Author archives: Rob Schwarzwalder

The Other Religious Right

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 22, 2012

The “Religious Right” is once again the subject of great media scrutiny. Just look for the term in any search engine, and more articles than one reasonably can read will pop-up. Most will be caustic, a few will smack of an academic detachment that borders, invariably, on the condescending, and the majority will be uncomprehending.

The demise of the Religious Right is reported copiously and regularly every four years or so. Odd; why is this dying breed so rigorously and persistently courted or deliberately ignored by politicians whenever they seek election?

As a Christian working for a large socially conservative organization, generally I don’t recognize the caricatures of religious activists that appear in the popular prints. Some leader made an off-the-wall statement 15 years ago and, apparently, it represents the thought and conduct of tens of millions to this day. Illogical as this is, it is the steadfast trope of the Left.

Thus, I read with great gratification John Mark Reynolds’ “The Other Religious Right.” Professor Reynolds, an Evangelical, observes that “the comment boxes on blogs, left and right, are full of people who see their Party as Good and the other Party as Orcs, but in real life those folk are rare. I have met them, but I have heard more than one sermon against them. They are, in my experience, marginalized by their own folly.”

This captures my experience, as well. The socially conservative Christians I know almost universally are compassionate, thoughtful, approachable, principled, and well-informed. Do they, or I, always speak with perfect nuance or total probity? No; we are human, and thus make mistakes. But the people I know, and with whom I serve, are far more characterized by their forgiving spirits and their eagerness to share the love of Christ (including through extraordinarily generous giving to international development ministries) than by the ignorance, bigotry, and bluster attributed to them by their smug and seemingly mystified opponents.

Growing up my church and my family worked to protect unborn children by law, because it was just, writes Professor Reynolds.

We had not dropped this protection, the Supreme Court took it. We certainly werent stupid enough to think the law would make people good, but we did think that the law could protect some unborn children. Periodically, we would step back and examine our motives. Critics were plentiful and happily pointed out our sins. We are now in the third iteration of the post-politics evangelicalism I remember. It is so predictable …

Predictable but frequent and, Im glad to report, tremendously exaggerated. The humble, committed Evangelical conservatives I know have an unabated passion for the sanctity of life, the centrality of religious liberty, and the importance of marriage and family to a decent society. They are going nowhere, fast.

A Response to Peter Wehners Column on Franklin Graham

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 15, 2012

Recently Franklin Graham took a bold and prophetic stance against President Obamas affirmation of same-sex marriage. His full statement can be read here.

Franklin Graham is the founder of Samaritans Purse, a ministry that provides life-saving food and medical care to the poorest of the poor, even in such generally closed countries as North Korea. And Samaritans Purse does their good unabashedly as a witness to the love of Christ and the power of His Gospel.

Rev. Graham is also unashamed to stand for biblical principles in the public square. In his statement on marriage, he noted that The institution of marriage should not be defined by presidents or polls, governors or the media. The definition was set long ago and changing legislation or policy will never change Gods definition. This is a sad day forAmerica. May God help us.

For this, Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has taken him to task for selective outrage. He also attacks Rev. Graham for being censorious and lack(ing) a spirit of grace and reconciliation, and for not with equal vigor attacking such vices as self-righteousness and woes as poverty.

Were one to comb through Rev. Grahams many messages, spoken and written, Im sure there could be found myriad condemnations of such things. In this instance, he spoke out about a matter of enormous consequence to our society and did so immediately after his own home state voted to affirm traditional marriage and the President of theUnited Statesdenigrated it.

Let me see: Relevance, importance, timeliness, biblical instruction, patriotism, a burden for his country what was Rev. Graham missing?

Mr. Wehner a faithful man and generally a perceptive commentator - also argues that the definition of marriage has changed even within the Bible. Nonsense: To suggest, as he does, that Old Testament examples of polygamy, concubinage, etc. mean that the Scriptural definition of marriage itself has changed is neither logical nor consistent with the Bible itself.

From Genesis 2 on, the Bible makes clear that God ordained marriage to exist between one man and one woman, for life. Jesus affirmed this overtly in such passages as Matthew 19:1-10; one might tend to think of Him as a rather good expositor of the Torah.

In this same passage, Jesus told His Pharisaic interlocutors that Moses granted certificates of divorce because of your hardness of heart …but from the beginning it has not been this way. In other words, God makes allowances for human fallenness (e.g., polygamy in the era of the Hebrew prophets), but this does not mean He approves of such or has not made His moral will sufficiently known that it can be followed without ambiguity.

Additionally, it was President Obama, not Rev. Graham, who politicized the Bible by using the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do to you) as a pretext for his endorsement of homosexual marriage.

The implications of such an application are mind-boggling. Do we let our children indulge in diets of Coke and ice cream because they enjoy it and it makes them, and not us, obese? If the standard for moral judgment in public policy is self-satisfied permission of all that does not cause me direct and serious physical harm, our society is not crumbling it is in free-fall.

Homosexual marriage is destructive of a social institution grounded in biblical revelation and validated by natural law. It places the entire social fabric at risk: Children can only naturally be pro-created by a male and a female, and the marriage of those partners provides the healthiest environment in which a child can be raised. These premises compose the indisputable foundation of civilization.

Franklin Graham is to be applauded for his declaration that when homosexuality is sanctioned by a nations leaders and enshrined in a nations laws, the heart of our Creator is grieved. With him, I pray that God may indeed help us.

The Federalist Papers Still Matter

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 7, 2012

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz of Stanford’s Hoover Institution has written a bracing reminder of the importance of The Federalist Papers and also how the reading of this essential document is being slighted in American higher education. The following quotes are particular gems:

… according to the progressive conceit, understanding America’s founding and the framing of the Constitution are as useful to dealing with contemporary challenges of government as understanding the horse-and-buggy is to dealing with contemporary challenges of transportation. Instead, meeting today’s needs requires recognizing that ours is a living constitution that grows and develops with society’s evolving norms and exigencies.… thus many of our leading opinion formers and policy makers seem to come unhinged when they encounter constitutional arguments apparently foreign to them but well-rooted in constitutional text, structure and history.

The Left, whether in our universities or our federal government, cannot abide a Constitution with a fixed meaning because this implies limitations on federal authority, which inherently would constrict the fundamental and ironic project of American liberalism: the radical autonomy of the individual enshrined in law, and the supervening capacity of the state to make it so. In other words, moral libertinism can only be ensured by a virtually totalitarian government. And since the Constitution has a defined meaning (why would it provide for its own amendment if its words and phrases could be re-interpreted per the desires of the political moment?), applying it as its signers intended is offensive, even primitive.

Read Berkowitz’s piece. More importantly, read The Federalist Papers and the Constitution they so eloquently and clearly explain. A good thing to be reminded why you’re a conservative, now and then.

The Chen Saga Continues - and Needs Prayer

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 2, 2012

According to Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF), the woman who helped Chinese human rights dissident Chen Guangcheng escape from his house arrest, has been “detained” by the Chinese authorities.

According to (He) Peirong, Chen spent months on his back, pretending to be near death, so that his guards would relax their vigilance. Then on April 22, with exquisite timing, he scaled a wall and ran for his life, taking several wrong turns and falling into a river because of his blindness. Peirong drove 20 hours to meet Chen and fooled the village guards into letting her in. She disguised herself as a courier. Then she drove Chen another eight hours still wet from his fall in the river to safety in Beijing. Their plan was so masterfully executed that the authorities did not realize Chen was gone for four days.”

WRWF is a ministry devoted to ending forced abortion and sexual slavery in China. The horror of the Chinese government’s commitment to abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy in order to enforce it’s “one child” policy has resulted in enormous suffering for women, not to mention the deaths of their unborn children.

As millions of Americans take time this week to participate in our National Day of Prayer, let us pray for the protection of He Peirong, Chen Guangcheng, and their families, and for guidance for such U.S. officials as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke (who accompanied Chen to the hospital where he is now being treated), as this situation continues to unfold.

The Hemming-in of Boy Scouting Continues

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 27, 2012

Over the past few days, the secular media have reported extensively about a woman whose lesbianism compelled the Boy Scouts of America to ask her to resign as a Den Mother. She has been featured in numerous media interviews, her overwhelmed-looking little boy with her, and been heralded as a hero for standing up to the BSA.

Here are some facts:

  • Scouting does not allow homosexuals to be in leadership - period. After hundreds of lawsuits regarding the sexual abuse of boys - nearly all of them involving homosexual molestation - and after paying out many millions of dollars in settlements ($18.5 million in one case alone), the BSA wisely has chosen to have a zero-tolerance policy toward homosexuality. It has been reported that since 2007 alone, the Boy Scouts of America have been sued for sexual abuse claims by 35 individuals in 11 states. This prohibition on gays and lesbians in leadership positions is widely known and was known, specifically, by Jennifer Tyrrell when she chose to become a Den Mother.
  • Ms. Tyrrell seems intent on using her little boy as a means of attacking the BSA’s position on homosexuality. By all accounts, she was capable and caring as a leader of the Tiger Cubs. That is irrelevant: Despite her claim that a local Scoutmaster told her that her lesbianism was immaterial, the stated policy of the Boy Scouts of America is that homosexuality is incompatible with the tenets of Scouting. Every week, roughly 2.8 million Scouts take an oath to remain “morally straight.” According to the historic tenets of Scouting, homosexuality does not comport with that standard. Every adult in Scouting is to support and model the moral convictions expressed by the BSA. Ms. Tyrrell knew that, too.
  • In 2000, the Supreme Court declared that as a private organization - one joined voluntarily by every person involved with it - the BSA had the right to require belief in a Creator and traditional sexual morality of all participants. Ms. Tyrrell (drum roll, please) knew that before becoming a Den Mother, as well.

In West Virginia, the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve is composed of 10,600 acres of land adjacent to the New River Gorge National River. It is a boy’s paradise, and was provided through the generosity of several wealthy families and an energy company. Together, they have given in excess of $100 million to provide Scouts with a beautiful and perpetual site to hold their National Jamboree and many other activities.

Yet this remarkable gift would have been less necessary to the future of Scouting had the American Civil Liberties Union not filed a suit insisting that the BSA could not officially be sponsored by the Department of Defense, since according the ACLU the Scouts’ affirmation of a Creator constitutes a state endorsement of religion. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, under the agreement reached between the ACLU and the DOD, “Provided there is no sponsorship by Department of Defense personnel in an official capacity, Boy Scout units are permitted to meet on military bases and military personnel are permitted to remain active in Boy Scout programs.

While Scouts are grateful they can continue their historic access to military facilities, the fact that they affirm belief in God and eschew homosexuality places the continued use of military bases at risk. Why? Two reasons: (1) Homosexual and atheist groups continue to work to undermine Scoutings positions on God and human sexuality, and (2) the U.S. military now allows open homosexuality. Given these things, how long will it be before the Scouts are told to endorse homosexuality and drop their allegiance to a Creator or else never come to military bases again (much as many cities and corporations have also cut off support to the BSA for these reasons)?

These attacks on Scouting have made private donations, including massive ones that provide locations for major Scouting events, essential.

Cruz Tyrrell, the young boy thrust into the center of this controversy, and his fellow Tiger Cubs are the ones most adversely affected by Ms. Tyrrells behavior. Our hearts should go out to them. Yet it would be a disservice to millions of boys and their families to lift the prohibition on homosexuality in Scouting. Just look at the litigation history of the past 40 years: Of course not every gay man is a sexual predator, but the predators in Scouting have been, almost without exception, male.

Tonight one of my sons will be staying on a military installation with a host of other local Scouts. He will lead his Patrol in a series of activities and, barring something unforeseen, have a great time. In all likelihood, they will never consider the matters discussed in this piece. Nor should they have to: They are boys, surrounded by honorable men, roughing it with a spirit of fun and adventure.

May it be ever thus.

Millennials, Christianity, and Culture

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 27, 2012

Young people are ambivalent. This is the essential finding of a new study by Georgetown Universitys Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. The Center, led by FRCs friend Dr. Tom Farr, joined with Public Religion Research Institute to obtain an in-depth portrait of younger Millennials on faith, values, and the 2012 election.

The portrait that emerges in the survey, A Generation in Transition: Religion, Values, and Politics among College-Age Millennials (ages 18-24), is textured by hues of uncertainty. Among its most notable findings:

  • Younger Millennials report significant levels of movement from the religious affiliation of their childhood, mostly toward identifying as religiously unaffiliated. While only 11 percent of Millennials were religiously unaffiliated in childhood, one-quarter (25 percent) currently identify as unaffiliated, a 14-point increase. Catholics and white mainline Protestants saw the largest net losses due to Millennials movement away from their childhood religious affiliation.
  • Despite holding some moral reservations about abortion, a majority of college-age Millennials support legal abortion, as well as community access to abortion services. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Yet a slim majority (51 percent) of Millennials believe that having an abortion is morally wrong, compared to (37 percent) who say it is morally acceptable.
  • Millennials feelings toward present-day Christianity are fairly ambivalent. Approximately three-quarters (76 percent) of younger Millennials say that modern-day Christianity has good values and principles, and 63 percent agree that contemporary Christianity `consistently shows love for other people. On the other hand, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Millennials say that anti-gay describes present-day Christianity somewhat or very well. And more than 6-in-10 (62 percent) Millennials also believe that present-day Christianity is judgmental.
  • Although younger Millennials are divided on the morality of gay and lesbian sexual relationships, a solid majority support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. Almost 60 percent of Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry.

The ideological division among Millennials should come as no surprise. Many of them were raised without fathers and in non-religious homes. They were educated in public schools that taught tolerance as the supreme and integrating virtue, although concurrently they were taught not to extend such to those who believe in revealed and unbending truth. In such classrooms, right and wrong exist only as cultural-linguistic artifacts of an unenlightened era.

Millennials have come of age in a society where promiscuity is exalted in every popular medium, in academia, in sports, etc. Walking into a large department store a couple of years ago, I noticed a photo atop a kiosk of sunglasses that appeared to show two women kissing. Disturbing to me, yet part of ordinary life forAmericas youth.

One of the more striking features of the survey is what it reports young Americans believe about Christianity. They seem to be favorably impressed by Christianity itself (as they understand it), but not by professing Christians, who they view as judgmental.

The extent to which we who profess the Name of Jesus have been harsh or crass is lamentable. May we repent of it. Yet making moral judgments is merely to affirm Christian teaching. According to Scripture and natural law, some things really are right, others really are wrong. Take sexual morality: the Bible makes it plain that all non-marital, non-heterosexual intimacy is against Gods plan for men and women.

To affirm this teaching is to assert that those who differ are in error. This is a moral judgment, to be sure, but it is grounded in neither arrogance nor hatred. Not to affirm scriptural teaching about human sexuality would be to accede to practices and beliefs that do not comport with the glory of God or the good of those He has made in His image. It would be unloving.

Additionally, it would seem that many Millennials have obtained their understanding of Christianity more from the criticisms of iconic cultural figures and antagonistic teachers than from practical experience with believing Christians. Kindness, generosity, integrity, self-sacrifice: These characterize the committed Christians I know far more than the narrowness, bitterness, or hypocrisy for which popular culture indicts them.

Stereotypes are easy to formulate, almost always inaccurate, and difficult to dissipate. Human nature gravitates to the simple and sensational. Thus, the canards that Christians dont care about unborn children after they are born, that we hate gays and lesbians, that we suppress women, etc. gain social credence.

It is for those of us who love the living Savior to dispel the inaccurate perceptions of our age concerning the path of life to which we graciously have been drawn. It is for us to do this without compromise and with compassion, to be filled with both grace and truth, qualities with which Jesus was filled (John1:14).

Surely, there can be few higher callings for any of us than this.

Hope and Human Trafficking

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 25, 2012

American Christians, who understand the incomprehensible scandal and moral horror of sex trafficking must recognize that this is an issue of high moral priority.” So says Al Mohler in his latest op-ed, “The Ugly American - Sex Trafficking and Our National Humiliation.”

Aptly said: What Dr. Mohler rightly calls a scandal has become so widespread that, according to the Associated Press, Attorney General Eric Holder is “designating a coordinator to oversee the Justice Departments efforts to combat human trafficking, describing it as modern-day slavery that has reached ‘crisis’ proportions on a global scale.”

The millions of victims of human trafficking deserve the help and support of Christians, especially as this problem grows here at home. As Attorney General Holder noted: “As incomprehensible as it seems, trafficking in girls is an increasingly prevalent part of gang activity. These crimes are seen as ‘low risk and high reward.’ They bring in more profits and often result in less prison time than dealing drugs. As one journalist who was covering instances of human trafficking here in Arkansas explained it: ‘You can only sell a drug once, but you can sell a human being over, and over, and over.’ Today, these transactions can be executed quickly, conveniently, and anonymously over the Internet and many of them involve young children.”

Eric Holder is not the Attorney General many of us would like: His refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, his commitment to defending the constitutionally indefensible Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare), and his allegiance to an agenda that would erode religious liberty as our Constitution understands it make his tenure at Justice a dubious one. Yet on this issue, he’s getting it right - so much so, that in his speech he even praised pro-life, conservative Republican Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), whose longtime championship of the most vulnerable (born and unborn) elicits the praise even of his philosophical opponents (read more about his recent work here).

Earlier this month, just across the Potomac from FRC, “Two associates of a Fairfax County-based Crips gang pleaded guilty … to charges of running a prostitution ring that recruited and trafficked local high school girls, authorities said … At least 10 underage girls from Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia were lured into prostitution and were forced to continue working through threats and violence, including rape, court records say.”

This gruesome phenomenon is occurring nationwide: From New York City to Odessa, Texas, this moral cancer is widespread throughout our country.

Thankfully, a number of wonderful ministries have stepped up to help those trapped in this modern-day slavery. FRC’s features links to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s “Servant Match” site and to the Catholic Charities homepage. Visit these sites to learn about ministries that, both here at home and abroad, are rescuing women and girls from the grip of involuntary sexual servitude and helping them move forward with hope and dignity.

Remembering Charles Colson

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 23, 2012

In the early 1990s, Mike Gerson and I worked for Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN). Mike had worked previously for Chuck Colson and done a wonderful job of writing and research for him. This was, in part, how he obtained his position with Sen. Coats, an unashamed and thoughtful Evangelical.

Yesterday, Mike - now a columnist for the Washington Post - wrote a lovely column about Mr. Colson that better captures the man than anything I’ve read. You can read it here.

In a Culture Without Virtue, We Have Men Without Chests

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 18, 2012

Over the past few days, reports of vile acts of a handful of Americans abroad - among them the Secret Service prostitution scandal in Colombia and the gruesome photos of U.S. soldiers with the torn corpses of dead terrorists - have evoked much commentary, ranging from the thoughtful to the reactive.

Indignation over sordid conduct is normal and a sign that conscience is not wholly dead in our culture. Still, it’s fair to ask why these things should, any longer, shock us.

Ours is a society where traditional moral boundaries are mocked, where traditional families are derided, and where healthy self-restraint is seen as unduly constrictive. Our films celebrate every form of vice, our marriages are wracked by the effects of infidelity and pornography, and our children are raised in homes without fathers.

Human sexuality is debased everywhere, homosexuality is affirmed as normative, and multiple relational partnerships are seen as rational alternatives to husband-and-wife commitments. Students are taught to make value judgments based on utility, not truth (“If the ship was sinking, would you save a priest or an engineer?” - this kind of question is not uncommon in public school “ethics” classes).

Watch virtually any network television sitcom tonight: Women will be objectified, children sexualized, fathers shown as buffoons, and petty cruelty and sarcasm will be laced throughout what passes for humorous dialog.

To say something is “wrong” is considered harsh, and provokes the disdain of the post-moral elite. Our President rightly speaks of “high standards” for federal employees, but by what measurement are such standards evaluated? Certainly not the Judeo-Christian moral tradition, which increasingly is portrayed as archaic and cruel.

Why, then, should we wonder that some of our fellow citizens indulge their fallen natures so completely? C.S. Lewis asked this question eloquently: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful.”

Our moral disarray is acute, and getting worse. Brethren, let us pray - and act with the compassion and boldness of a Savior who still invites all to the abundant life He alone can offer.

Living Together Before Marriage: An Idea Whose Time Will Never Come

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 17, 2012

Cohabitation is a rather academic term given to the situation where a man and a woman live together without benefit of marriage.

Cohabitation is common, and becoming more so. According to University of Virginia clinical psychologist Meg Jay, “In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation.” (Source)

Interesting facts, but so what? Is there harm in living together before marriage?

Dr. Jay, who says of herself that she is “not for or against living together,” nonetheless acknowledges that for “young adults … far from safeguarding against divorce and unhappiness, moving in with someone can increase your chances of making a mistake.” Dr. Jay outlines many of the potential harms of living together without marriage, including a higher risk for divorce once married and less satisfaction in marriage itself.

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one year of cohabitation leads to marriage only 27 percent of the time for “non-Hispanic white,” 21 percent for “non-Hispanic black,” and 14 percent for “Hispanic/Latina” women.

In their recent paper “162 Reasons to Marry,” the director of FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute, Dr. Pat Fagan, and two researchers write that, “The future strength of our nation depends on good marriages to yield strong revenues, good health, low crime, high education, and high human capital.” Makes sense: God is the author and sanctifier of marriage (Genesis 2:18-25, John 2:1-11), and His reliability has a pretty strong track record (100 percent isn’t bad).

Smart parents and smart societies pay attention to the state and strength of marriage,” writes Dr. Fagan. Good counsel, that. Let’s take it.