran Nelson Davis, and adopted a daughter named Gertie. She would go on to work as a humanitarian and suffragist alongside the likes of Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and Thomas Garret. The latter said of Harriet, “I never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul … her faith in a Supreme Power truly was great.”

When Harriet’s husband died in 1888, she received a widow’s pension. She also received a nurse’s pension but was denied a scout’s pension. She struggled financially for the rest of her life but continued to be thankful and serve others. Together with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, she established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged in 1908. Harriet died on March 10, 1913, at approximately 90 years of age. She was laid to rest with military honors in Fort Hill Cemetery in New York. Her gravestone is inscribed with the words, “Servant of God, Well Done.”

Harriet was a servant her whole life—first to her enslavers, then as a free woman to her fellow men and country. But ultimately, she was a servant of God.

Fanny Crosby: One of History’s Most Prolific Poets and Songwriters

by Molly Carman

March 16, 2021

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Women have played an important role in our nation’s history and the women in this series represent those who have faithfully, courageously, and humbly served their families, communities, and our nation. Periodically throughout the month of March, we will be sharing some of these inspiring stories. Don’t miss our previous installment on Abigail Adams.

On March 24, 1820, Francis “Fanny” Jane Crosby, one of the most accomplished, well known, and sung poets and songwriters in history, was born. Her parents, John and Mercy Crosby, were devastated when at just six weeks old, Fanny developed a cold that caused her eyes to swell and a local country doctor prescribed a hot mustard poultice that rendered their daughter completely blind. Fanny Crosby never resented her blindness, but later in life she wrote, “In more than eighty-five years, I have not for a moment felt a spark of resentment against him [the doctor], for I have always believed from my youth up that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do.”

Fanny Crosby’s childhood was not easy, but she was determined to find joy and live life to the fullest. Tragically, her father died before her first birthday. She was not allowed to attend school because of her blindness, and at age five, after visiting an eye doctor in New York, she learned that her blindness was irreversible. Crosby’s grandmother took it upon herself “to be her eyes” and teach her Scripture and how to navigate life without her sight. As a child, she memorized large passages of the psalms and proverbs which would later be the foundation for writing many of her hymns.

In 1835, the New York school for the blind opened its doors and Fanny Crosby was one of the first students. Over time, she was considered one of their best students. When guests came to the school, Crosby was frequently asked to recite poetry. During her time as a student, 22 of the men that she met would serve, or had served, as America’s presidents, from John Quincy Adams to Woodrow Wilson. But her favorite guest was the poet William Colon Bryant who encouraged her poetry.

Upon graduation, she was offered a teaching position at the school. Crosby would go on to teach for 11 years during which time she mastered several instruments, learned musical techniques, and practiced her poetry. In 1843 the school asked Crosby and other faculty members to go to Washington, D.C. to ask for more financial assistant to further the work of the school. Crosby was the first woman to ever testify before the Senate and Congress. Her presentation and poetry moved many to tears, and her testimony increased awareness for citizens with disabilities.

Tragedy struck New York in the Autumn of 1848 when the Asiatic Cholera pandemic reached its shores. Crosby cared for the students in the blind school, even when ill herself. She lost her favorite student to the disease one night while rocking her to sleep, and in the morning carried her to the church for burial. This disease drew many to the church, including Crosby. Her new friend Theodore Camp inspired her to reconsider the gospel and examine her own life. She later had a dream where a friend was dying and asked if he would see her again in heaven. From this experience she realized, “I was trying to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in another.” At age 30, Fanny Crosby gave her life to Christ.

She married Alexander van Alstyne in 1858, a fellow blind teacher at the school in New York. They were married for 44 years. She became Fanny van Alstyne legally, but was known publicly as Fanny Crosby her whole life. Their only child suddenly died as an infant. In her grieving she wrote, “Safe in the arms of Jesus,” originally a poem that was later put to music.

Crosby worked for the famous composer Mr. William B. Bradberry for four years before he died, at which point she was hired on by L. H. Brigalow and Sylvester Maine at their publishing firm, where she remained for 34 years. Brigalow and Maine became the largest publishing company of hymns and gospel music. Philip Philips approached Crosby in 1866 with 40 hymn titles in need of lyrics for his new hymnal. She composed and memorized all of them in her mind before dictating them in one setting. One of her most famous hymns, “Blessed Assurance,” was written in just five minutes and debuted at the crusades of Dwight L. Moody and Iris Sanky.

In her lifetime, Crosby contributed to “Gospel Hymns” and “Sacred Songs” hymnals which sold over 15 million copies worldwide before her death, and she donated all of her royalties to charities. She was such a prolific songwriter, often writing up to six hymns in a day, that she acquired over 200 pen names to give author variety in publications. By age 43 she had written over 10,000 poems (most of which are now hymns).

Her husband passed away in 1902 and Crosby continued to write and serve for the rest of her life. Even the night before she died, she wrote to a friend who had just lost her daughter, thinking of others to the very end. Fanny Crosby saw her savior on February 12, 1915, and on her epitaph is the chorus of “Blessed Assurance.” Today, a hymnal is often considered incomplete without one of her hymns. Her final hymn points to the testimony of her life, “To God be the glory, great things He has done; so loved He the world that He gave us His Son, who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in.”

Abigail Adams: A Force for Women’s Rights and Abolition

by Molly Carman

March 11, 2021

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Women have played an important role in our nation’s history and the women in this series represent those who have faithfully, courageously, and humbly served their families, communities, and our nation. Periodically throughout the month of March, we will be sharing some of these inspiring stories.

Abigail Smith Adams is best known as the wife of our nation’s second president, John Adams, and the mother of our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. She served as the close advisor and confidant of her husband and the first teacher of her son. But Abigail was also a formidable public figure in her own right. She was among the first to advocate for equal rights for American women. She also promoted formal education for girls and staunchly opposed slavery.

Abigail was born on November 11, 1744, in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Her father was a Congregationalist minister, and her mother was the daughter of John Quincy, who served as Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly for over 40 years. Abigail was the second oldest of five children and stood barely over five feet tall. She did not receive a formal education as a young woman (this was common at the time); however, she was taught to read and write by her mother at home and availed herself of the family library, where she learned philosophy, theology, government, and law. She also read the classics and Shakespeare’s plays. Abigail was raised on the family farm, but her poor health as a child relegated her to spending most of her days indoors, writing letters and reading books.

On October 25, 1764, 19-year-old Abigail Smith married 28-year-old lawyer John Adams, who is said to have greatly admired her for her intellect and opinionated nature. They had six children together (one was stillborn). The oldest, Abigail (“Nabby”), was born nine months after their marriage. Her second oldest and most famous child, John Quincy Adams, was born in 1767. Sadly, Abigail buried four of her children over the course of her life—only John Quincy and Thomas, her second youngest, outlived her. Aside from the large task of raising and educating her children, Abigail also worked closely with her husband to run the series of farms they rented before finally buying their own farm, “Peacefield,” in 1787.

In 1774, John headed to Philadelphia to join the First Continental Congress. The couple began a long correspondence, wherein John would ask his wife’s advice and opinions on various political matters. They also provided each other with updates on the family farm, Congress, the war for independence, and personal matters. In one letter, Abigail expressed her disdain for the institution of slavery:

I wish most sincerely there was not a Slave in the province. It allways appeard a most iniquitious Scheme to me-fight ourselfs for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind upon this Subject.

In 1775, Abigail was appointed to serve as a judge of Tory ladies by the Massachusetts Colony General Court. The governor’s wife, Hannah Winthrop, and poet and playwright Mercy Warren were other prominent appointees. During this time, Abigail also worked alongside Judith Sargent Murray, who wrote one of the earliest books on women’s equality, On the Equality of the Sexes. Adams and Murray both wanted women to have the opportunity for formal education, property rights, and control of their earnings.

In July of 1776, the Continental Congress agreed upon the Declaration of Independence, and freedom from Britain was on the horizon. It was at this time that Abigail wrote her most famous piece of correspondence to her husband, a letter that has since been referred to as “Remember the Ladies.” In this letter, she pleads with John to do what he can to allow women equal opportunity to participate in the new union. She notes, “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.” Although Abigail’s wishes were not immediately realized, her words of wisdom encouraged the creation of public policies to protect women’s rights down the road.

From 1778-88, John served as a U.S. ambassador to England and France. During the first five years of his time abroad, Abigail kept her husband informed of the young country’s new policies and progress while he confided in her on international affairs. She joined her husband in London in 1783, and they remained there until shortly before John was elected to serve as the first vice president under George Washington, from 1789-1797. John greatly respected his wife, and when he was elected the second president of the United States (1797-1801), he wrote her these words, “I never wanted your Advice and assistance more in my life.” John and Abigail Adams were the first presidential family to occupy the White House, although it was later burned down by the British during the War of 1812 and had to be rebuilt.

Although her husband was the president, the public was equally familiar with Abigail, due to her nature of speaking her mind on any and every matter. Her support for her husband’s positions, bills, and opinions on various political issues resulted in her own reputation being criticized in public. While serving as first lady, she went as her husband’s proxy and inspected a military regiment, continued to advance women’s rights to education, and promoted the abolition of slavery. In a particularly memorable incident, Abigail sought to have a free black boy named James admitted to an evening school to learn cyphering. She recounted the story in a letter to John:

The Boy is a Freeman as much as any of the young Men, and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? Is this the Christian principle of doing to others, as we would have others do to us?

Throughout her letters to her husband during their 54 years of marriage, Abigail frequently referenced Scripture to encourage him and as a reminder of the Lord’s grace and sovereignty to guide the country. Her devotion to her husband and her country is commendable, but her true loyalty was to God, who guided her through the toils of life and enabled her to stand strong. Abigail Adams died at the age of 73 on October 28, 1818, at her home in Quincy, Massachusetts.

90 Years Ago Today, a Rousing Poem Became Our National Anthem

by Molly Carman

March 3, 2021

Ninety years ago today, on March 3, 1931, Congress officially designated “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key as the national anthem of the United States of America. Key’s song is a reminder of the fight for freedom and the patriots who gave their lives during the founding of our country. Key wrote this poem as a tribute to our flag as a beacon of hope and liberty for all American citizens and the world. On the anniversary of this poem becoming our national anthem, it is appropriate to remember the price so many have paid throughout our history to secure our rights and liberty.

Francis Scott Key did not anticipate that his poem would one day become the anthem and make him famous, but his poetic words and reputation proceeded him. He was born to a wealthy family in Frederick County, Maryland on August 1, 1779. He attended St. John’s College in Annapolis. After finishing his studies, he learned and practiced law under his uncle for several years. In 1802 he married Mary Tayloe “Polly” Lloyd and the couple moved to Georgetown where he practiced law. Key gained notoriety when he defended Justus Eric Bollman and Samuel Swartwout who had been charged with treason. He would go on to serve as the District Attorney for the District of Columbia and even an advisor to President Andrew Jackson in the 1860s.

During the War of 1812, the British attacked Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814. For over 25 hours, cannon fire, bombs, and militia tested the resilience of the fort. The British attacked the fort after successfully marching through Washington, D.C. where they burned the Capitol and the White House. During the assault, Key made an agreement with the British and boarded one of their ships to rescue his friend who was a prisoner of war. As the battle continued into the night, the British forced Key to remain on the ship to prevent him from aiding his countrymen. From the ship it seemed as though all hope was lost for America. However, it was the sight at dawn that inspired Key to pen the famous words to his short poem, originally titled, “Defense of Fort M’Henry.”

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The poem describes the beautiful sight of liberty overcoming tyranny as the United States flag soared over the fort at dawn declaring an American victory. The banner was specifically commissioned by Major Armistead who was in command of Fort McHenry. Mary Pickersgill along with her daughter, two nieces, and servant all worked for over six weeks to complete the flag. They made two flags, one to charge the garrison that was 17 by 25 feet, and another to fly over the fort that was 30 by 42 feet. Both had 15 red and white stripes and 15 stars to represent the 15 states at the time. It is estimated that they used over 300 yards of wool; she was paid nearly $600 when it was complete. When it was clear that America had claimed the victory, the larger of the flags was raised. This flag was passed down through the Armistead family. Over time, pieces were cut off and shared with veterans, family friends, historians, and political figures. Today what is left of the flag is preserved in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Within a week, the poem that Key wrote describing the victory at Fort McHenry was published in the Baltimore Patriot, a local newspaper, and its popularity soon spread. Key’s brother-in-law set the poem to music and took the tune from a men’s social club song called, “To Anacreon to Heaven.” After the poem was put to music it was renamed, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Because of the vulgar connotation of the tune as a “drinking song” and its association with the social club, Congress rejected it when the song was first proposed as the national anthem in 1930. Its leaders wanted the national anthem to have more wholesome and honorable origins. Further some members did not agree with adopting the song because it was difficult to march or dance to the rhythm. Other well-known patriotic songs such as “America the Beautiful,” “Hail, Columbia,” and “My Country, Tis of Thee” where all close contenders in the debate for America’s anthem. Finally, in 1931 they came to a consensus and “The Star-Spangled Banner” was declared the national anthem.

Our national anthem is a testimony of our nation’s history and founding. As we sing the words together before a ball game, in our schools, on Independence Day, and at political events, it’s a great opportunity to take the time to remember that freedom is never free. It is our sacred duty to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness so that the next generation might benefit from the freedom that we have because of the sacrifice of the generations before us.

Biden’s Cabinet (Part 3): Jennifer Granholm’s Radical Worldview and Abortion Policies

by Molly Carman , Joseph Norris

February 24, 2021

This is Part 3 of a blog series examining the records of President Biden’s Cabinet picks on abortion and family issues. Read Part 1 on Antony Blinken and Part 2 on Xavier Becerra.

Jennifer Granholm, who served as the Governor of Michigan from 2003-2011, is back in the national spotlight as President Joe Biden has nominated her to lead the U.S. Department of Energy. The Energy Department is tasked with overseeing America’s energy supply and carrying out environmental clean-ups. As the Secretary of the department, she would have a major influence on environmental policies, and would be responsible for enacting Biden’s climate change policies.

Why should American Christians care about Jennifer Granholm’s nomination to lead the Department of Energy? When there are so many pressing issues that demand our attention, does the Department of Energy—and the one leading the department—really require sustained thought and reflection? In short, the answer is “yes.”

On the issue of the environment and creation care, David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview explained, “Christians should care about the environment because it reflects the glory of God.” But he also cautions that Christians should not become “subservient to the created order.” Christians are called to exercise stewardship over the created world and should oppose efforts to exploit it. While the Bible is clear that the created world primarily exists to bring glory to God, it also exists to serve man’s needs. An unbiblical line is crossed when nature is defied or elevated in importance over people who are made in God’s image.

Unfortunately, in comments made during Granholm’s nomination hearing, it appears Biden’s nominee will pursue energy and environmental policies that prioritize politics over people. Several times during the hearing, she dodged questions about the economic impact of her new green policies and how many jobs might be lost due to them. Moreover, it is difficult to believe that Granholm, who has claimed to be Catholic, will hold to biblical principles on her environmental policy given her radical positions on other issues, such as abortion.

It should be concerning to Christians everywhere that the nominee to lead the Department of Energy would care so much about saving the planet for future generations, and simultaneously promote a pro-abortion agenda that directly harms future generations in the womb. Granholm considers herself a champion for abortion, showing hostility toward the lives of the unborn. For example, in a 2012 op-ed, Granholm smeared pro-life measures as a “war on women,” perpetrated by “white male legislatures” to enforce their power on women. During an interview that same year, she claimed that the pro-life movement was allegedly seeking to degrade women by assuming they are unable to make decisions for themselves.

Granholm’s pro-abortion ideology marked her tenure as Michigan’s governor. On two separate occasions, she vetoed a Partial Birth Abortion Ban—which protects babies that are near birth from being killed while being born. This same ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007. She negotiated with the Michigan legislature to loosen restrictions on abortions, preventing a bill that would require an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion. In her second term as governor, she advocated for a ballot provision that would allow aborted fetal stem cell research in Michigan. Unfortunately, Emily’s List, the pro-abortion group that recruits abortion-friendly candidates, got exactly what they wanted when they endorsed her for governor.

Environmental policy has become entangled with protecting the unborn due to recent comments from prominent members of the Democratic Party. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) claimed that funding abortions helps to reduce the world’s population, thereby helping fight climate change. In addition, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) alluded to a similar idea, describing what she viewed as the “disaster” our planet will be in without eliminating the effects of climate change. Along these lines, she claimed that millennials should legitimately question if it is still acceptable to have children. Unfortunately, this type of thinking is becoming mainstream in progressive circles, as high profile figures suggest that abortion is a necessary means to prevent overpopulation.

One’s worldview, whether biblical or not, will be revealed in the way they live their life. In the case of Granholm, how she leads, the decisions she makes, and the orders she implements as the head of an executive agency will reveal her worldview. The Bible calls for all of us to care for the world that God has created and to be stewards of the environment and our neighbors (Gen. 1:28 and 1 Peter 4:10). The disconnect is when leaders such as Granholm go too far in one direction, and care for the planet but not neighbor, in this case the unborn. It is crucial to have officials who are concerned about caring for the planet and the lives of the next generation—not just one or the other. As the Secretary of Energy, Granholm would have a platform to enact liberal policies that are purported to protect the environment. If confirmed, she will hopefully hold to a biblical worldview in all areas of public policy and become a steward that protects and cares for the environment and the unborn.

Joseph Norris is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on pro-life federal affairs.

Molly Carman is a Research Assistant for Worldview and Ethics.

More Than Romance: The True Meaning of Valentine’s Day

by Molly Carman

February 14, 2021

For some, Valentine’s Day is a fun excuse to dote on a spouse or loved one with roses, chocolates, and heart-shaped cards. But for others, Valentine’s Day can be a lonely reminder of their lack of a romantic relationship. A cynical few believe Valentine’s Day is just a marketing ploy—a made-up holiday that guilts you into spending money on someone. However, the historical origin of Valentine’s Day had nothing to do with any of these things.

February 14 marks the anniversary of St. Valentine of Rome’s martyrdom in A.D. 269. He was executed by the emperor for his Christian faith and for marrying couples when marriage was temporarily illegal. St. Valentine’s life and death demonstrate the high price that can sometimes accompany standing up for Christian values despite pushback from authority or the culture.

St. Valentine lived in Rome during the reign of Claudius II, also known as Claudius the Cruel. The Roman government was notorious for persecuting Christians ever since the church’s founding, in part because Christian ethics dissented from the practices of polygamy, homosexuality, pedophilia, and prostitution that were prevalent in the Empire. Rome was at war while Claudius II was in power, and he believed unmarried men made the best soldiers (because they did not have families at home to worry about and could not use their marriage as an excuse to get out of military service). Claudius’ desire to strengthen his army, combined with his prejudice towards Christians, led to his decision to make marriage illegal in Rome for a time.

The emperor’s edict did not stop Valentine from marrying couples in secret. He did not marry them because he was a hopeless romantic or because he wanted to defy the emperor, but because he believed that marriage was a core value of the Christian faith. Claudius soon discovered Valentine’s actions and had him arrested.

While in jail, legend has it, Valentine befriended Judge Asterius and his adopted daughter, who was blind. According to some accounts, Valentine placed his hands on Asterius’s daughter’s eyes, and she was healed. Because of this miracle, the judge and his whole family became Christians and were baptized. He even released Valentine from confinement. However, the emperor arrested Valentine again, had him beaten, and later beheaded him for his “crimes.” Before his execution, Valentine wrote to the judge’s daughter and signed it, “Your Valentine.” This gesture inspired the more modern tradition of writing letters to loved ones on the Feast of St. Valentine, or “Valentine’s Day.”

Christianity’s doctrine of marriage has been attacked countless times since the church’s early days and continues to be under attack in our modern culture. Our government’s expansion of the definition of marriage, the spread of “no-fault” divorce laws, the proliferation of easily accessible pornography, and the current push to legalize prostitution are just a few of the recent cultural shifts that degrade human sexuality and ignore God’s good intent for sex and marriage. Nearly every industry—including entertainment, Big Tech, and social media—promotes rather than discourages these trends. But a Christian understanding of marriage is worth protecting and fighting for—both for the societal good it does and how it depicts the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

Christians know that humanity did not invent marriage. Rather, it was ordained by God to be a picture of the gospel, illustrating the enduring and sacrificial love that He has for the world. As the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (ESV).

The world has plenty of examples of one-night stands, adultery, divorce, unfaithfulness, and selfishness. What it needs are more examples of healthy, committed, selfless, God-centered marriages. Christians can provide these examples by committing and being accountable in their marriages, discipling the next generation on how to prepare for a godly marriage, and teaching others how marriage displays God’s character.

Marriage is about much more than romance or sexual desire—it is about sacrifice and an image of God’s love for us. Whether you are married, engaged, dating, or single, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate God’s holy parable of marriage. St. Valentine sought to protect this image, and we can do the same today. May we all learn to sacrifice for one another and love just as Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19).

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