Accepting or rejecting Syrian refugees is a policy issue, not a spiritual one, and some politicians and religious figures are taking Christians on guilt trips in order to convince them otherwise. This is both discouraging and devious.
The current appeals to Christian conscience as a way to advocate an open-door policy typically go something like this: God demands that His followers show compassion to those who are less fortunate, especially widows and orphans. He also tells us not to worry in general or to fear those who can kill our bodies. This means Christians should support Syrian immigration and reject irrational fears about terrorists who might use immigration policy to sneak into the country.
While the teachings behind that rationale are true, they are not particularly relevant to the ongoing policy debate. Here’s why:
If it is immoral to keep 10,000 Syrians at arm’s length for security reasons, what about the millions of others still stuck in that country? Aren’t we compelled as a “Christian nation” not only to welcome them but to use all of our resources to rescue them? Shouldn’t we have done something long ago, initially to prevent this tragedy and later to put an end to it?
And what about the rest of the world’s refugees? Do Christians sin if they do not advocate opening our borders to all of them immediately? If not, where are we supposed to draw the line, and what factors are righteous to consider when drawing that line? And if it’s OK to draw lines, how can anyone possibly argue that it is sinful to draw them now to ensure the safety of the hundreds of millions of people who already call America home?
The phrase “while we have opportunity” in Gal. 6:10 keeps coming to my mind: “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
Maybe Syrian refugees are such an opportunity for the United States, and maybe Christians should be the loudest voice for such compassion. But these decisions are not as simple as politicians and religious leaders like to pretend in their spiritually manipulative platitudes.
Filed under: Government and News & Politics and Religion
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Last week’s Supreme Court decision that invented a constitutional right for homosexuals to marry has stirred a host of emotions within the hearts of Christians. They include anger at the country’s rejection of godliness, anxiety about the fate of religious freedom, and frustration over the weak faith of brethren who have embraced the misleading “God is love” gospel of appeasement.
These feelings are understandable and even righteous. But they are volatile and if not kept in check, they could explode into sinful attitudes and behavior, whether in the immediate aftermath of the ruling or as its consequences become evident. The ruling also may weaken the resolve of some Christians to accept the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality as truth — and to share that truth with others who need to hear it.
In other words, the spiritual fallout of the ruling could be as great as the political and cultural impact. Five justices on the Supreme Court did not directly change the spiritual reality in America in that no one suddenly started practicing homosexuality because of their votes. But Satan clearly is using the decision as a wedge to tempt God’s people into committing sins that are just as eternally destructive as homosexuality. He may have been on the prowl for our souls all along.
We Christians need to prepare our minds accordingly as the age of gay marriage becomes fully realized in the United States. Here are some relevant biblical truths:
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (I Cor. 6:13). To some extent, it’s too late for saints to be on the alert against deceptions about homosexuality. Advocates have achieved their long-term goal of overhauling the views of straight America. The “massive, silent cultural revolution” they led has been so successful that today more Americans believe homosexuality is moral than those who believed divorce was in 2001. This includes many people who claim to be Christians. The pressure to conform to this cultural norm will be even greater thanks to the Supreme Court’s endorsement of gay marriage. To stand firm in such circumstances, we must don the full armor of God and be ready to engage in spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-18).
“We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In speaking for the Supreme Court’s majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said people whose faith prevents them from condoning same-sex marriage have the right under the First Amendment to teach those principles. But in separate dissenting opinions, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito warned that the ruling offers “no comfort” to Christians, who can expect to be vilified if they show themselves “unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” So far Roberts and Alito appear to have a better grasp of political reality. Believers are being punished for refusing to bake cakes, take photos, provide flowers or rent facilities for same-sex wedding ceremonies and even to perform such ceremonies. The Supreme Court hasn’t given Christians any reason to hope that will change. Last year the court refused to reconsider a ruling against a photographer. It appears likely that Christians will be forced to choose between obeying God or men when it comes to gay marriage. The apostles Peter and John, who went to jail for preaching “the whole message of this Life” and then defied the authorities who told them to stop talking about Jesus (Acts 4:13-22, 5:27-39), serve as shining examples of how to respond when faced with that dilemma.
“Whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Rom. 13:2). When no conflict exists between the gospel and the government, Christians must obey men in order to obey God. Down the road, that may mean paying more taxes. The Supreme Court decision already has triggered talk of eliminating the tax exemptions that churches have enjoyed for decades. Such a policy could have far-reaching budgetary consequences for congregations. As U.S. citizens, we Christians certainly have the right to defend tax exemptions with as much political force as we can muster, knowing that indirectly they have helped spread the gospel in America and abroad. But if we ultimately lose, we must render to Uncle Sam what is his (Mark 12:13-17). (We also must not let any changes in the tax code influence our cheerful, selfless financial support of the gospel, II Cor. 9:7.) Enemies of Christ undoubtedly will look for other ways to hinder the church in its mission and get the government to go along with them. Whenever that happens, saints must honestly assess whether the demands are unrighteous or merely unjust and respond as guided by God’s Word.
Filed under: Culture and Government and News & Politics and Religion
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Both the quote and photo are courtesy of the same man in the White House, seven years apart.
Interpret it as you will. I see freedom of religion and freedom of speech on display. Let’s hope both First Amendment values are equally welcome in the America of the future.
Filed under: Government and News & Politics and Photography and Religion
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Last fall, The New York Times published some interesting data in an interactive map that shows how U.S. residents migrate by state. I just discovered it in my Facebook feed today and was most curious about the data from my home state of West Virginia.
According to the graphic, 70 percent of people who lived in the Mountain State in 2012 were born there, down from 81 percent in 1950 and 1900. I know that many more West Virginians, including myself, move away for work these days than used to be the case, but I was surprised to see that the state has an increasing percentage of people from other places.
Only a few states have a greater percentage of homebodies than West Virginia — Louisiana at 79 percent, Michigan at 77 percent, Ohio at 75 percent, Pennsylvania at 74 percent, Mississippi and Wisconsin at 72 percent each, and Iowa at 71 percent. Like West Virginia, Alabama is at 70 percent.
The takeaway is that people in the Rust Belt and Bible Belt love to stay close to home.
Filed under: Culture and Media and Religion and West Virginia
We believe the most important lessons in life are moral. Government-run schools long ago stopped feigning even the slightest interest in acknowledging God, let alone teaching biblically based values, and now most of them are even worse. They actively promote competing worldviews like moral relativism:
Justin McBrayer, the college professor who penned those words in The New York Times, isn’t down on public schools. He simply encourages educators to be morally responsible in the way they teach impressionable students. But no such sea change is likely to occur in U.S. public schools anytime soon, so homeschooling often is the wiser option.
(Read previous “Why We Home-School” lessons.)
Filed under: Government and Religion and Why We Home-School
I’ll admit that I was excited about seeing the “Noah” epic that opened in theaters yesterday when I first saw this trailer:
The film’s director admits that Noah is “the least biblical biblical film ever made” and a disclaimer for the movie adds that “artistic license has been taken.” But that’s typical Hollywood. I would not have expected any less from an entertainment community that glorifies evil and maligns goodness, and I would have paid a few bucks to see a movie based even loosely on a Bible story.
Defenders of director Darren Aronofsky’s interpretation of the Great Flood also fairly point out that he had to take artistic license to make a two-hour movie from a few verses in the Bible. As a writer, I appreciate the enormity of the challenge of writing a script that wouldn’t alienate the people most likely to watch the movie — Christians who have heard the story of Noah from the Book of Genesis since childhood.
But this movie sounds like a real dud that not only makes a mockery of God’s word but also is plain laughable from a worldly view. “It’s tiresome, exhausting, bizarre and self-serious,” a secular writer at The Awl concluded in a piece headlined “Why Won’t Anybody Say That ‘Noah’ Is Terrible?”
The best reason to blow your entertainment budget elsewhere is because, as one reviewer put it, “Noah” is the “stupidest movie in years.”
Filed under: Culture and Entertainment and News & Politics and Religion and Video
Twelve-year-old Taylor Smith of Tennessee began a letter to herself with those words back in April, and her mini-sermon to the future Taylor Smith got better from there.
Smith wasn’t going to open the letter until 2023. She died Sunday from complications of pneumonia, and her parents found the letter. Now she is speaking to you and me instead. They are profound words worth remembering today, 10 years from now and always.
Filed under: News & Politics and People and Religion and Technology
It happened to Lewis Napper when he authored “The Bill of No Rights” back in the 1990s. Now, thanks to ongoing online chatter about the “Duck Dynasty” controversy over what the Bible says about homosexuality, it has happened to mega-church evangelist Rick Warren.
Warren is a celebrity in his own right, but Robertson is the man of faith in the news these days. And thanks to the popularity of an article about Robertson that included a famous Warren quote, a whole bunch of people think Robertson actually spoke these words of Warren’s:
The Christian Post asked Warren, “Why do you think people who call themselves Christians sometimes say the most hateful things about Muslims?” His insight into how Americans have perverted the meaning of the word “hate” was part of this answer to the Post’s question:
So how did Robertson end up being credited with the latter part of that quote? The path toward confusion began when the Christian-to-Muslim context in Warren’s answer faded amid the culture war over gay marriage.
Filed under: Culture and Entertainment and Hatin' On Rednecks and Media and News & Politics and People and Rednecks and Religion
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Well, that didn’t take long. The quick and intense outcry against Cracker Barrel that I blogged about last night prompted the Southern restaurant chain to reverse course today. “Duck Dynasty” items are going back on the store shelves, according to a status update on the company’s Facebook page:
The change of heart earned Cracker Barrel more than 27,000 “likes,” more than 16,000 shares and more than 8,000 comments in two hours.
But for some people, the online protest against Cracker Barrel may have been more symbolic than substantive. They didn’t like Cracker Barrel taking a stand against “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson but also don’t intend to buy any products related to the A&E Networks show for fear of fattening the wallets of the cable fat cats who decided to oust Robertson from his family’s show.
“I choose to come back [to Cracker Barrel], and I choose to not buy ‘Duck Dynasty’ products,” one woman wrote. “I would, however, buy Duck Commander products. The family needs to just cut ties with A & E and move on.
Filed under: Business and Culture and Entertainment and Food and Hatin' On Rednecks and News & Politics and People and Rednecks and Religion
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If you think the A&E Network’s decision to indefinitely suspend the star of its cash cow “Duck Dynasty” made bad business sense, wait until you hear what Cracker Barrel did. Yesterday the restaurant chain that made its name and fortune on the appetites of Southern folk like Phil Robertson and the rest of his duck-calling entrepreneurial family decided to pull some “Duck Dynasty” merchandise from its stores.
In a statement on its Facebook page, Cracker Barrel cited its “pleasing people” motto and its commitment to “the ideals of fairness, mutual respect and equal treatment of all people.” The company then explained why “Duck Dynasty” no longer may reflect those ideals:
It didn’t take long for “Duck Dynasty” fans to voice their outrage to Cracker Barrel, which has more than 67,000 employees at its 600-plus stores. At last check, the Facebook statement had sparked more than 27,000 comments, most of them from regular diners who said they won’t be any longer. The post also has been shared more than 4,900 times, presumably by those same former customers telling their friends to boycott Cracker Barrel in the future.
All of which made me wonder: Why would Cracker Barrel take this stand? The executives and corporate board members who run the chain surely know that most of the people who shop and eat at an “old country store and restaurant” are the enlightened rednecks who sided with the Robertsons. Yet Cracker Barrel decided to cast its lot with A&E, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and the Human Rights Campaign.
I found the answer in Cracker Barrel’s corporate history — not the filtered, flattering version the company tells but the version you can find via Google. The key finding: Cracker Barrel has been in trouble with homosexual rights activists before.
How much trouble? Enough that The New York Times emphasized the controversy in its 2012 obituary for Cracker Barrel founder Dan Evins. The paper mentioned the issue in the headline and lead, and expounded on it at length in its coverage:
Filed under: Business and Culture and Food and Hatin' On Rednecks and News & Politics and People and Rednecks and Religion
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