Tag archives: Religion

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of May 17)

by Family Research Council

May 22, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Washington Update: “Colorado’s Signature Issue”

In a race against the clock, Colorado’s petition gatherers are hitting the ground running—trying to find the signatures they need to save lives. If you live in Colorado, please find a nearby location and sign the petition to ban late-term abortion. (And share with any Coloradans you know!)

2. Washington Update: “Democrats: The Test Is Yet to Come”

Democrats are pushing for a coronavirus response plan that raises costs and creates even more dependence on government, while they and the media refuse to mention the Trump administration’s successful response to the supply problem, the equipment problem, and the ventilator problem brought on by the coronavirus.

3. Washington Update: “To Teach His Own: The Rise of Homeschooling”

The current family situation of being stuck at home is finally forcing parents who might never have thought about public school alternatives to take stock of what their children are being taught and how well they’re performing.

4. Blog: “Churches Are Filing Lawsuits Over Coronavirus Restrictions. Here Is a List.”

The Department of Justice released a memo expressing its concern that states may not violate religious liberty rights, even amidst a pandemic. Many churches have challenged discriminatory state and local orders by filing lawsuits over coronavirus restrictions. Check out the list in our blog post.

5. Blog: “Speaker Pelosi’s Partisan Coronavirus Relief Bill Attacks Life and Family”

Last week, House Democrats passed the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), a coronavirus relief bill that funds abortion providers. Congressional Democrats have shown that they would rather score political points than help our country through this pandemic. Our blog post breaks it down.

6. Washington Watch: Rich Lowry describes how the press has systematically ignored Trump’s virus successes & solutions

Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review and author of The Case for Nationalism, joined Tony Perkins on Washington Watch to discuss how the media has largely ignored President Trump’s massive coronavirus supply effort.

7. Washington Watch: Cathy Ruse pulls back the curtain on modern sex ed and how parents everywhere can fight back

Cathy Ruse, FRC’s Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Human Dignity, joined Tony Perkins on the radio to introduce her new publication: Sex Education in Public Schools: Sexualization of Children and LGBT Indoctrination.

For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!

Online Outreach: How to Continue Fulfilling the Great Commission During the Coronavirus

by Worth Loving

April 21, 2020

Over the last month, most churches in America have been forced to cancel all of their normal services and activities due to the coronavirus outbreak and government-imposed lockdowns. Because pastors and churches rely very much on face-to-face interaction to effectively minister to their congregants, the current crisis has presented a unique challenge unlike any we have ever faced in modern times.

With most churches closed to the public, many are opting to livestream their services online through their website or through platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Pastors are giving messages from their living rooms or simply broadcasting their sermon from an empty church auditorium. And while it’s certainly not the same as meeting in person, online outreach has proven to be incredibly effective.

Allow me to give a personal example. I’m privileged to attend GraceWay Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., just east of Capitol Hill. After being forced out of our rented facility due to the coronavirus, online outreach has become our only means of airing our services. Our pastor, Brad Wells, says, “The apostle Paul brought the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an ancient marketplace. So whether it’s an ancient marketplace, a modern marketplace, or a virtual marketplace, Christ’s disciples need to have the gospel prominent.”

Over the last few weeks, we have witnessed our online outreach explode. We’ve been developing our online ministry over the past few years, particularly with livestreaming services through our website and Facebook. Before the coronavirus pandemic, our livestream averaged reaching anywhere between 500-1,500 people on a given Sunday. Now, over a month into completely livestreamed services after the virus forced us to cancel in-person services, our reach has soared to 6,000 as of Sunday, April 6th! Similarly, our peak viewers on March 8th, the Sunday before the lockdown began, was only five on our Facebook page. On Sunday, March 29th, that number surged to 64! At the start of the quarantine, the livestream of our morning service was shared just eight times and received only 17 comments. On Easter Sunday, April 12th, our Facebook livestream was shared 42 times. The following Sunday, April 19th, saw 251 comments! We have received comments from people watching all over the country and around the world. We have even had people call in to request prayer.  

Another example of the effectiveness of online outreach comes from my home church, Parkers Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in Greenville, North Carolina. Like GraceWay, Parkers Chapel has been gradually developing their online ministry as well. Before the coronavirus pandemic forced them to cancel regular services, the number of people who engaged with the Parkers Chapel Facebook page averaged around 100 or fewer. As of Sunday, April 12th, that number had surged to 2,000! Similarly, Parkers Chapel’s Facebook livestream reached around 100 or fewer people before the pandemic. But on Sunday, April 12th, the reach peaked at over 12,000! Pastor Gene Williams praised the effectiveness of Parkers Chapel’s online ministry: “It has been amazing to watch the opportunity that the Lord has given to us through this adversity to reach so many. It is not the size of the audience alone, but their appetite to know the truth that has been changed. Our online platform has enabled us to stay connected not only with our church but also with our community and even beyond that.”

I share these examples to encourage other pastors and churches who may be discouraged about not being able to meet in person. Yes, our present circumstances are far from ideal, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to continue fulfilling the Great Commission. Just because we are not able to meet like normal does not mean we still cannot spread the gospel. God has provided us an incredible tool in the form of livestreaming that previous generations never had. In fact, we are likely able to reach even more people now than ever before because so many more are watching services online. Facebook usage has soared by over 50 percent since mandatory quarantines have forced so many to stay at home.

We each have our own social media networks that no one else has access to. It’s likely that many of the people in your network look up to you in some way and value what you post. What an incredible opportunity to reach them by sharing your church services on your personal page. For example, after sharing GraceWay’s services over the past few weeks on my personal social media, I’ve had numerous friends and family members, some who are unsaved, reach out to me to say what a blessing the service was to them. These are people who likely never would have been reached had I not shared the service on my own page.

Consider this also. One of the most disastrous implications of the virus is the tremendous toll that mandatory business lockdowns are taking on the economy. Some people are becoming desperate and hopeless because they have lost their jobs. In fact, the most recent numbers from the Labor Department show that more than 22 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in just the last month, likely bringing the unemployment rate close to 20 percent. Domestic violence is increasing as well. Many families that are not typically together during the workweek find themselves at home all day, which is leading to more arguments and abuse. We are also seeing an increase in drug and alcohol abuse as people become more depressed and isolated. Pornography use is up as well as many in isolation seek an outlet for their anxiety and depression. Perhaps most concerning of all is the increase in suicides.

With many people in desperate situations spending so much time online, now is the time appointed by God to develop your church’s online ministry. We are living in unprecedented times. But with that comes an unprecedented opportunity to reach thousands of unbelievers through social media with the lifesaving power of the gospel. There will be hopeless people mindlessly scrolling through their Facebook feed who need to hear your message!

So pastors, be encouraged. Yes, these are far from ideal circumstances, but God has provided us an incredible opportunity to spread the gospel. In fact, this is an opportunity that previous generations have not had. So take advantage of whatever God has given you this Sunday. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Even if you just livestream singing a few songs on the guitar with your family or giving a brief devotion from your living room, I promise you God will bless it. There are people out there who are more desperate now than they have ever been before, people longing for the hope that is found only in Jesus. God has promised that His Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11), so boldly proclaim the truth that God has given you with whatever means He has given you.

We have not been given the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), so may we always be able to give a reason of the hope that is within us! (I Peter 3:15)

If you need help developing your church’s online outreach, here are some practical guides and websites to help you get started:

Ways to Read the Bible (Part 1): Devotional Bible Reading

by Patrina Mosley

April 8, 2020

Recently, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell announced at the White House that his company would repurpose their production facilities to make 50,000 face masks a day for health care workers combatting the pandemic. You would think there would be united praise for his patriotism. But left-wing, anti-God critics have ostracized him for simply encouraging Americans to use this extra time at home to read their Bible and connect with God.

He is right.

As many of us are doing our part to #StaySafeStayHome in the midst of the coronavirus, some of us have more time and fewer excuses to do the things we’ve been putting off for a while. Perhaps one of those things is reading the Bible more. There is no better way to get to know God than by spending time in his word. And there is no better time than now.

When it comes to studying the Bible, there are a lot of options. There are different methods, Bible translations, commentaries, podcasts, and sermons. Even within the Bible there are different genres (epistle, historical narrative, poetry, etc.) that can seem confusing if you are unfamiliar with how to interpret the particular genre. The goal of every Christian should be to rightly interpret the Bible.

My hope and prayer is that this blog series will help you learn to read the Bible and have it become a habitual part of your life. More tools will also be mentioned for going deeper in your journey to learning God’s word. It is a journey—not a destination.

So, let’s get started!

The first thing we should always do before reading God’s word is to pray.

Prayer: Starting with sincere prayer humbles us and focuses our heart to hear from God. When we are engaging his word, we are engaging God himself. Praying first helps eliminate distractions by pouring out our heart to God (Psalm 62:8) and laying our burdens down at his feet (Psalm 55:22). After praying, you will often find that God speaks to you through his word about the very things you prayed about. Knowing that he hears you will encourage your faith.

Before Bible study, pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you and help you understand God’s word. John 16:13-15 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the one who reveals truth to us. Pray that he makes your time in Scripture fruitful.

You can pray the Scriptures as well. What better way to pray for God’s will in your life and others than by praying his word! For example, you can pray, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalms 119:18).

Devotional vs. Inductive Bible Study

Two components essential to getting closer to God and having our lives transformed are devotional Bible reading and inductive Bible study. What’s the difference?   

Simply put, inductive Bible study (which will be covered in the third part of this series), is where you are spending time looking into the Bible to see what it says about itself, God, and humanity. Devotional Bible reading is time spent looking into your own heart to see where God’s truth needs to be applied to your current circumstances.

Let’s start with devotional reading.

Devotional: This is where we spend time meditating on God’s word to be encouraged and directed by God’s truth. Devotional reading can be done by reading a Bible-based devotional book, a passage of scripture, or both. During devotional time you are looking into your own heart and asking God to illuminate his truth and apply it to your present circumstances. Knowing and thinking (meditating) about God’s word is how we can learn to follow God more closely. Some good questions to ask while meditating on God’s word are:

  • What does this passage say about God? What does it say about me? My sin? My struggles?
  • What is the lesson I need to learn? What example is given that I need to follow?
  • What is the command I need to obey?
  • What fruit or character development needs to take place in my life?
  • What is blocking God’s work in me? What sins do I need to avoid? Consider how you are spending your time, your thought life, your motivations, and relationships.
  • What promise does God have for me to receive? How am I encouraged and strengthened?
  • What is God asking me to surrender or submit to him?

Write it Down: This is where I would encourage you to write down your reflections, pray, and ask God how you can implement his truths in your life. Writing down reflections and truths God reveals to us helps to focus our minds and disentangle our thoughts. By having this record, we can look back and remember what God has said to us. Psalm 1:1-3 tells us that meditating on God’s word day and night brings much fruitfulness in our lives. Beginning and ending our day by thinking about what we have read will bring us into closer fellowship with God and help us to become more like him.

Helpful Tool: The YouVersion Bible app is a free resource that is jam-packed with a variety of Bible reading plans that include devotionals; some even include videos. Take some time to scroll through the app and choose something that speaks to you.

Bible Translations: Remember that when you read the Bible you are reading a translation (the Bible was originally written in Hebrew (Old Testament; a few portions were written in Aramaic) and Greek (New Testament). Here is a short list of some easy-to-read English translations of the Bible: English Standard Version (ESV), Christian Standard Bible (CSB), New International Version (NIV), and New Living Translation (NLT). These Bible translations strike a good balance between literal word-for-word translation and contemporary phraseology.

Tip: There are study Bibles that provides helpful commentary and notes. You can choose a book or a passage from the Bible and read the accompanying notes as part of your daily devotional reading or study time!

Read Part 2

Women’s History Month: Jehosheba - Princess, Aunt, Hero

by Laura Grossberndt

March 23, 2020

March is Women’s History Month (WHM), so it’s a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of women to American history. The most influential book in the United States—even the world—is the Bible; it not only shapes the way we Christians live, it also helped set the foundations for the way our nation is governed. Thus, women featured in the Bible, despite never having lived in America, have contributed greatly to the spiritual heritage of our nation. Periodically throughout the month, we will be sharing their inspiring stories.

Be sure to also read our previous Women’s History Month posts on Shiphrah and Puah and Esther.

Do you know who Jehosheba is?

If not, you should.

Her story is contained in just a few verses in 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 22-23. But do not mistake its brevity for inconsequence. Jehosheba’s heroism looms large, for, without it, the kingly line of David would have been cut off forever.

Jehosheba (Jehoshabeath in 2 Chronicles) was a princess of Judah in the 9th century B.C. Her father was King Jehoram, and her brother was King Ahaziah. Her grandfather was the righteous King Jehoshaphat.

Unfortunately, Jehosheba’s father and brother were not godly men. Her father Jehoram married a woman named Athaliah, who was most likely the daughter of the infamous Ahab and Jezebel, the wicked king and queen that led the northern kingdom of Israel to worship Baal. Queen Athaliah brought the worship of Baal to Judah, even as King Jehu was removing the worship of Baal from Israel (2 Kings 10:18-28). She taught her son Ahaziah, prince of Judah, to do evil in the eyes of the LORD (2 Chron. 22:3-4).

As for Jehosheba, she was married to a man named Jehoiada (2 Chron. 22:11b). The biblical narrative does not tell us how Jehosheba, daughter of a wicked king, came to be married to Jehoiada, a righteous priest who served in the temple in Jerusalem. Their marriage was part of God’s sovereign plan, however, as we shall soon see.

Our story opens when King Ahaziah, brother of Jehosheba, is slain by Jehu, king of Israel (2 Chron. 22:9). When Athaliah, now the queen mother, heard of her son the king’s death, she responded by waging genocide on all of the males in the royal household of David—even her own grandchildren—and seizing the throne of Judah for herself (2 Kings 11:1, 2 Chron. 22:10). Thus, we see that the wicked, Baal-worshipping Athaliah threatened much more than Judah’s religion. She also nearly succeeded at wiping out the royal line God had promised David would sit on the throne forever (2 Samuel 7:8-17).

Athaliah might have succeeded with this massacre, were it not for God’s intervention and the brave actions of a princess who loved her family, feared God more than she feared the queen, and believed God’s promise that a descendant of David would reign forever. Jehosheba took her nephew Joash (also known as Jehoash), infant son of the slain Ahaziah, and hid him where Athaliah could not find him (2 Kings 11:2-3, 2 Chron. 22:11-12). This rescue is yet another example of God miraculously preserving and extending the Abrahamic and Davidic lines. Jehosheba not only protected her infant nephew from her father’s wicked wife but also ensured the messianic genealogy contained in Matthew 1 would continue, and God’s promise to David would, therefore, be fulfilled.[1]

Athaliah reigned over Judah for six years. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, her grandson Joash was raised within the house of the Lord. Jehosheba and her husband Jehoiada were his guardians. When Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada crowned and anointed Joash king of Judah in the temple. When Athaliah heard what was happening, she rushed to the temple, tore her clothes, and screamed, “Treason! Treason!” But Jehoiada commanded the execution of Athaliah and all of her supporters. The people of Judah then made a covenant to be the Lord’s people, and they destroyed the temple of Baal (2 Kings 11:12-18, 2 Chron. 23:11-17). Thus, the threat to God’s chosen messianic line was defeated.

The story of Jehosheba teaches us that caring for and raising a child to serve the Lord is a heroic act that can have an enormous impact on our family, our country, and even salvific history.


[1] While Joash is not mentioned in Matthew 1 by name, his grandfather Jehoram and grandson Uzziah are (Matt. 1:8-9).

Women’s History Month: Esther

by Patrina Mosley

March 19, 2020

March is Women’s History Month (WHM), so it’s a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of women to American history. The most influential book in the United States—even the world—is the Bible; it not only shapes the way we Christians live, it also helped set the foundations for the way our nation is governed. Thus, women featured in the Bible, despite never having lived in America, have contributed greatly to the spiritual heritage of our nation. Periodically throughout the month, we will be sharing their inspiring stories.

Esther, whom God used to save the Jews from genocide in the late fifth century (483-473) B.C., is one of the most admired women in the Bible.

Through a series of providential events, the Jewish maiden Esther was chosen by King Xerxes of Persia (alternatively named Ahasuerus) to be his new Queen. Shortly after Esther was crowned, Haman, one of the king’s officials and an enemy of the Jews, manipulated the king. He acquired approval to annihilate all of the Jews living in the kingdom. Up until this point, Esther had never spoken of her nationality. But her cousin Mordecai urged her to petition the king about the matter. Esther was reluctant, knowing that going before the king without an invitation could result in her execution.

Here are two lessons we can glean from Esther’s story:

1. She was confronted with the truth and then committed to doing the right thing.

[Mordecai] sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

- Esther 4:13-16

2. Her strength and courage grew over time as she relied on God for wisdom.

On the third day, Esther went before King Xerxes despite fearing for her life. But God had given her favor with the king since the moment he met her. That favor continued when she approached his throne. Instead of coming right out with “save my people from slaughter,” she invited the king and Haman to a banquet. No better way to get a man’s heart than through his stomach!

At this banquet, the king asked Esther what she really wanted and promised to give her whatever she requested. Again, Esther did not come right out with her true request but instead invited the king and Haman to another banquet she would hold the next day (Esther 5:1-7). That night, fueled by discontentment and hatred, Haman set up gallows to execute Mordecai on. However, at the second banquet, Esther revealed her nationality to the king and exposed Haman’s plot to annihilate her people. The king was so furious with Haman that he had him hung on the very gallows that Haman had built for Mordecai! (Esther 7)

Since the prior edict of a king could not be reversed, Esther asked the king to give the Jews permission to annihilate anyone that tried to kill them, and he did (Esther 8). Esther repeated her request for a second day, and the king granted her request a second time! (Esther 9)

Esther’s Role “For Such a Time as This”

Once Esther decided to do what was right, her strength and courage grew over time as she relied on God for wisdom. From the moment Esther first requested the king come to her banquet, to the end of the story when she asked for the Jews to defend themselves for a second day in a row, we see her courage grow more and more with each request as God gave her favor with the king.

Esther’s dependence on God allowed her to reach the king in a winsome way, and by delaying her actual request, it gave time for Haman to build his own deathtrap! Only God could have orchestrated the timing of such events to bring about deliverance for his people. Esther knew how to listen and obey God for his instructions and timing. Mordecai even said God could use someone else to accomplish deliverance for his people, but it was evident that God had allowed her to be in a position of influence “for such a time as this.” Those six words are known synonymously with the story of Esther because it was evident that God’s providential hand was at work throughout.

Like Esther, it’s okay if all our courage and strength doesn’t come immediately; sometimes it doesn’t. But once confronted with the truth, we must decide to do right, regardless of the consequences, and immediately seek God for wisdom on how and when to do the right thing for his glory.

Women’s History Month: Shiphrah and Puah

by Patrina Mosley

March 11, 2020

March is Women’s History Month (WHM), so it’s a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of women to American history. The most influential book in the United States—even the world—is the Bible; it not only shapes the way we Christians live, it also helped set the foundations for the way our nation is governed. Thus, women featured in the Bible, despite never having lived in America, have contributed greatly to the spiritual heritage of our nation. Periodically throughout the month, we will be sharing their inspiring stories.

Shiphrah and Puah are two women written about in the Book of Exodus:

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”

The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

- Exodus 1:15-22 (NIV)

Shiphrah and Puah defied Pharaoh’s order—risking their lives in the process—because they revered God more than man. In the New Testament’s Book of Acts, Peter and the apostles found themselves in a similar predicament. They had to choose between obeying the high priest, who ordered them not to preach the Gospel, or obeying God, who had commanded them to preach the Gospel to all nations. For Peter and the other apostles, the choice was clear: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29). They undoubtedly remembered Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Understanding God’s infinite authority and power—and humanity’s finiteness in comparison—will put things in perspective rather quickly. It gives us the courage to do what is right, even if it might cost us everything. Shiphrah and Puah understood and believed that God is the ultimate rewarder of righteousness and the ultimate punisher of evil. The faith of these two women saved many lives as a result. But that wasn’t the end of their story: God noticed Shiphrah and Puah’s faith and blessed them with children of their own. God takes notice of our obedience and love for him.

History could have easily forgotten these two midwives. Instead, Scripture mentions Shiphrah and Puah by name, ensuring that they and their fear of God would be remembered forever. While their story is brief—only eight verses in the book of Exodus—it has nevertheless been sovereignly preserved for all of us to learn from and emulate. Christians are exhorted to obey those in authority (Romans 13), but when their commands are in direct conflict with the commands of God, we should do as Shiphrah and Puah did and fear God rather than man.

A Hidden Life Is an Unparalleled Depiction of Christian Discipleship

by Daniel Hart

February 4, 2020

Are we merely admirers of Christ, or are we followers?

For all Christians, this profound question should shake us to our core. It’s a question that runs through the heart of A Hidden Life, a powerful new film from acclaimed filmmaker Terrence Malick, who wrote and directed the three-hour epic that explores the calling and consequences of true Christian discipleship.

A Simple Life Shattered by War

A Hidden Life is based on the true story of an Austrian farmer named Franz Jägerstätter, a devout Catholic and conscientious objector martyred by the Nazis, who lived with his wife Fani and their three daughters in a small village in the mountains during World War II.

The movie begins by showing parts of an old Nazi propaganda film of Adolf Hitler touring a town in Germany and the adulation he receives from the people. In stark contrast, the film then envelopes its audience into the majestic beauty of rural Austria, where Franz and his family live an idyllic life as humble farmers. Scenes of hard farm work mixed with the simple joys of recreation with family early in the film establish the fact that Franz, Fani, and their girls are living a peaceful, happy, and fulfilled life. Other scenes of genuine comradery between Franz’s family and the other townspeople demonstrate that they are well-respected and even loved by the village.

It is in these opening scenes that the unique filmmaking style of director Terrence Malick becomes apparent. As in his past films, most of the scenes in A Hidden Life are presented as a kind of vignette, often with minimal dialogue. Sometimes, the dialogue is muted intentionally, with music or even a voice over being what you hear. Frequently, Malick will intersperse scenes with gorgeously rendered shots of nature—the mountains, fields of grain waving in the wind, a waterfall cascading down into mist. For the uninitiated viewer, this style can be a bit disorienting at first, but the film has a way of drawing the audience into its world after the first few minutes. One reviewer of A Hidden Life aptly described it as “a movie you enter, like a cathedral of the senses.”

Soon, the ominous sounds of Nazi airplanes flying high above the village convey a distinct sense that the simple lives of the farmers and townspeople will never be the same. Sure enough, Franz is conscripted into the German army, and at first he willingly complies with their demands that he complete basic training. After months away from his family, he is allowed to return home, but the possibility of Franz being called back into full duty as the war drags on hangs over him and his wife. From this point on, the central conflict that Franz faces becomes the focus of the film—he knows that he will be required to pledge an oath of loyalty to Hitler once he is called back up to service.

A Heroic Act of Conscience

As Franz seeks counsel from his parish priest on what to do, it is clear that many churchmen of the time could not muster the courage to make the principled stand that Franz is attempting to make. “We’re killing innocent people, raiding other countries, preying on the weak,” Franz pleads with his priest, asking for guidance. Instead of answering, the priest defers and directs Franz to ask his bishop for direction. When Franz is able to get an audience with the bishop, he asks him pointedly, “If our leaders—if they are evil, what does one do?” The bishop’s response clearly breaks Franz’s heart: “You have a duty to the fatherland. The Church tells you so.”

After this, Franz and Fani try to go about their normal life, but they are clearly mourning what they know is likely to come: Franz’s imprisonment and execution for his conscientious objection. Through extended scenes of the couple lying together in the countryside, sitting in their bedroom, or doing farm chores, it is clear that an internal battle is raging inside of them as they contemplate the consequences of the unthinkable—to forever lose their tranquil and joyful life together for the sake of sacrificing his life for the gospel.

As if this weren’t enough, Franz and his family begin to experience ridicule from their fellow townspeople. It seems that Franz is the only man in his village to publicly and openly question the Nazi war effort, which is clearly too much to bear for their guilty consciences. The town mayor, a close friend of Franz’s at the outset of the film, eventually ends up denouncing him: “You cannot say no to your race and your home. You are a traitor!” Franz and his family are publicly insulted, spat upon, and even physically threatened at various points in the film.

Despite the almost unimaginable pressure that Franz faces from his church, his peers, and even his own family (from his mother-in-law and sister-in-law) to give in to the Nazi’s demands, he refuses to take the oath to Hitler after his inevitable call-up to military service.

Once Franz is imprisoned, we begin to find out more about what is going on in his soul. In a series of interrogations by the Nazis and during interviews with his court-appointed defense attorney, Franz is challenged over and over again to give in. “You think your defiance will change the course of things?” “Words! [referring to the oath to Hitler] No one takes that sort of thing seriously.” Franz’s responses are simple and direct, but somehow their simplicity makes his motivations crystal clear: “I have that feeling inside me, that I can’t do what I believe is wrong. That’s all.” “If God gives us free will, we are responsible for what we do, what we fail to do.”

What will never be simple, though, is the toll that Franz’s sacrifice takes on his wife Fani and their daughters, which is illustrated through numerous scenes of toil and heartbreak as she undertakes difficult farm work and tucks their children into bed without him. Even still, the fortitude that Fani exhibits is every bit as heroic as Franz’s. Toward the end of the film, she is allowed to see Franz one last time in prison. In an almost unbearably emotional scene, Fani displays the epitome of spiritual union with her husband as she assures him of her solidarity even if his decision means death: “Whatever you do, I’m with you, always.”

As A Hidden Life draws to a close, it is clear that Franz’s experience of imprisonment, interrogation, physical abuse at the hands of the prison guards, and the mental anguish of his impending death has molded him into a Christ-like figure. When a Nazi major promises him that he will be free if he signs a paper oath to Hitler, Franz responds, “I am already free.” In one scene, he gives his tiny ration of bread to a fellow starving prisoner, who stares at him disbelievingly. In one of the most subtle yet surprisingly touching moments of the film, he carefully replaces an umbrella he had accidentally knocked over back to its original position. These actions show that he has indeed become a truly free man, unencumbered by worldly concerns, whose only goal is to do good with the little time he has left on earth.

An Unparalleled Depiction of Christian Discipleship

From a Christian perspective, watching A Hidden Life is an unparalleled film experience. In the words of one reviewer, it is arguably “the best evocation of the Gospel ever committed to film.” The deliberate, reverential style in which it is acted, filmed, and edited allows the viewer to truly immerse themselves into and contemplate the deep mysteries of some of the biggest questions that frame the nature of discipleship in Christ. How far must we go to become a true follower of Christ, and how do we reconcile this with our familial obligations? Is there meaning to our suffering for Christ when it causes us such indescribable pain? Does standing for the gospel really matter if no one seems to notice? Why does God seem to hide Himself from those who most desperately need Him?

The most pointed question this film asks of its audience is one that remains extremely pertinent in our own time, in which Christians remain the most persecuted religious group on earth. The question is this: When we are faced with the wrath of the world for our faith, will we shrink and make excuses, or will we stand for truth, no matter the consequences? In the film’s depiction of Franz Jägerstätter, we are a given a true-to-life role model for how to accomplish heroic virtue with grace and serenity.

But perhaps the greatest gift that A Hidden Life gives the viewer is three hours of space—space for reflection and contemplation of these most paramount of questions that probe the deepest mysteries of the faith life. In this age of distraction and anxiety, we desperately need it.

A Two-Kingdom Perspective: Christianity, Politics, and Eternity

by Zachary Rogers

January 31, 2020

With the 2020 election season underway, it is wise to reflect upon the lessons learned from the 2016 election. After President Trump’s election, thousands of progressive voters admitted they were emotionally devastated. This phenomenon has been described as “post-election stress disorder,” and it apparently impacted numerous people.

This exaggerated reaction points toward a temptation to replace Christian principles with a progressive ideology that attempts to “immanentize the eschaton,” or create a heaven on earth, and to react in extreme ways when these efforts fail.

The Christian worldview offers an alternative perspective from the crushing angst, fear, and anger that frames much of our political discourse. Christianity calls people to fulfill their duties to God and their fellow man with the appropriate level of concern based on their understanding of the world, sin, the sovereignty of God, and the end of history. Christians understand that they are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14–19).

The Christian worldview includes four basic components:

  1. An understanding that God created the universe and mankind.
  2. Man chose to try to become like God, resulting in sin and the Fall.
  3. Christ died on the cross to redeem us from our sins and rose again to conquer death.
  4. Christ will return in glory to judge the living and the dead and restore all things.

These theological commitments comprise the Christian worldview and influence how Christians see and engage with the world.

A high view of God and the gospel will inevitably affect one’s approach to politics. Christians, for instance, should be mindful of the tongue and strive to engage rationally, clearly, and without lying. While politics is important, only a few things are of eternal significance. For example, the souls of our fellow citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, are of eternal significance. The truth and sound policy must be pursued in a manner that will not destroy our Christian witness.

Christians should support good policies that align with biblical values. Unfortunately, many politicians are guided by an ungodly fear of man. Even Christian leaders are often tempted to take the easy way out. However, politics often requires hard decisions that are often unpopular, and every politician, Christian or not, Democrat or Republican, must do his or her duty for the common good in accordance with the structure of the Constitution.

Christians must distinguish the important from the ultimate. The goal of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This purpose should guide and direct every area of our lives. The state of our souls and the souls of our family and friends must be our chief concern. Jesus himself said that the second greatest commandment was to love “your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The stability and order that is afforded the Christian by having a clear understanding of the purpose of life and the standards for good living provided by God in the Scriptures allow him to clearly see that love of neighbor ought to guide Christian political engagement.

God gave man reason and a knowledge of what is required for human flourishing through the natural law: limited government, the rule of law, the necessity to work in order to provide for our families and those in need, and the right to religious liberty.

On many issues, the platforms, policy positions, and rhetoric of the two major political parties in America represent radically different visions for human flourishing. While neither party is perfect, it is clear that one party values the sanctity of marriage, the life of the unborn, and an understanding of gender as divinely created while the other does not.

Christians in America should be actively engaged in politics while recognizing that our ultimate hope is in heaven. Christians, and especially Christian leaders and pastors, must approach politics from a Christian worldview and make sure our engagement honors the Lord and follows principles outlined in His Word. In this way, we can shape government so that it in turn shapes the environment in which we raise our children and live our lives to the glory of God.

In a nutshell, Christians must have a two-kingdom perspective: we must do the will of God in every aspect of life, including politics, so that we can live with Him forever in the next.

Zachary Rogers is a graduate of Hillsdale College and is a former intern of FRC, the Kirby Center, and the Claremont Institute. He is currently working in education in Northern Virginia.

What’s Wrong With American Boys?

by Daniel Hart

January 14, 2020

Why are adolescent boys and college-aged young men in America still so boorish and misogynistic?

Peggy Orenstein, a writer for The Atlantic, wrestles with this question in a recent feature-length article entitled “The Miseducation of the American Boy.” To her credit, she compassionately attempts to understand what is really going on in the souls of typical boys and young men in the wasteland of contemporary American secular culture by personally interviewing them.

What she finds is both intriguing and disturbing, but not very surprising. Most of the boys she talked to struggled with leading a kind of double life—on the one hand, they “could talk to girls platonically,” as a high school senior named “Cole” said (she uses pseudonyms to protect their identities). But then he admitted that “being around guys was different. I needed to be a ‘bro…’” Most of the other boys Orenstein interviews had similar views about the expectations their peers placed on them and the crushing pressure to conform to a hypersexual, misogynistic “bro” subculture.

So how did we get here? Orenstein admits that there seems to be a “void” in parental guidance of boys: “Today many parents are unsure of how to raise a boy, what sort of masculinity to encourage in their sons. But as I learned from talking with boys themselves, the culture of adolescence, which fuses hyperrationality with domination, sexual conquest, and a glorification of male violence, fills the void.”

It’s clear that Orenstein wants to find solutions for this problem. She prefaces her article by stating that “we need to give [boys] new and better models of masculinity.”

What are these “new and better models”? Unfortunately, Orenstein never really proposes any kind of coherent standard to which boys should strive for. After spending almost 7,500 words extensively quoting their frustrations, fears, and longings and cataloguing dozens of misadventures of boys hooking up awkwardly with female students, bragging about sexual escapades, laughing at rape jokes, and so on, she musters two paragraphs at the end of her article that offer some kind of path forward. She says that we need “models of manhood that are neither ashamed nor regressive, and that emphasize emotional flexibility—a hallmark of mental health.” She also challenges authority figures to step up: “Real change will require a sustained, collective effort on the part of fathers, mothers, teachers, coaches.” Her last tidbit of advice is this: “We have to purposefully and repeatedly broaden the masculine repertoire for dealing with disappointment, anger, desire. We have to say not just what we don’t want from boys but what we do want from them.”

Belief Systems Create Gentlemen

This is certainly all good advice. But what is striking about Orenstein’s guidance is what she does not say. It begs the question: what exactly do we want from boys? It’s all well and good to promote emotional flexibility and mental health, but if the goal is for boys to unlearn misogyny and start respecting girls more, as Orenstein and all people of good faith so desperately want, isn’t it going to take more than “emotional flexibility”?

The answer is unquestionably “yes.” Having respect for girls and women is an essential aspect of moral conduct that all boys and men should have, but obviously do not. That’s because it has to be taught and learned, just as all moral behavior must be, through a system of values, which must ultimately be derived from faith in a revealed moral order. In our politically correct culture, writers like Peggy Orenstein can’t seem to state this obvious fact, probably because they don’t want to be accused of promoting “religion.” It’s notable that the words “religion” and “faith” never appear once in Orenstein’s entire article.

It’s a sad but telling reality that in a culture still fully in the throes of grappling with the #MeToo movement and one in which boys are still so clearly gripped by a culture of sexual conquest, so many secular writers still can’t bring themselves to admit that certain belief systems have the antidote for misogyny built into them. As I have written previously:

[W]hat if more boys were taught from an early age that the context for the full expression of human sexuality is within the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman, as Christianity and other religions do? If this teaching were to be taught consistently throughout childhood and young adulthood, it would substantially increase the amount of gentlemen in our culture. Gentlemen treat women with respect, the kind of respect that inherently knows how to avoid looking at women with lust (see Matthew 5:27-28), the kind of respect that would never even consider making unseemly sexual comments in their company, much less harassing or assaulting them.

Since Orenstein never proposes a belief system with moral principles as an answer to counter misogyny, it appears that she along with most secular commentators are merely hoping that boys will somehow magically absorb sexual morality and respect for women from… friends who happen to have good values? Their parents who happen to be good people? Orenstein never says. She does at one point ask her main interview subject, a high school senior named “Cole,” why he doesn’t assert his “values” more with his peers. But what she never bothers to ask him is where he got his values from.

The Crucial Mentorship of Fathers

Who is it that should be the primary instiller of values in children? This most basic of questions is unfortunately passed over by Orenstein. The vital importance of a father in a boy’s healthy development into a gentleman is the elephant in the room that seems to escape the notice of many secular writers like her.

But perhaps Orenstein can’t be entirely at fault for this. As her article illustrates, the boys that she interviews don’t seem to think much of their fathers. “Cole” briefly describes his father as “a nice guy,” but he went on to say that “I can’t be myself around him. I feel like I need to keep everything that’s in here [tapping his chest] behind a wall, where he can’t see it.” Another 18-year-old named “Rob” described how his father merely told him to “man up” when he was having problems in school. “That’s why I never talk to anybody about my problems,” he said. Another young man, a college sophomore, described how he never felt comfortable talking to his father: “[T]here’s a block there. There’s a hesitation, even though I don’t like to admit that. A hesitation to talk about … anything, really.”

This is heartbreaking stuff. Is it any wonder our boys and young men are so lost and adrift when their primary role model and mentor—their fathers—never make themselves available to their own sons to just talk about life, about growing up to be a man, about anything?

Orenstein’s “The Miseducation of the American Boy” is revealing in a number of ways. Yet again, it reveals that when a belief system based on eternal moral truth is not instilled in boys from a young age, the secular adolescent culture of hypersexual narcissism and misogyny will fill the void. It also reveals that when fathers abandon their fundamental role as the primary mentor and confidant of their sons, their boys will be left emotionally numbed, less empathetic, and more prone to becoming a part of this secular adolescent culture.

Here at Family Research Council, we are doing our part to renew authentic masculinity and to help instill a culture of biblical manhood to stand as a bulwark against the dark cultural forces that promote sexual objectification and conquest, gender confusion, and emasculation. Learn about and consider attending our Stand Courageous men’s conferences, which are making a difference through teaching the principles of authentic manhood as providers, mentors, instructors, defenders, and chaplains.

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

by David Closson

December 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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