Tag archives: Religion

Introducing Lecture Me! - A New Podcast from FRC

by Family Research Council

October 15, 2019

We all need to be lectured sometimes.

Family Research Council’s new weekly-ish podcast Lecture Me! features selected talks by top thinkers from the archives of the FRC Speaker Series. Our podcast podium takes on tough issues like religious liberty, abortion, euthanasia, marriage, family, sexuality, public policy, and the culture—all from a biblical worldview.

Listen with us to the lecture, then stick around afterward as we help you digest the content with a discussion featuring FRC’s policy and government affairs experts.

The first three episodes are now available. They include:

  • Nancy Pearcey: Love Thy Body

FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview David Closson joins Lecture Me! to discuss Author Nancy Pearcey’s lecture about her book Love Thy Body, in which she fearlessly and compassionately makes the case that secularism denigrates the body and destroys the basis for human rights, and sets forth a holistic and humane alternative that embraces the dignity of the human body.

  • Military Mental Health Crisis

Currently, an average of 21 military veterans are taking their lives each day. FRC’s Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs Matt Carpenter joins the podcast to discuss Richard Glickstein’s lecture as he shares the compelling evidence that proves faith-based solutions reduce suicides, speed the recovery of PTSD, and build resiliency.

  • Repairers of the Breach

How can the conservative movement help restore America’s inner cities? FRC’s Coalitions Senior Research Fellow Chris Gacek joins the podcast to discuss Robert L. Woodson, Sr.’s lecture on how the conservative movement must identify, recognize, and support agents of individual and community uplift and provide the resources, expertise, and funding that can strengthen and expand their transformative work.

Lecture Me! is available at most places you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Castbox.

Let’s Make Evangelism Part of Our Everyday Lives

by Daniel Hart

August 30, 2019

As believers in Christ, how much is evangelism part of our everyday lives?

It’s a question that I have been asking myself a lot lately, especially in light of yet another discouraging poll that was released this past Sunday showing that over the last 20 years, the number of Americans who see religion and having children as “very important” is in steep decline (from 62 to 48 percent for religion and from 59 to 43 percent for having children).

The same poll also shows a substantial difference in the outlook of Millennial/Gen-Zers (ages 18-38) and the Boomers/Silent Generation (ages 55-91), who see patriotism, belief in God, and having children as “very important” at substantially higher rates than the younger generation. This does not bode well for the future of our country.

Overall, the poll found that Americans are increasingly angry, anxious, and unsatisfied. As believers called to witness to the gospel, we clearly have our work cut out for us.

Plentiful Harvest, Few Laborers

Whenever I come across fresh evidence like this of our country’s increasing godlessness and indifference to family life, I often think about Christ’s words in Matthew’s gospel: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matthew 9:36-38).

They were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Isn’t that an incredibly fitting description of our culture right now? Christ’s next words haunt me no matter how many times I read them: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” There are so many souls out there who are lost, who are yearning for God without fully realizing what this hunger in their souls is for. Are we laboring amongst the plentiful harvest of these shepherdless sheep?

As believers, it’s easy to settle into a comfortable pattern in our faith lives. We find great solace and satisfaction in sharing our faith with our families, close friends, and church communities, as we should. While it’s true that a primary evangelistic responsibility is to pass the faith on to our children and to refuel our needy souls in our churches every week, it’s also true that many believers live their lives as though that is where their call to witness ends, myself included. What Jesus is calling us to is something even more far-reaching: to see the world as our mission field.

An Isolated and Lonely Culture

So how should we evangelize today’s culture? Should we stand on street corners with megaphones and loudly proclaim Christ while handing out leaflets?

I would argue that for most of us, this type of impersonal evangelism is not what we are called to. I believe we are called to a much more personal type of witness, one that focuses on individual connection and invitation during one-on-one interactions that happen in everyday life.

Why? Consider this: in one of the most astonishing studies released in recent memory, it was found that 46 percent of Americans reported “feeling lonely sometimes or always,” with 43 percent “feeling isolated from others, and the same number report[ed] feeling they lack companionship and their relationships lack meaning.”

Let’s let this sink in for a moment. Almost half of America is saying that they do not have meaningful relationships and often feel lonely and isolated. Now recall what the first study I discussed in the opening paragraphs found: fewer and fewer Americans consider raising a family and faith to be important. But families and faith communities are two of the biggest means by which people find true companionship and meaning in their lives, and thereby avoid loneliness!

Tragically, a large portion of the American populace does not appear to see the connection between what they value most in life and how those values affect their wellbeing. They are shunning society’s most fundamental institutions that provide authentic community and a sense of identity and belonging. Just how integral is family to this sense of identity? As Mary Eberstadt has written:

Up until the middle of the twentieth century (and barring the frequent foreshortening of life by disease or nature) human expectations remained largely the same throughout the ages: that one would grow up to have children and a family; that parents and siblings and extended family would remain one’s primal community; and that, conversely, it was a tragedy not to be part of a family.

As for faith, psychology professor Clay Routledge recently summed up his and his colleague’s findings about its unique importance:

Religion isn’t just like any organization or group that affords people the opportunity to socialize. Religion promotes a deeper feeling of mattering by teaching adherents that they have social duties to family, friends, and even strangers. Religious faith is an invisible thread that weaves individuals together into moral communities.

And yet, fewer and fewer Americans are seeing the value of family and faith. Is it any wonder that so many in our society are feeling increasingly isolated and alone?

The Essential Importance of Connection and Invitation

It is abundantly clear from all of this that there is a plentiful harvest of people in our culture who need to be reached out to. To reiterate: I would argue that the most effective way to evangelize a godless, lonely, and disconnected culture is to focus on personal connection and invitation in our interactions with people in our everyday lives.

So what does this look like?

Connection. For an introvert like me, I start getting nervous when I think about “reaching out” more. I’m the kind of person who, depending on the day, finds it quite difficult to merely ask a cashier at a store how their day is going. But these kinds of friendly interactions must be the starting points in our mission as believers to spread the gospel. A friendly “How is your day going?” to a grocery store clerk, fellow airplane passenger, or homeless person on the street can easily turn into a genuine connection if the moment is right. But unless we initiate this connection, we will never know if an evangelism opportunity could arise from it. 

Even if one of these everyday encounters does not result in a genuine connection being made, we can simply say, “God bless you” as we depart from the person we are engaging. These simple parting words are a way not only to impart a blessing on them, but also to emphasize the fact that we are Christian and that our good will is ultimately derived from our faith.

We should be especially open to opportunities for connection at our places of employment. Besides our homes, there is no place that we spend more time at than our jobs. The more time we spend at work with our coworkers, the more of a rapport we establish with them. This natural familiarity we develop with our coworkers can lead to an increased trust and openness with each other, which can then lead to excellent opportunities for evangelism.

We should also remember certain populations of people who are especially prone to isolation, particularly the elderly and those in prison. One in three seniors report feeling lonely, which underscores the need for us to visit our local assisted living facilities, where many elderly often do not have loved ones to spend quality time with. We should also spend time to discern if we have a calling for prison ministry. Organizations like Prison Fellowship provide great information and opportunities to minister to this often-forgotten population.

Invitation. Once we have established a connection with someone, we cannot afford to leave it at that. As we are seeing, our culture is starving for authentic community. This means we must extend an invitation to those we have connected with to continue the conversation, at a minimum. Depending on what we feel called to in a given situation, this could mean exchanging personal contact information, extending an invitation to our home for a shared meal, or inviting them to our church.

As Rod Dreher has written, evangelism in our time cannot be separate from discipleship. When we help those we witness to learn how to be faithful by continually inviting them into our own homes and faith communities, we not only build up their faith but also enrich our own families and communities with the fresh perspectives of newcomers.

We Are Not Called to Be Successful, But Faithful

During our journeys of witness, we will often feel like failures. In fact, we will probably not be able to see any lasting impact from most of our attempts to evangelize during our lifetimes. But this doesn’t matter. The Lord is simply calling us to be laborers in the harvest—He will take care of the rest.

In the end, evangelism is simply the act of showing love for our neighbor. Consider the words of Augustine, the mighty father of the early church, who described how Ambrose, a bishop, witnessed to him in his Confessions: “I began to love him at first not as a teacher of the truth … but simply as a man who was kind and generous to me.”

Speaking the Truth in Love: How The Bachelorette Got It Both Wrong and Right

by Laura Grossberndt

August 8, 2019

Is it ever okay for a Christian to question or “judge” the behavior of another person, particularly if that person also professes to be a Christian? ABC’s wildly popular reality dating show The Bachelorette, which wrapped up its 15th season last week, served as an unconventional and unexpected proving ground for this deeply theological question.

This season’s star of The Bachelorette, Hannah Brown, openly describes herself as a follower of Jesus and a woman of faith. One of her suitors, Luke Parker, is also a professing Christian. In the season premiere, Luke described the moment he decided to put his faith in Jesus and make a lifestyle change which included abstaining from sex until marriage. Luke quickly emerged as a frontrunner for the coveted “final rose” and Hannah’s love—and their seemingly shared faith was a primary reason.

The would-be couple’s budding relationship quickly turned turbulent, however, as Luke was constantly at odds with the other men seeking Hannah’s favor. But Luke’s sometimes imprudent behavior and immature reactions to interpersonal conflict were just precursors to the season’s most explosive drama: a highly-charged conversation concerning premarital sex.

We Can’t Have Grace Without Repentance

Luke wanted a verbal confirmation from Hannah that they were on the same page about saving sex for marriage. He tells Hannah that he would remove himself from the competition if she (hypothetically) were to reveal to him that she had been sexually intimate with another man on the show. Hannah then says that she has had sex with another one of her suitors, and while “sex might be a sin out of marriage,” she is confident Jesus loves her despite it.

Hannah compares Luke’s desire to end their relationship to the famous John 8 account of the woman caught in adultery. Hannah views Luke’s disapproval of her actions as him holding a metaphorical stone in front of her face. In her opinion, Luke’s sin of pride precludes him from objecting to her behavior.

Is Hannah right?

For context’s sake, here are some key takeaways from John’s account of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11):

  • Jesus shone a light on the sinful nature of all those involved.
  • Jesus is the only one without sin.
  • Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery.
  • Jesus forgave the woman and instructed her to go and sin no more.

The woman caught in adultery committed sexual sin; and yes, Jesus still loved her. While Jesus, by virtue of his sinlessness, had the right to condemn sin, He does something unexpected, yet in keeping with His mission to fulfill the law. He extends grace (“neither do I condemn you”) while also instructing her to repent and change (“go and sin no more”).

Many want the grace Jesus offers without the repentance. But we cannot have one without the other. Receiving God’s grace is inextricably tied to repentance.

Avoiding Hypocritical Judgment

Can a Christian call another Christian to account for their sin? Was Luke wrong to find fault in Hannah’s actions?

In Matthew 7, Jesus warns his followers against judging others while simultaneously ignoring their own sin, because “with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

Does that mean Christians can never judge the actions and behavior of others? No. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to judge those within the church and refuse them the status of “brother” if they continue in patterns of unrepentant sin:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

Speaking the Truth in Love

The act of a Christian calling another Christian to account for their sin can be a loving one, provided it is done out of a desire to help the other Christian toward righteousness, and that it is done with tenderness and humility, recognizing one’s own sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness.

Christians (“little Christs”) get our name because we are called to follow the example of Jesus. We are called to forgive one another and pursue holiness in our personal and corporate life. It is easy to emphasize one to the neglect of the other. However, to faithfully follow Christ, we need to be walking in both forgiveness and repentance. Extending forgiveness without requiring repentance leaves someone still under the curse of sin, while repentance that is not accompanied by forgiveness is antithetical to the gospel’s offer of reconciliation with God.

Hannah and Luke’s conversation in the late stages of the show reveals they were not as likeminded on sex and theology as they initially thought. A lot of pain and heartache could have been avoided if this conversation had taken place much earlier in their relationship. Whether one is a professing Christian or not, if you have radically different opinions on sex than the person you are dating, you should not be dating them. Those irreconcilable differences will inevitably cause problems down the road.

However, in addition to their disagreements about sexual intimacy, Hannah and Luke also displayed different, improper, and inadequate reactions to sin. Hannah demonstrated lack of remorse for the actions Jesus tenderly warns against. While Luke is justified for wanting to be on the same page about sexual intimacy as his potential future spouse, his manner of approaching the topic needed more Christ-like humility and discernment. Scripture speaks to both improper perspectives:

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

[S]peaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ … [L]let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. … Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:15, 25-27, 31-32)

Wisdom says a reality dating show such as The Bachelor or The Bachelorette is not the ideal environment for Christians to find a spouse. The concept of dating multiple people at one time, while being cut off from the fellowship and counsel of friends, family, and church community for several weeks, is not a recipe for righteous living or lasting love (Proverbs 18:1, Hebrews 10:24-25).

But while it may be unwise, that does not mean that those appearing on the show who profess to be Christians are not sincere in their profession. While I do not know either Hannah or Luke personally, I wish nothing but the best for them and hope this experience will drive them closer to God and to a better understanding of sin, the gospel, true love, and compassion in Jesus Christ.

This season’s viewers of The Bachelorette probably did not expect to encounter conversations about sin and the nature of God’s forgiveness. However, the contestants are real-life people wrestling with real-life problems, and it is only natural for two people contemplating marriage to want to agree on matters as weighty as theology and sex. Unfortunately, the seriousness of sin and its consequences was minimized, while the love and forgiveness of the gospel was inadequately conveyed. Despite what The Bachelorette may have led its audience to believe, Christians are right to judge the behavior of other Christians, provided we do so out of Christ-like compassion, speaking the truth in love.

Laura Grossberndt is on staff at Family Research Council.

Finding Hope in the Joshua Harris Story

by David Closson

July 31, 2019

Joshua Harris, former lead pastor of Covenant Life Church and author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, announced over the weekend via Instagram that he no longer considers himself a Christian.

The post came a week after Harris surprised followers by announcing he and his wife were separating after 21 years of marriage.

Harris’ book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, advocated abstinence and an alternative approach to dating. It was widely influential in the purity movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s and sold a million copies. Released in 1997, Harris’ book argued that casual dating often causes emotional harm and that Christian singles should not pursue a romantic relationship until they are ready for marriage. Instead, singles should embrace courtship, a dating alternative where couples cultivate friendship and parents are given permission to guide the relationship. Strict physical boundaries—no holding hands, no kissing, limited time alone—should govern the relationship to protect the couple from sexual temptation.

A generation of Christian conservatives embraced Harris’ ideas and his book became synonymous with the purity movement.

Propelled by the success of his books (Harris published two additional purity advocacy books in 2000 and 2003), Harris’ profile rose, and he was called as pastor of Covenant Life Church, then a leading church in the Sovereign Grace church network. Harris was installed as senior pastor at age 30.

Harris left Covenant Life in 2015 to pursue formal theological education. In recent years Harris made news when he formally apologized for his famous book and what he now believes was the perpetuation of “an unhealthy view of romance and sexuality.”

Harris’ shocking announcements about his divorce and decision to renounce Christianity have garnered national and international attention. While media reports have generally been sympathetic to Harris, for many Christians, especially those influenced by I Kissed Dating Goodbye, the news is extremely disheartening and provides an opportunity to reiterate some important truths.

Apostasy

How should Christians struggling with this news think about these developments? Specifically, how should the question of apostasy—which this story has raised—be approached?

The question is fair—on his Instagram page Harris wrote: “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” Elsewhere in his post he refers to his decision explicitly as “falling away.”

Harris’ rejection of Christ is clear and without equivocation. Tragically, he no longer believes the gospel he preached for two decades of public ministry. Thus, it would seem Hebrews 6:4-6 and its warning of apostasy applies to him:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

However, Scripture is also clear that God preserves those he has called to salvation. In Philippians 1:6 Paul writes, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” In John 10:28, Jesus, referring to his true followers, promises, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” 

Thus, the Bible is clear that true believers cannot lose their salvation. Therefore, how does one reconcile Hebrews 6:4-6 with the rest of Scripture? As New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner explains, the answer lies in the fact that the warning passage of Hebrews 6:4-6 is best interpreted as a means God uses to keep believers till the end. For those who belong to God, the warnings serve as stark reminders to stay faithful to Christ; they spur believers to persevere in the faith. In other words, no true believer truly and finally falls away from Christ; the warnings keep us within the family of God.

Thus, for someone like Joshua Harris, the Bible teaches that he never experienced conversion. All indications from Harris’ public statements are that 1 John 2:19 applies to him: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

Christian Celebrity Culture is Dangerous 

Another aspect of this story involves the celebrity culture that has developed within Christianity (especially American evangelicalism). With the rise of mega-churches and large para-church organizations, pastors, in many situations, achieve what amounts to celebrity status. However, with a platform and increasing influence comes a responsibility that many are unprepared for.

The phenomenon of celebrity pastors has led to ministries built around a personality rather than the gospel of Christ. As Leah Klett recently warned, people who attend churches led by well-known pastors need to be very careful that they are committed first and foremost to Christ rather than an engaging, influential pastor.

Consequently, in a personality driven culture, when celebrity pastors have a moral or financial scandal, or worse, renounce their faith, their congregations and ministries are shaken, and followers are often sent into an existential crisis about the nature of their own faith.

However, this should not occur. While a congregation should rightfully be grieved when their leaders fail to live up to the high standards set forth in Scripture for Christian leaders (1 Tim 1:1-7, Titus 1:5-9), the truthfulness of the gospel should never be based on the character or credibility of a person. Again, if one’s commitment to Jesus is grounded in an engaging personality rather than God’s Word, it is likely that that person’s faith was built on sand rather than rock (Mat 7:24-27).

Thus, although Christians are right to grieve at the news of Joshua Harris’ desertion of the faith, these revelations should not cause Christians to doubt or question their own faith, if indeed their faith is genuine and rooted in God’s Word.

As Kevin Rodgers, the interim pastor at Harris’ former church said to his congregation in a letter shortly after the news broke, “Paul’s primary instruction for us when leaders swerve from faith is that we make it an opportunity for greater resolve in our own faith, not less. Seeing leaders who taught us the gospel veer from it should deepen our commitment to ‘guard the good deposit’ entrusted to us. And ‘pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness’ (1 Tim 6:11).”

The Lord Will Hold Us Fast

Joshua Harris’ divorce and rejection of Christianity sent shockwaves through many Christian circles, especially those who benefited from his ministry and appreciated his writings. His rejection of the faith is shocking; Christians are rightly alarmed that someone who preached God’s Word for years has renounced the gospel. However, I believe it is important to reiterate that there is still hope for Joshua Harris. There is still time to turn to Christ in faith and repentance—likely for the first time—and experience a true relationship rooted in the unmerited grace that comes through a relationship with Jesus. Paul himself adamantly rejected Christ prior to his conversion—even devoting his life to persecuting Jesus’ followers—before recognizing his terrible mistake and turning to Christ.

A final point worth noting is that Harris’ apology to the LGBTQ+ community suggests underlying discomfort with the Bible’s clear teaching on marriage and human sexuality. This points to a common trend with those who “de-transition” from Christianity: rejection of the faith is often coupled with a repudiation of biblical morality that is increasingly viewed as suspicious or subversive in today’s culture.

Christians should rightly grieve over Joshua Harris’ announcement that he has kissed his faith goodbye. It should steel us to persevere to the end and plead that the Lord will indeed hold us fast.

Faith-Based Solutions Are Vital to Preventing Veteran Suicide

by Cassidy Rich

May 14, 2019

By the end of every day, an average of 20 U.S. military veterans will have committed suicide. This number is staggering, especially when you consider the fact that less than 1 percent of the U.S. adult population are currently serving in the military. What happened?

Ask Richard Glickstein and he’ll tell you that there are several reasons. Glickstein, the former president of the National Bible Association and current military/veteran advocate on Capitol Hill, says that faith-based solutions are “devoid” in the military because the focus for the last several decades has been on the mind, not the spirit. Another reason why veteran suicide has escalated, Glickstein points out, is because some of the medications that veterans are given to help them are actually hurting them and can make the thoughts of suicide worse.

In a Speaker Series event at FRC headquarters last week, Glickstein quoted George Washington in a letter written to the Virginia Governor in 1758: “Common decency, Sir, in a camp calls for the services of a Divine; and which ought not to be dispensed with, altho’ the world should be so uncharitable as to think us void of Religion, & incapable of good Instructions.” Washington knew that religion played a vital role in the health and well-being of soldiers. He knew that spirituality needed to be the focus for both mental and bodily health. “This is why he instituted the chaplaincy at Valley Forge,” Glickstein stated.

So what do faith-based solutions have to do with veteran suicide? Glickstein pointed out that based on 140 years of evidence, “The disciplined practice of religion increases resiliency, reduces suicide, and helps to speed the resolution of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. PTSD and suicide ideations are conditions of the spirit/soul. Only therapy to this core of a person will affect change.”

These are some of the findings of Dr. Harold G. Koenig, Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University, who gathered and analyzed 140 years of scientific evidence on mental health and found that people who prayed often and regularly attended religious services were far less likely to have mental health issues. This is vital information because science shows that once a male civilian enters the military, he is 30-50 percent more likely to commit suicide. For women who enter the military, their chance of mental health disorders and risk of suicide increases 200-500 percent.

Why are the percentages so high, especially for women? Glickstein says that major contributing factors are isolation and reverse culture shock. When our soldiers come back from war, most of them don’t have a common community of fellow veterans. They feel isolated and feel like they can’t talk to anybody about what they experienced because their civilian friends and family won’t understand. The other aspect is reverse culture shock—veterans often have an incredibly difficult time reentering into “normal life” because they are different. Their experiences changed them and now they are struggling to jump back into a life that no longer exists because they have changed.

What can we learn from this? Glickstein said, “Suicide doesn’t differentiate between a Democrat and Republican. Veteran and military suicide, they’re Democrats, they’re Republicans. This isn’t an ideological issue. This is a crisis.” What veterans need are Americans who are willing and want to hear their stories, more connection and community with fellow veterans, and accountability in faith and religious circles. New faith-based programs like Soul Survivor Outdoor and the Trump administration’s new high-level task force on preventing veteran suicide are huge steps in the right direction.

Personal Responsibility and Public Service Bring Glory to God

by Alyson Gritter

April 22, 2019

Frequently as an intern in Washington, D.C., I have had a few moments to stand in awe of the towering figure of the Washington Monument. On any given day, gazing up at such a remarkable sight, I am reminded of a fact that not many in D.C., let alone America, know. What exactly is at the top of the monument and why is it so significant to America today?

According to the National Park Service (NPS), the Washington Monument stands 555-feet high, making it the tallest structure in the area. In 1884, when the monument was finished, the Latin words Laus Deo, which mean “Praise be to God” or “God be praised,” were engraved on the east face of the aluminum cap at the top of the monument. Thus, every morning, when the sun rose, the first ray of light to touch D.C. landed on this engraving. The original builders wanted this to symbolize God being given the glory as the first thing to occur every morning. It is a beautiful piece of history and an even more powerful testament to what God has done for this nation. Unfortunately, the story of this gorgeous engraving doesn’t end here.

In 1885, a lightning protection system (or collar) was installed over the top part of the original cap. Though it protected the monument, it rubbed off the original engraving, rendering the Latin words illegible. In 1934, the collar was restored, but the original engravings were not included in the restoration project. Instead, a new engraving was added to the cap. The top of the monument now reads: “Repaired, 1934, National Park Service, Department of the Interior.” This wording was placed directly on top of the original east side engraving Laus Deo.

This story is a fitting illustration of how many leaders in our government operate today—how they work to obscure the Framers’ original intent to honor and glorify God. Similar to how the words Laus Deo were covered over on the top of the Washington Monument, forces are at work in our government to erode, destroy, and erase the Christian heritage of our nation. So many of us today, instead of first giving the glory to God for everything we have, lean on our own “power” and “authority.”

We have done this in two ways. First, we as citizens are overly relying on the government for assistance and guidance to prosper. Former Senator Jim DeMint said it best: “Over the last 50 years, American attitudes have shifted from cherishing self-sufficiency and personal responsibility to craving cradle-to-grave security ‘guaranteed’ by government.” We are increasingly looking to the government to provide all our needs and even our desires, like free college for all. According to Heritage’s Index of Dependence on Government, in 2013, 70 percent of government spending went to dependency programs.

Too many millennials are buying into a narrative of a socialist utopia where the government can and should supply all our needs. In contrast, Paul writes in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Secondly, many of our leaders first seek power instead of surrender. Many lawmakers are wanting to be the solution to our problems instead of pointing us to the only One who can solve our problems. It seems that their desire to be a “functional savior” is fueling their actions so that citizens increasingly rely on them in order to bolster their own image in the culture. Many of our political leaders seem to desire power and glory over truly effective public service.

A few recent examples of this include former President Obama trying to take the credit for economic gains that happened after he left office, and Senator Cory Booker using his infamous, self-anointed “Spartacus moment” to launch momentum for his 2020 presidential campaign. It is a common theme in today’s politics—“How can I further my image and my mission?” instead of “How can I get on board with God’s mission?”

What America needs today is citizens who strive for personal responsibility and service to others and leaders who are looking first to serve, to imbibe the spirit expressed in the faded, worn out words of the Washington Monument—Laus Deo. We need leaders who serve God (Joshua 22:5; 1 Samuel 12:24; Hebrews 9:14) and their fellow citizens (Luke 6:38; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10). Jesus himself said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). We as citizens need to renew our commitment to being responsible for ourselves but also to serve those in need, and our government officials need to rediscover their true vocation: to be public servants.

Alyson Gritter served as an intern at Family Research Council.

Praying for Our Leaders

by Peyton Holliday

March 12, 2019

Here at Family Research Council, we have been reading through Carter Conlon’s book It’s Time to Pray. Prayer has been a focus at FRC since the beginning, but we are renewing that focus this year. In Conlon’s book, he highlights stories of how people’s lives have been changed by prayer. He shows us how people live out the verse in James: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (5:16).

We as Christians in the United States should be praying for our leaders in authority over us. In the book of 1 Timothy, we are told to pray for our leaders: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” We need to pray that our leaders will have wisdom (Proverbs 3:13) and will surround themselves with counsellors (Proverbs 15:22). Here are some great scripture passages to pray over our leaders from the book of Proverbs:

  1. Lord, may our leaders guide our nation in what is right, just, and fair (1:3).
  2. May they understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (2:5).
  3. Above all, may our leaders trust in God with all their heart and not lean on their own understanding (3:5).
  4. As they interact with those around them, may they avoid all perverse talk and a deceitful mouth (4:24).
  5. Lord, may our leaders not be afraid of sudden disaster (3:25) and make wise decisions in the face of a disaster.
  6. As our leaders make both life and political decisions, may they ponder the path of their feet (4:26).
  7. I pray that our leaders will not be wise in their own eyes, but fear the Lord and turn away from evil (3:7).
  8. Lord, may they find favor and understanding in the sight of God and man (3:4).
  9. As our leaders make national and local decisions, may they listen to wisdom and be secure without fear of evil (1:33).
  10. May our leaders do their work pure and right (20:11).
  11. Thank you, Father for those that you have placed in authority over us. May you remind us to pray for them and never give up remembering that our leader’s hearts are turned by you and you turn them however you please (21:1). Amen.

It is our duty as Christians to respect the authority over us (Romans 13:1-7). I think we would have an easier time respecting those in authority if we prayed for our leaders on a daily basis. Prayer, as small of a task and as insignificant as many think it to be, can change the world. If more Christians would daily, hourly, and without ceasing pray for our leaders, our nation and the world would be a different place.

Peyton Holliday is an intern at Family Research Council.

Keeping The Freedom Fire Ignited

by Family Research Council

July 3, 2014

It’s a sad reality that even the most expensive, precious, and invaluable of gifts sometimes receive the least appreciation, especially through the passage of time. The gift of religious freedom that we as Americans are privileged to possess is one that many beyond our shores only dream of having, yet those who are blessed to enjoy it easily forget the magnitude of this gift that we have been given.

During this month of July, when our thoughts turn to all things patriotic as we take part in various celebrations that have a reoccurring red, white, and blue theme, it is still easy to miss the most precious gift that we are given as Americans – the freedom of religion. While the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, right to bear arms, and so forth, are all extremely important, the freedom of religion is by far the most precious of all.

The longing for religious freedom was the driving force that compelled the first settlers to cross unchartered waters in search of a land where they could worship God as their conscience dictated. Yet, today, many Americans do not even give a second thought to the fact that they are able to go to church and live out their faith without retribution from the government. However, we get a taste of what other countries experience as a daily reality when we rally on the steps of our Supreme Court, praying that our business owners will not be forced by the government to violate their deeply held convictions and provide abortion-inducing drugs to their employees.

In China, demolition teams show up in the dark of night to remove any sort of Christian representation that believers have the courage to display. Iranian American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini spent his 10th anniversary of marriage behind bars, unable to see his wife and two children. Sudanese Christian believer Meriam Ibrahim was forced to give birth to her second child in a prison cell. Her crime? Being a Christian.

Because we have been given so many blessings as Americans, it is extremely easy to have an attitude of entitlement. We tend to forget that the only reason we have these freedoms is due solely to God’s blessing and all those who have given their lives so that our fundamental rights could be protected.

 

This holiday, ignite the fire of freedom in your own heart. Commit to defend it with everything in you. This gift is only as strong your willingness to come to its defense.

 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

 

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

 

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

 

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

- Martin Niemöller

Pandering on Sexual Morality = Church Decline

by Rob Schwarzwalder

February 6, 2013

John Lomperis at the Institute of Religion and Democracy has written a convincing, tightly-argued piece that old-line Protestant churches that compromise their allegiance to biblical moral truth are failing. It’s well worth reading. Here are two particularly potent quotes from it:

** “The spiritual and existential end of a Christian denomination (United Church of Christ) with such a rich heritage should drive any disciple of Jesus to mourn.”

** “Recently, some voices have argued that if non-mainline evangelical churches are to survive among younger generations of Americans, they too must move their approach to sexual morality closer to that of the UCC. In light of the above, the best response this young adult can offer is: Seriously???”

Son of Thomas

by Robert Morrison

November 15, 2012

I met Jacob for coffee this week. He didnt look a day older than when I first met him as a University of Virginia undergraduate fourteen years ago. Jacob was then a sharp Washington intern and I enjoyed hearing his familys story of coming to America. Jacobs parents are Christians who left India to come here seeking a better life for their children.

Jacob and I were headed to a Capitol Hill briefing on the threat of sharia law to Americas freedoms. He has returned from a two-year stint in Defense Studies at a graduate school in India. He has made himself an expert in jihadist ideology and its global transmission through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

I was keenly interested in how this young American would react to living in the country of his parents. He said that when his class went to hear Sec. of State Hillary Clinton when she made an appearance in India, his classmates found her condescending and ill-informed.

Indian students of national defense are upset that Americans can be so naive. Why has America lined up behind Pakistan when the official motto of the Pakistani Army is “Faith, Piety, and Jihad in the Way of Allah” (“Iman, Taqwa, Jihad-fi-Sabilillah“)? Why is the U.S. showering billions in aid on the Pakistanis?

Well, the standard answer is that the Pakistanis have the nuclear bomb and we dont want to alienate them. But China and Russia also have nuclear weapons. So does India. We dont seem to feel it necessary to pay them off.

Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror, we explain. The Indians are too polite to laugh in our faces. Despite years of promises to the U.S., the ISI, Pakistan’s equivalent to the CIA, continues to permit terrorist training camps to be run in Pakistan. From those camps, jihadists are sent throughout the world, including the U.S. Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who attempted to bomb Times Square in 2010, was trained in one such location.

Surely, Pakistanis were helpful in tracking down Osama bin Laden, werent they? They let him lounge with his wives a mile outside the gates of their West Point for years. If they knew this, they were treacherous. If they did not know this, they were spectacularly incompetent. In either case, we are wasting our money.

It should be no mystery which case was true. A few weeks after our helos had lifted off, with the body of bin Laden wrapped to sleep with the sturgeons, the Pakistani regime arrested the man who helped us finger the mastermind of 9/11. So much for Pakistani friendship.

Jacob thinks we Americans could learn a lot from Indians. They have a lot more experience with jihad than we do. (Like a thousand years!)

Jacob and I move on to other topics. Hes a recent convert to Orthodox Christianity. Although it is not widely known in the West, Orthodox Christians strongly believe the Apostle Thomas traveled to India as a missionary as early as A.D. 52. There, he founded a church which has survived to this day. I tell him that I was brought to faith in Christ by reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the heroic Russian Orthodox writer, so I will always have a soft spot for our Orthodox brethren.

Also, I pointed out the important scene in the movie Luther. When young Martin is studying for his doctorate, his professor recites the Latin maxim: Extra ecclesia non salus est. Outside the [Roman Catholic] Church, there is no salvation. Immediately, Brother Martin objects: What about the Eastern Church? Even then, he recognized the kinship he had with Christians outside the communion of the Catholic Church. As a Lutheran, I could hardly fail to appreciate that scene. It may have been a pivotal moment in the Reformation.

I asked Jacob how he coped with the multitude of India’s languages. He explained that while he picked up some Hindi and Tamil from his classmates, they were eager to practice their English with him. It actually gave him an opening to discuss Christianity with them.

As the noted literary critic E.D. Hirsch wrote in Cultural Literacy, the only way you can understand English is to read the Bible. Thats because English contains hundreds of biblical allusionsthe widows mite, the extra mile, the good shepherd, the widow and the unjust judge, becoming a Jonah, the camel and the eye of the needle, just for starters. Hirsch was not a Christian, but he recognized the central role the Bible has played in the development of our English language.

One of the tragedies of the education establishment going even beyond the erroneous court rulings against Bible readings is that our national literacy has declined seriously since the 1960s. Hirsch was concerned about the disparate impact of this decline on minority students, in particular.

I mentioned to Jacob my greatest joy: My almost four-year old grandson has been attending a Lutheran pre-school. His first lesson was God made me. He is now memorizing Bible verses. Mine for him will be this: Gods Word Stands Forever.

My grandson is the only white child in his class. The rest of the school is comprised of immigrant and minority children. When you hear him recite the names of his playmates, you realize that America is changing. Yes, thank God, America is changing. In certain ways, she is becoming more deeply Christian. It is considered politically incorrect to state this, but the majority of America’s immigrants identify themselves as Christians and have enriched American culture through their unique contributions.

As we leave for our meeting, Jacob helps me with my tangled trench coat. Its a gracious gesture from the young to the old from this Son of Thomas. If we have the wit, and the faith, we will thank God for young Americans like Jacob.

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