Category archives: Family

The Imperative of Raising Good Citizens

by Molly Carman

October 5, 2020

Most people are citizens of someplace, either by birth or by choice, and with citizenship comes certain responsibilities. But what does it mean to be a good citizen? And how should Christians balance their primary allegiance to the kingdom of heaven with their earthly obligations to their communities and countries? This six-part blog series, produced under the direction of David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, aims to explore how Christians can best steward these responsibilities from a biblical worldview. Learn more at FRC.org/worldview.

This is part 4. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Good citizens are vital to the health and growth of a community. If we want our communities to continue flourishing in the long term, we must raise the next generation to be good citizens. Christians have the added opportunity of discipling the next generation to be good citizens of not only their earthly communities but also of heaven. This can be done through bearing biological children, adopting or fostering children, or teaching and mentoring children.

Today, fewer and fewer couples are having children. This is due to various reasons, ranging from personal choice to circumstances beyond a person’s control, such as infertility. But fear is a major factor in why many otherwise healthy couples opt against having children. Indeed, bringing children into a fallen world and taking responsibility for them can be a scary thought for potential parents. But one of the most practical ways that Christians can seek the welfare of their earthly communities—and potentially expand the kingdom of heaven—is by bearing, raising, and teaching children to have biblical beliefs and godly values.

Scripture is clear that “children are a blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3), and every married couple should be open to any and every child that the Lord wants to bless them with, be it through natural means or adoption. This is not a posture readily embraced by our culture, but in this we must be counter-cultural. In an article from the Colson Center, John Stonestreet and Shane Morris said, “Ours is a culture that hinders children, instead of welcoming them. That we look at God’s blessings as mere lifestyle choices, even as punchlines for wisecracks and mockery, marks that we are a dying culture. And maybe a dying Church.”

Christians are ultimately citizens of heaven and called to be imitators of Christ. Therefore, we should welcome children as Christ did (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16) and seek to teach them the fear of the Lord. Christians have a unique opportunity and responsibility to raise good citizens of earth and heaven who will be good ambassadors for Christ, blessing the nations through their actions and inspiring gospel hope with their words.

Discerning how to teach children to be good citizens of both heaven and earth can be challenging. The Bible is our best guide. Throughout Scripture, parents are commanded and encouraged to disciple their children. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not part from it.”

An important part of discipling children in Christian faith and good citizenship is modeling said behavior with humility, integrity, and courage. Children are always watching, and we can demonstrate godly traits—like resolve in the face of evil, hard work and diligence without complaint, and contentment with all of God’s blessings—through our daily actions.

This fall, American Christians will have an opportunity to vote for leadership and policies that directly impact future generations. We have an obligation to vote for leaders at the local, state, and national levels who will defend and lead our children well. We must be wise in our decisions while modeling political engagement that is motivated by love of neighbor.

Whether married or single, parent or childless, every Christian has a role to play in raising the next generation to be good citizens of earth and heaven. It is important that we do not despise children for their youth (1 Timothy 4:12) but rather intentionally guide and counsel them. Christ said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Let us be good citizens for the glory of God and teach the next generation to do the same.

Communities Need Good Citizens to Flourish

by Molly Carman

October 1, 2020

Most people are citizens of someplace, either by birth or by choice, and with citizenship comes certain responsibilities. But what does it mean to be a good citizen? And how should Christians balance their primary allegiance to the kingdom of heaven with their earthly obligations to their communities and countries? This six-part blog series, produced under the direction of David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, aims to explore how Christians can best steward these responsibilities from a biblical worldview. Learn more at FRC.org/worldview.

This is part 3. Read part 1 and part 2.

Being a good citizen isn’t easy; it takes work, conviction, and determination to uphold truth, reform shortcomings, and seek justice. However, despite the inherent difficulty of good citizenship, good citizens are essential for any community to flourish.

Communities need the good citizenship of their Christians. Although Christians are first and foremost citizens of heaven, we are not called to sit back and passively accept whatever is happening within our communities. Like the Israelites in exile at the time of the prophet Jeremiah, we ought to “seek the welfare of the city” where God has placed us, and “pray to the LORD on its behalf,” because our welfare is bound up in its welfare (Jeremiah 29:7).

It can be tempting to think that our civic engagement is unnecessary because we have the assurance that God is in control. However, confidence in God’s sovereignty does not give us a license to be lazy or passive, as Scripture makes abundantly clear. Christians have an active role to play in our communities as we “let our light shine before men” (Matthew 5:16), modeling for our neighbors what it looks like to fear God and honor those in authority (1 Peter 2:13-17). When the work of good citizenship is hard or unpopular, we should not shrink back in fear, “for God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

While many aspire to be good citizens and expect the same of their neighbors, the truth is, not everyone wants to do the hard work of being a good citizen themselves. Doing the right thing often requires endurance, courage, and resolve, which is partly why we have bad citizens. Most bad citizens are passive, contributing little to the flourishing of their community. Meanwhile, they selfishly expect good citizenship from their neighbors so they can reap the benefits of a thriving community while doing none of the work.

An essential quality that works in tandem with good citizenship is unity. If citizens are self-interested and rely upon their neighbors to do the hard work of good citizenship, the people will be disunified and the community will suffer. As citizens work together for the good of their community, the people thrive, and there is peace. Christ touched on the importance of unity when He said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25).

Sin affects every area of life, including our citizenship. Many bad citizens are bad not because they misunderstand good citizenship, but because it is far easier to lean into our human brokenness and think that others can “make up” for our lack of contribution.

Christian reader, do not be fooled; it is not just non-Christian citizens who can be passive. Regrettably, some Christians think that, because God is sovereign, they do not need to play an active role in their communities. They fall for the fallacy that what we do does not matter. However, God invites His people to be part of His work in His world—which includes our communities—for His glory.

During the election, American Christians might be tempted to use God’s sovereignty as an excuse to disengage or not vote. But passivity is the wrong choice. It is not up to politicians, lawyers, and organizations to seek the welfare of our country, states, and cities. Rather, it is the responsibility of all citizens. Taking on this responsibility requires intentionality, discernment, and actively engaging our minds to consider how our prayers, conversations, and votes will further the peace of our communities and the flourishing of our neighbors. Good Christian citizens who are actively engaged and deliberate about their contributions to their communities set a clear example of the gospel message of hope.

FRC On the Hill (September 21-25)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

September 25, 2020

Issues related to life, family, and religious freedom continue to be debated in Congress in the lead up to the election. Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring these issues and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the biggest items from the past week:

Senate Seeks to Save Moms and Babies

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) made a unanimous consent request for the Senate to pass the Support and Value Expectant Moms and Babies (SAVE) Act, which would codify the safety restrictions (risk-evaluating and management strategies, or REMS) placed on chemical abortion pills by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

First approved by the FDA in 2000 under pressure from the Clinton administration and its pro-abortion allies, chemical abortion pills are known to have serious complication risks, which can sometimes be life-threatening for the women who use them. The REMS impose several commonsense safety restrictions on the dispensing of chemical abortion pills, such as ensuring women receive the pills from physicians, are made fully aware of the associated risks, and know how to seek follow-up care from a doctor in the event of complications.  

Recently, some Democrats have pushed to repeal the REMS. In his remarks on the bill, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) noted that some Democrats advocate for chemical abortion pills being available by mail, with no additional information or care provided.

The risks chemical abortion pills pose to women are real, and they are serious. As Lee pointed out, “Women have suffered tragic, gruesome, and horrific experiences using the abortion pill.” Since its approval, abortion pills have caused over 4,200 medical problems, including more than 1,000 hospitalizations and nearly 600 life-saving blood transfusions. Twenty-four women have died from complications caused by abortion pills.

The repeal of the REMs would surely lead to greater harm to mothers. The SAVE Act should not be controversial, but pro-abortion Democrats have turned even the most basic conversations about women’s health into debates about Roe v. Wade. The truth is, Sen. Hyde-Smith’s bill says nothing about the 1973 Supreme Court decision.

As Lee said, “Something’s terribly wrong if we can’t have a conversation about women’s health without being accused of wanting to undo an entire line of precedent dating back to 1973.”

For those who care about expectant mothers’ health, Sen. Hyde-Smith’s bill is a welcome measure.

Untangling Government Subsidies for the Abortion Industry

Congress is taking steps to untangle Planned Parenthood from taxpayer subsidies.  Representative Michael Cloud (R-Texas) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the Women’s Public Health and Safety Act, a bill that would amend the Medicaid statute to give states the ability to exclude abortion businesses from participating in Medicaid.

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health care coverage for millions of low-income Americans. The Hyde Amendment does prohibit federal Medicaid funds from paying for elective abortions directly. However, Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses will perform other services besides abortion and are reimbursed for those services with a mix of federal and state Medicaid funds.

The most recent report published by the Government Accountability Office revealed that in 2015 Planned Parenthood received $414.37 million in federal Medicaid reimbursements alone! Although the funds cannot be used to pay for abortions directly, these funds subsidize the abortion industry by allowing abortion facilities to be reimbursed for other services they perform, which then frees up other money to hire abortionists, pay for abortions, or build abortion facilities.

Fourteen states have attempted to exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid, but because of a provision in the federal Medicaid statute, all of these efforts have been blocked by federal courts. Now is the time for Congress to clarify the Medicaid statute once and for all and give states the ability to make their Medicaid program free from elective abortion.

Senate Bill Would Protect Female Athletes Nationwide

Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) introduced the Protection of Women and Girls and Sports Act, which would make it a violation of Title IX for a school receiving federal funds to permit a biological male to participate in a sports program designated for women and girls.

Title IX is well known for its expansion of educational and athletic opportunities for women. With this bill, Loeffler is taking action to block what may be the biggest threat to girls and women’s sports since Title IX was adopted—the effort by some biological males who identify as female to compete against biological females. In the state of Connecticut alone, female high school track athletes have lost 15 medals to biological males in state competition in the last two years, reducing their chances for college athletic scholarships in the process.

Loeffler is the perfect senator to introduce this bill. She is a grateful beneficiary of Title IX, having played basketball and run cross-country and track in high school. As an adult, she invested financially in women’s sports by becoming a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Now, as a U.S. senator, she is seeking to protect the opportunities afforded by Title IX for future generations of female athletes.

Regardless of what one thinks about the transgender movement or “gender identity” protections in other areas of life, fair athletic competition demands a policy like the one outlined in the Protection of Women and Girls and Sports Act. It is great to see Sen. Loeffler and her bill’s co-sponsors standing up for the rights of women and girls.

Other Notable Items

  • The House took action to protect religious freedom in China by passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The bill would require companies to prove that goods produced in Xinjiang, China, and imported to the U.S. are not made using forced labor of the Uyghur Muslim minority. It passed with near-unanimous support!
  • The House Judiciary Committee attempted to hold a hearing on oversight of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division. However, it quickly turned into a partisan grandstand against Attorney General Bill Barr and his team of lawyers. Representatives Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) did a great job defending DOJ’s work to protect religious freedom from aggressive state and local coronavirus lockdown measures. 
  • Acting United States Secretary of Homeland (DHS) Security Chad Wolf sat before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in a nomination hearing to be confirmed into the role of DHS Secretary. The acting secretary has been a strong leader in protecting American cities against the recent threat of violent mobs and riots.

FRC On the Hill (September 14-18)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

September 18, 2020

Issues related to life, family, and religious freedom continued to be debated in Congress after its return from August recess. Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring these issues and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the biggest items from this week:

Pro-Life Concerns with Vaccine Development

In Wednesday’s Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on coronavirus response efforts, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) urged panelists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to pursue an ethical coronavirus vaccine. All vaccines use human tissue in their production, but not all use tissue derived from ethical sources. As Lankford explained, some companies are using stem cells from adults or the placentas of born children to pursue a vaccine, while others (such as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) are using tissue derived from aborted children. 

Lankford voiced the concerns the pro-life community has with vaccines developed from aborted children. He reminded the scientific and medical communities that the dignity of every human being must never be compromised. He also pointed out that vaccines from ethical sources will be more effective, as they will be better received by the public. “I don’t want to have a reason for people to not go get a vaccine because they’re concerned about the origin of the vaccine,” Lankford said to the panelists. “I want as many people as possible to actually get a vaccine because I think it’s important.” 

CDC Director Robert Redfield did not have an immediate answer to the pro-life concerns with vaccine development but assured Sen. Lankford that his office would follow up with more details.

Vote on Marijuana Legalization Delayed Due To Public Pressure

On Thursday, Democratic leaders from the House of Representatives announced the postponement of the vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884). If passed, this bill would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Originally scheduled for a vote on the House floor next week, public pressure from groups opposed to the drug’s decriminalization has resulted in its delay. Family Research Council is part of the opposition effort led by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), an organization that dedicates itself to educating and lobbying against the legalization of marijuana at both the federal and state levels.

Although Democratic leaders say they remain committed to bringing the MORE Act to a vote before the end of the year, this delay proves that public pressure has real consequences in Congress and that Americans want public officials to focus on the coronavirus pandemic, not partisan priorities. This delay will give those opposed to the decriminalization of marijuana even more time to voice their concerns with the bill and change some minds in the House of Representatives.  

Other Notable Items

  • The Trump administration proposed a new federal regulation that would expand the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy. This policy requires non-governmental organizations to agree, as a condition of their receipt of U.S. federal grant money, to neither perform nor promote abortion as a method of family planning overseas. The Trump administration’s new rule, if implemented, would apply this policy to contracts and subcontracts as well as grants.
  • House Republicans led a last-minute amendment effort to add religious liberty protections for employers to the Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694).
  • Democratic strategists have amplified their efforts to eliminate the filibuster if they regain control of the Senate. This move would allow a simple majority of senators to pass radical liberal policies like the Equality Act or the Green New Deal.

Ruth Moreno, a Policy & Government Affairs intern, assisted in writing this blog.

Our Foster Care System Is in Trouble. Here’s How We Can Help Fix it.

by Brooke Brown

August 12, 2020

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:3-4)

Each of us, despite maybe being older than society’s idea of a child, are still children—children of God. And for many of us, we have had or will have the gift of bringing more children into the world. As Psalm 127 states, children are a reward, a blessing, God’s prized possession. Verse four compares children to that of arrows, meaning they must be carefully shaped and formed, guided by skill and strength, and given direction. It is so important that kids are raised in a loving and affectionate home, attended to by a mother and father, and genuinely cared for.

Unfortunately, there are too many kids who grow up not knowing what affection feels like from a parent, who are abused emotionally or physically, and are given little to no direction and guidance from their parents. For some of these reasons and more, many of these children are removed from their home and placed in foster care. In the U.S. alone, there are currently more than 400,000 children in the foster care system. The prayer is that they might one day be able to return home once their parent(s) are able to take adequate care of them or be adopted into a loving family, extended or otherwise. But in the meantime, there needs to be more attention given to how the foster care system can improve in order to provide a more successful and loving upbringing for these kids.

A little-known fact about foster care is the lack of training for caseworkers working with foster care agencies. A large portion of caseworkers are not provided with professional training before being thrown into the deep end of the system. Because of this, approximately 90 percent of agencies have stated they have difficulty retaining their caseworkers. This is largely due to lack of funding and resources available to agencies and allocated by agencies to properly train their social workers. Title IV-E of the Social Security Act provides more than half of the federal funding for child welfare action. However, this Title does not allocate funds towards investigations of child abuse, hotlines, or other necessary outlets that would be beneficial for children placed in foster care. On top of that, most leaders of foster care programs have expressed that they are given little to no control over how they can spend the federal money, and often times it does not cover the expenses for particular services and needs the child or foster parents may request.

The funding issue creates a trickle-down effect. If caseworkers are not being trained by their agencies due to lack of funding, how then are parents expected to feel confident stepping into the role of being a foster parent for kids in desperate need of a loving family environment? And if children are placed into homes with inadequately trained parents who do not have the option of beneficial programs they can extend to their foster children, the turnover rate of children moving from home to home will increase, creating emotional hardships and attachment issues. If a child comes from a physically abusive and neglectful home, he/she will need to be given adequate attention and care both from the foster parents as well as outside resources such as counseling. Due to lack of funding, a lot of foster parents will take it upon themselves to research and learn ways to interact with a child who has come from a rough upbringing. One potential upside to this is that the child may see their foster parents’ motives in wanting to welcome them and genuinely help them adjust to the transition.

It is so crucial that a child coming into an unfamiliar home with new parents, possibly new siblings, and even a new town, is receiving thoughtful attention and love from their foster parents. The best thing a foster parent can do for a child in foster care is sincerely love them and show them the love of God through their actions and words. “Live out your Christianity in front of them. The way a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church is the greatest example to set for the child,” said David Bane during my interview with him. David and his wife are treatment foster care parents who foster children with mental deficits or that come from abusive/neglectful homes. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 60 percent of children that are abused or neglected receive help. Even if a foster parent is stuck with minimal training and little funds delegated to provide resources for themselves and their foster children, they still have the ability to shape and cultivate what home environment they want their foster child to experience.

So how can we as Christians help to cultivate a healthy foster care culture?

  • If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a foster parent, look into your state’s Foster Care Agencies and how your state receives funding for their programs.
  • In order to advocate for the lives of these children, it starts with asking Congress to reconsider their financing decisions.
  • If you discern that the Lord is calling you to foster, do not be intimidated by the logistics (training, funding, etc.)—be obedient to that calling and create a safe space for a child to be loved and cared for.
  • Support those in your local churches and communities who are stepping into the foster care system by lending them encouragement and prayers.
  • If you’re not ready to become a foster parent but desire to help children in these situations, look into Big Brother Big Sister programs.

Brooke Brown is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.

FRC’s Efforts on Capitol Hill (Week of July 20)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Laura Lee Caum

July 28, 2020

FRC wrapped up another busy week fighting for faith, family, and freedom on Capitol Hill.

The House came together — and then fell apart

The House of Representatives returned from a two-week recess with a full schedule of legislative items. On Tuesday, the House passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes all of the major defense programs, with broad bipartisan support. Fortunately, unlike last year, this year’s bill did not include a new family planning program with pro-life concerns or language to reshape military standards to be gender-neutral. The Senate passed their version of the NDAA on Thursday, also with broad bipartisan support. The absence of progressive policy priorities allowed Democrats and Republicans to join together in support of this year’s NDAA.

While members resisted the temptation to insert partisan priorities in the NDAA, the same could not be said of the Democrats on the Appropriations committee. The House passed the first minibus appropriations package (H.R. 7608), which includes several major pro-life and pro-family concerns. Specifically, the State and Foreign Operations section of the bill included language to repeal President Trump’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, which bars funding for foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning. The bill would also provide direct funding for the World Health Organization, which actively promotes abortion and a radical sex education agenda abroad. Finally, the bill would weaken a longstanding pro-life amendment that bans funding for any organization or program that promotes coercive abortions. Despite President Trump’s threat to veto any spending bills that weaken or undermine current pro-life policies, House leadership has pushed through a spending bill full of anti-life measures.

FRC priorities attacked in committee hearings

One-third of pregnancies in trans men are unintended.” That statement from the co-founder of Minority Veterans of America is just one example of the radical liberal agenda that was on full display in House committee hearings this week.

Several values issues came up in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing. First, Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) questioned what was included in the expansion of contraception access for veterans in H.R. 4281. The Director of Reproductive Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clarified that this would include abortifacients like the morning after pill. H.R. 3582, which would expand the scope of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include LGBT-identifying veterans, was also introduced. Promoting progressive social policies in the VA has become a new tactic in the House as they seek to sneak in social experiments on abortion, marijuana, and LGBT rights into these federal programs.

Some members used the House Foreign Assistance Budget hearing to attack the president’s appointees at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). John Barsa, the Acting Administrator of USAID, who has actively fought against the global expansion of abortion throughout the coronavirus pandemic, was questioned by members for the various pro-life and pro-family appointees at USAID. The questions the members asked were not about the appointee’s experience or credentials for the role. Instead, they raised concerns only because the president’s appointees hold a worldview with which they disagree. These types of attacks are very similar to those leveled at key White House officials, like Russ Vought, as they made their way through the Senate confirmation process. This indirect assault against people who hold a biblical worldview is greatly concerning.

Although there was a fair share of anti-life and anti-family rhetoric on Capitol Hill this week, Christians shouldn’t be discouraged. Proverbs 21:1 reminds us that in God’s hand, “the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.” Remember, God is sovereign; nothing surprises Him or takes Him off guard. Moreover, there are actions you can take to protect the values of faith, family, and freedom. First, it is important that you pray. Scripture instructs us to pray for those who are in authority, which includes our leaders in government. Second, it is imperative that you vote and get involved in the political process. As God commanded the exiles in Babylon, we, too, should seek the welfare of our city by engaging in the sometimes messy world of politics. This is one of the practical ways we obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Thus, when we are tempted to be discouraged by the rhetoric on Capitol Hill, let’s remember the words of Winston Churchill. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

Families and Charitable Organizations: The Foundation of American Society

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

June 17, 2020

This piece was originally published at NRB.org.

Churches and other charitable organizations have been on the front lines of the coronavirus response. A few examples are Samaritan’s Purse building a field hospital in New York City’s Central Park and churches hosting food drives and conducting coronavirus testing. One Alabama church tested 1,000 people in two days! Despite the active role these nonprofits have taken in meeting the health and economic needs of our country, they still rely on donations—at a time when many Americans face financial hardship due to job loss, limited working hours, or increased medical costs. Such hardships may lead to a decline in charitable donations. Thankfully, some leaders on Capitol Hill are championing the important role churches and charitable organizations play in helping local communities.

One way the tax code helps charitable organizations is through the charitable deduction. However when the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified and raised the standard deduction to $12,000, it caused many tax filers to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing their charitable contributions. Realizing this problem in the tax code, Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which allows charitable contributions up to $300 to be deducted above and beyond the standard deduction on annual tax returns. This new policy is a great first step in promoting charitable giving during the pandemic. But congressional leaders believe there is much more to be done.

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) has been the most vocal voice advocating for direct changes to the tax law to support both families and nonprofits. He summed this need up perfectly in a Joint Economic Committee hearing on charitable giving. “We have three safety nets in America. The family is the first safety net. Nonprofits are our second safety net and government is our third…The first two are essential and if the family collapses, nonprofits struggle to keep up and governments struggle to keep up.”

In May, Senator Lankford and Senator Angus King (I-Maine) co-authored a letter to Senate leaders, advocating for nonprofits, charities, and houses of worship in any future coronavirus relief bills. One of the specific proposals Lankford and King offered is raising the $300 charitable deduction limit in the CARES Act to one-third of the standard deduction. This would equate to $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for married couples. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) has taken a similar approach in the House of Representatives. His bill, the Coronavirus Help and Response Initiative Through the Year 2022 (CHARITY) Act, would expand the charitable deduction to one-third of the standard deduction until 2022.

Families and churches are the foundation of our society. They are, therefore, the societal institutions best-equipped to provide stability when America faces many health and safety challenges. When families and churches struggle, so does the rest of America. That is why the government needs to recognize and support these institutions and charitable organizations. As Sen. Lankford said, “it’s beneficial for us in our official policy and what we choose to do in the tax code to be able to create a tax code that is encouraging to families and that is encouraging to nonprofits.

Can the Pandemic Help Renew Home and Family Life?

by Daniel Hart

May 29, 2020

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, a little-noted but interesting trend is occurring—home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have seen their sales rise higher than expected as a result of people spending more time at home and deciding to take on new or long put-off projects around the house.

I can personally attest to this. My wife and I decided it would be great to raise our own chickens so we could have fresh eggs for our family and be more self-sufficient. We went about researching how to raise chickens and got five baby chicks, who are now two months old and are able to live outside. Our extra time at home has allowed us to devote more energy to our chicken project, which is now involving my retired parents and family friends who are all helping us build a chicken coop and put up fencing to protect them from predators.

All of this to say that the pandemic is leading myself and many around the country to think more about how we can cultivate our homes, which in turn can lead to new and perhaps unexpected projects that can draw our families closer together as we work with each other to accomplish them.

There is also something deeply satisfying about working with our hands to improve our homes. This reminds me of something profound recently written by John Cuddeback:

We have lost something today, but we can get it back. Our very humanity calls for living and working in our bodies, with natural things, regularly. This means all of us. We have been separated from our own humanity, from our proper homeland, and we are suffering, even if we have never known anything else.

I say we can ‘get it back’—not because we ourselves have necessarily had it before, but because it is our birthright. Our own ancestors had it; we need it; and we can still do it, even if differently, and by fits and starts.

It need not be the work of our profession, or work that makes money. It just needs to be real and regular, preferably in our home.

Each of us can make our daily lives more human by choosing tried and true forms of human work. Certain kinds of work have shown themselves to be rich and reliable as especially human modes of acting.

Here is a short list we might consider:

1. hand-crafting in natural substances: wood, stone, metal or fiber
2. caring for the earth, plants, or animals.
3. preparing and preserving natural foods
4. any aesthetic work with hand tools, such as drawing, painting, carving
5. Miscellaneous such as cutting, splitting, and burning wood for heat  

It seems to me that doing these kinds of projects by hand is intimately connected with family. When we share in these activities with our families and teach ourselves and our children to do them, we are not only helping our homes become more self-sufficient during uncertain times, we are also participating in a primal familial bonding and formative experience that has the great potential to increase love and unity amongst each other while at the same time building character.

Families in the modern age desperately need to share in this type of formative bonding with each other. As Yuval Levin has recently written, there is a distinct sense in which the breakdown of the traditional family structure in our time has contributed to a breakdown in character formation that is essential for an individual to become a healthy, thriving member of society. He writes:

…The family forms us by imprinting upon us and giving us models to emulate and patterns to adopt.

The family does all this by giving each of its members a role, a set of relations to others, a body of responsibilities, and a network of privileges. Each of these, in its own way, is given more than earned and is obligatory more than chosen. Although the core human relationship at the heart of most families—the marital relationship—is one we enter into by choice, once we have entered it that relationship constrains the choices we may make. The other core familial bond—the parent-child relationship—often is not optional to begin with, and surely must not be treated as optional after that. It imposes heavy obligations on everyone involved, and yet it plays a crucial role in forming us to be capable of freedom and choice.

In this sense, the institution of the family helps us see that institutions in general take shape around our needs and, if they are well shaped, can help turn those needs into capacities. They literally make virtues of necessities, and forge our weaknesses and vulnerabilities into strengths and capabilities. They are formative because they act on us directly, and they offer us a kind of character formation for which there is no substitute…  

One potential positive effect of the coronavirus pandemic is that it gives families an unexpected occasion to renew our focus on our home life and build strong, formative, and lasting bonds through shared home-cultivating activities. Let us not waste the opportunity.

Looking for Good Family TV During the Quarantine? Here’s What We Are Watching

by Cathy Ruse

April 13, 2020

If your family is like ours, television is a rarity in our house. We gave up cable television years ago, but we stream movies on the weekends and can “earn” a television program or two during the week for good behavior (adults and children alike).

But now that COVID-19 is keeping us all at home all day and every night, there is greater demand than ever for “Family TV.” Believe it or not, there are some good options that are both entertaining and appropriate for children.

We have become very serious fans of The Great British Baking Show, and a new discovery is the television network produced by Brigham Young University, BYU-TV. It is a font of totally family-friendly fare. Our favorite program is Show-Offs, featuring a team of improv actors and special guests who are given script ideas from a studio audience. I have always loved improv, but it seems always to be geared to the raunchier side of things (where the cheapest laughs are). But this show is 100 percent “appropriate”—our family’s watchword—and the actors are really talented. It routinely has us in stitches. We also love Studio C, a sketch comedy team similar to Saturday Night Live, but totally clean and appropriate for all audiences. Our teen and tween daughters love Dwight in Shining Armor about a teen boy who travels back in time and returns with a posse of hilarious medieval friends. There are a dozen others. BYU-TV is the only network our children are allowed to surf freely. All great shows, all “appropriate,” no commercials. And for anyone who may be wondering, we have not seen any proselytizing of the LDS faith.

We research movies, old and new, and watch them as a family. Recent movies that we have watched and enjoyed include oldies like Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock, and new movies like Midway (lots of obscenities, but in context it was tolerable). We have 12 Angry Men ready to go, and Bird Man of Alcatraz. We also highly recommend anything with Rowan Atkinson, from his Mr. Bean features (my favorite is Mr. Bean’s Holiday, I could watch it every week) to Johnny English. We howl with family laughter.

My go-to review sites are Movie Guide and Dove, and I check both each time. Why? Because even the best review team can miss things, so you have to be vigilant. Generally, we have been happy with their reviews. They are very detailed, going beyond counting obscenities and profanities and describing violence and nudity to explaining storyline ethos and underlying messaging, with scene-based evidence to back up their conclusions. But once they both let us down. We like musicals, and were excited about watching the award-winning new musical, Lala Land. I read the reviews carefully, and thought I knew what to expect: some language, no nudity, no sex, no violence. Fine. Yet, as we watched, the two young lovers crawled into bed together. They were clothed. They only talked. But then, flash, it is the next morning, and they are sitting on the bed. Sorry kids, let’s turn on BYU-TV. (Movie Guide has revised its review to include a more detailed discussion of this scene.)

One service that has met with mixed reviews in our household is Vid Angel. I love it, my husband does not. For a low monthly fee, you can calibrate each movie that you stream to your family’s standards, based on that particular movie’s details. The service allows you to filter content in dozens of areas of concern, including language, violence, sexual content, and drug and alcohol use. You can literally take a PG-13 movie and turn it into a slightly shorter, sloppily-spliced G movie. Our first try with Vid Angel was hilarious. We rented Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing and just set all filters to ON. We watched it, or tried to watch, as it abruptly skipped from scene to scene like it had a terminal case of the hiccups. We realized, upon investigation, that a cleavage filter was responsible for much of the 30 minutes that were cut from the movie! If missing elements of plot and watching herky-jerky scene splicing are a problem for you (they are not for me, but they are for my husband), then this service is not for you. Another problem is the absence of Disney, or the “Evil Mouse” as we call it. The service does not work with any of the hugely-popular Disney-produced movies due to a protracted copyright lawsuit Disney slapped on Vid Angel. (Hey Evil Mouse, why don’t you just make your movies family-friendly and we won’t have to use this service!)

So, life is strange right now, but let’s look on the bright side. We all have more time to spend with our families, and with some attention and planning, that time can include the joy of watching good television, together.

Prayer Point #7: Pray for a Spirit of Generosity

by David Closson

April 8, 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.

Over the last few weeks, churches have responded to the coronavirus in heroic and creative ways. Across the country, churches have hosted “Drive-In” worship services, purchased meals for nurses and doctors, provided groceries for needy families, and ministered to their hurting neighbors. In this dark hour, God’s people have sacrificially served one another and their communities and demonstrated remarkable faith. As the pandemic continues to disrupt our normal rhythms of life, opportunities for the church to meet practical needs are increasing. While the government is providing support to churches in the form of forgivable loans (for more information about these loans, see our full analysis), churches are beginning to feel the pinch as charitable giving and tithing declines. Therefore, especially over the next few weeks, Christians need to pray for a spirit of generosity. Here are a few specific ways to pray.

First, pray that Christians will be faithful to give to their local churches. According to a recent poll from LifeWay Christian Resources, 52 percent of pastors have already reported a decrease in giving due to their church’s limited ability to gather. Of those who have seen a giving decline, 60 percent say it has dropped by at least 25 percent. This decline is significant because, according to a recent LifeWay study, 26 percent of churches only have enough operating reserves to cover seven or fewer weeks. For many churches, a sharp decline in giving represents an enormous challenge. Therefore, during these trying times, Christians should commit to praying for and financially supporting their churches.

Second, pray for ministry opportunities. Many people have fallen on hard times: unemployment claims are up, workers are being let go or furloughed, and there is a pervading uncertainty in many communities. As tens of millions of Americans comply with stay-at-home orders and practice social distancing, many are finding themselves lonely, afraid, and uncertain about the future. Amid this social context, the church has an opportunity to serve people and share with them the hope of the gospel. We should pray for Christians to think of creative, outside-the-box ways to generously meet the physical and spiritual needs of their friends and neighbors.

Incredibly, in many places, people are coming to faith as the result of church members thinking outside the box. For example, Trinity Church in Temple, Texas, has seen people put their trust in Christ after a member of the congregation suggested setting up a “prayer tent” in the church parking lot. Over the last two weeks, members of the community have pulled into the parking lot for prayer and counsel. As Senior Pastor Ed Dowell recently told me, “People have given their life to Christ” as a result of the prayer tent ministry.

Third, believers should remember what the Bible says about generosity. In the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi spoke for God when he said, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Mal. 3:10). A similar promise is found in Proverbs 11:25: “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” In the New Testament, Jesus tells His followers, “[G]ive, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Of course, Christians should reject the empty promises of the “prosperity gospel,” which falsely guarantees financial blessing in exchange for sowing a seed in a particular ministry. However, Scripture is clear that God honors the generosity of His people. Although some churches and ministries have tragically misunderstood, abused, and exploited these promises, we should not blunt the message of Scripture, which is that God honors and blesses those who are generous. As Christians are able, we should strive to give to our churches and other ministries engaged in gospel work.

Finally, in his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul addresses the issue of generosity and financial giving. He says, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

As the country grapples with the realities of the coronavirus, Christians have opportunities to serve their neighbors and communities. In many of these communities, churches are on the front lines of meeting practical needs. Let’s pray for a spirit of generosity among God’s people, so the courageous, creative, and winsome witness of the church may continue to go forth during these uncertain times.

Archives