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 Sep 3, 2020

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Join John Stonestreet for a daily dose of sanity—applying a Christian worldview to culture, politics, movies, and more. And be a part of God's work restoring all things.

Episode Date
Should We Dismantle the Family?
05:30

Last fall, the Black Lives Matter organization quietly deleted a section of its website in which it professed an intention to: “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” The statement was removed after public backlash, but the sentiment behind the statement seems to endure among some activists.

Earlier this week, The National Council on Family Relations hosted a webinar entitled “Toward Dismantling Family Privilege and White Supremacy in Family Science.” According to researchers, structures of public life in the United States—such as government support, healthcare, and education—that implicitly advantage nuclear families (two people committed to by marriage raising children) disadvantage other family arrangements. For these scholars, this is an example of privilege rooted in white supremacy.

These scholars are correct in noting that families with a married mom and dad raising their children tend to fare better. In fact, kids with married parents are far less likely to experience poverty, social problems, emotional problems, and even incarceration. The problem is why these outcomes exist.

A Christian worldview contends that these benefits are inherent to a nuclear family because it is God’s design for the family. Stronger bonds, better social outcomes, better health, and higher rates of happiness are more common in the context of these relationships because that is how He created humans to do life together. Within a worldview that sees everything in terms of oppressor/oppression, these outcomes must be the results of a system that advantages some and disadvantages others.

This increasingly influential worldview is derived from Marxist philosophy, which denies the idea of a given “human nature.” Human behavior, Marx believed, is determined by the structures (particularly the economic structures) of a society. These structures tend to be oppressive. So, if the nuclear family tends to be the given arrangement of the bourgeoisie, it is bad by definition and oppresses other arrangements.

What’s not considered are the implications if there is such a design to human relationships, given by our Creator. For example, the nuclear family works for the good of women. No amount of webinars on “dismantling family privilege” can erase the fact that women exclusively bear children and women are disproportionately disadvantaged when families break down and they are left to care for children on their own.

Why would these webinar scholars want to disadvantage women on purpose?

Of course, those who wish to “dismantle” the nuclear family would agree that women raising children need support. If the most natural and obvious source of that support is old-fashioned, oppressive and dismantled, then this support must come from somewhere else. Obviously then, this becomes the state: a disastrously poor substitute for family.

This reminds me of a progressive woman who tweeted: “If abortion is illegal then men abandoning their child should also be illegal. If this was a permanent decision for me then it is for you as a father also.” To which someone replied: “Congratulations, you invented marriage.”

Eliminating families as antiquated or even (somehow) racist is not merely illogical for pragmatic reasons. It’s cultural suicide. It’s an idea that sociologist and philosopher Philip Rieff might call a “deathwork,” one that exclusively tears down. It cannot build anything. It offers nothing in place of the family. 

Accordingly, we can and must distinguish between helping those in tragic family situations and incentivizing these situations as “alternative family arrangements.” The answer is to recognize the truth about reality, truth that is available not only in Scripture but in everything we know about how families function and work. The goal is to do family better and to welcome more people into it, not to dismantle it.

The Church should be the loudest voice celebrating and defending marriage and the family as God intended it. To do so is not to make an idol of it, as some claim, but to point to what is true and good. The church of today lives by lies when it pretends that God's design isn't important. We can celebrate this very good gift of God while also encouraging and supporting single parents and children in other situations. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. Indeed, we must.

May 13, 2021
Where Do I Go For My Daughter with Gender Dysphoria - BreakPoint Q&A
01:03:21

John and Shane field a listener response to a BreakPoint Shane authored last week. The BreakPoint discussed problematic points for Christians inside a new trend of casual sex in the Christian community. John and Shane go point-by-point to provide a strong Christian worldview foundation to the listener's concerns.

Shane then presents a sobering topic from a listener who is looking for encouragement as her daughter is expressing gender dysphoria. John provides helpful resources for a growing community inside the church, and Shane closes their response in a time of prayer for the specific mother and daughter as well as those who are facing this challenging issue.

To close, John invites Shane to revisit a piece on Christians and media consumption. A listener writes in to ask if there is a problem in the church when a pastor finds recreation in watching a Netflix series that celebrates infidelity and leads his church to abhor the practice. 

-- RESOURCES --

Alliance Defending Freedom

Story From Mother Pulling Daughter Out of School Due to Transgender Ideologies

Helena Kerschner - Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria at Q Ideas with Gabe Lyons

May 12, 2021
How to Stay When the World Says Leave
04:49

For the first time since the Gallup organization started to track the data, fewer than 50% of Americans now belong to a church, synagogue or mosque.   Behind these numbers are, among other factors, the trendiness of not only leaving church, but announcing it on social media with a bit of shaming and blaming thrown in for good measure. And many are not only leaving a particular house of worship but joining a growing demographic known as the “nones,” rejecting all religious affiliation. The Christian version of those who grew up in the church but have become “nones” often go by another label: “exvangelicals.”

Sometimes, these exodus narratives center around hurt committed by people inside the church. Other times, these narratives center on hurt that exvangelicals claim comes from the truth claims of the Christian faith. For example, many exvangelicals cite the Bible’s teaching on sexuality as the primary reason for their exit. In reality, however, many of the folks in this camp have already rejected other cornerstones of orthodoxy, such as the authority of Scripture, the reality of sin, the necessity of Jesus’ atonement, and the deity and exclusivity of Christ. 

Tragically, high profile figures who have for years publicly broadcast their deconstruction stories, now often have unravelling lives. Divorce, marital unfaithfulness, or newly professed homosexuality are disproportionately found (or at least revealed) in the wake of faith deconstruction. 

I share these details not to point fingers or to celebrate brokenness, but to surface the all important chicken-and-egg question for Christians committed to persevere in the faith. Namely, are those who leave church and lose their faith more susceptible to bad habits and decisions? Or does practicing bad habits and making bad decisions leave one more susceptible to losing one’s faith?

Biblically speaking, the answer is “both.” In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul issues a dire warning. “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”

Of course, every “leaving church” story is different. Sometimes, real harm has been done. Sometimes, there’s been a failure of catechism and teaching. Sometimes doubt results from the impression that the Bible doesn't allow Christians to ask tough questions.

Other times, however, bad behavior, bad habits, or even the neglect of good habits, can breed unbelief. Years ago, Pastor Tim Keller was widely criticized for reporting that whenever a student returned from college claiming no longer to be a Christian, he’d ask them who they were sleeping with. I’ve worked with enough students over the past two decades to know, it’s a good question to ask. And not just to college-aged students.

We may look at the trendy exvangelical stories and conclude that that could never happen to us. That would be foolish. To follow Jesus is to embrace the humility that we can surprise ourselves with our own sin, just as Peter was shocked to hear himself deny the Messiah mere hours after promising he never would.

James challenged believers to “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” This is not a quid pro quo. It is a promise. God has given His people habits of faith, such as prayer, fasting, study, loving our neighbor, fleeing from sin, and struggling against bad habits and complacency. He will never leave us. He is never distant. These exercises strengthen our faith to better see Him.

Another essential that Christ has given us is His church. Imagine someone heckling your bride as she walks down the aisle toward you. How would you respond to that person?

The Church is not above our critique, of course, but too many who embrace the habit of criticizing her soon find themselves as no longer part of her. Make no mistake, the Church is Christ’s bride. She will outlast the world. As her members, we work toward her sanctification, but we should be incredibly wary about shouting her imperfections from the pews, especially to those outside the building. We heckle this Bride at our eternal peril. 

May 12, 2021
Leave Loud, Blaming Churches
04:45

Given the global pandemic, this seems like a particularly bad time to run a survey on church membership. Nevertheless, Gallup recently released a poll suggesting that the number of Americans who belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque has fallen below 50 percent for the first time since 1937, when the organization began tracking those numbers.

In fact, more than half the respondents to this poll didn’t merely give up their church membership. They gave up their religion, and now identify as “none,” as in “no religious preference.”  Or, as my colleague Shane Morris put it in a recent podcast conversation with writer Samuel James, these folks haven’t just left the room of denominational preference, they’ve left the house of collective faith.

A number of separate but related cultural trends are at work. For example, an organization called The Witness, an online community of African-American Christians, recently launched the hashtag “#LeaveLoud.” Through podcast episodes and online articles, The Witness encourages black Christians to not only leave “predominantly white or multiethnic” churches if they’ve been dishonored, but to be vocal about it inside and especially outside the church.

Of course there are such things as abuse or crooked doctrine that warrant leaving a congregation. Specifically, plenty of our African-American brothers and sisters have been neglected or hurt by fellow Christians, either directly or indirectly. And, depending on the context, church leaders should be made aware of things that justify a departure.

Still, much of what we are seeing is part of an I’m-leaving-church-and-please-watch-me-leave movement.  Being noisy about joining the “exvangelicalism” movement is not only a popular thing to do, it’s a way to be popular. In fact, after a few years of watching people “leave loud,” I see at least a few troubling themes emerge.

Almost without fail, a person leaving a church loud will cite bad or hurtful behavior by the people or leadership at the church. And of course no one wants to stick around where they are mistreated. However, in a culture that has widely embraced moralistic therapeutic deism, many think that being morally challenged, or anything that falls short of all-out affirmation, counts as “personal harm.”

This Gallup poll also points to interpersonal strife as a significant reason for leaving church. However, the number of people leaving a particular church over interpersonal strife is lower than the number leaving an entire faith tradition over interpersonal strife. According to the poll, the primary driver of plummeting church memberships is people renouncing religion altogether. To reuse the metaphor, people are leaving the house while blaming folks in one particular room. 

To publicly denounce a particular congregation, not to mention a particular denomination (not to mention an entire faith tradition), because of how people behaved is to misunderstand what Christianity is. It is first and foremost a commitment to Jesus Christ which, second, involves a set of claims about reality. Who Jesus is and what Christianity teaches must be evaluated on their own merit. Many churches have failed to prepare young people to do this.

Considering these two factors makes me wonder if leavers who blame people in the Church for their own leaving are in reality just upset with God. So many “exvangelicals” and progressive Christians who begin by lamenting the bad behavior of fellow church-goers end up rejecting the Bible’s moral claims about sexuality, or God’s judgment of sin, or the lordship of Jesus. The more that the wider culture finds Christian teaching outdated and outrageous, the harder it is to distinguish between the various motivations of those who leave the church, and/or the faith.

What is clear is that it is essential, at least for anyone who intends to persevere in the faith, to know what “the faith” is. For example, Scripture is clear that followers of Christ should “live peaceably with everyone, as far as it depends on you.” Anyone who takes that teaching seriously, not to mention the many others that directly apply to our lives within the body of Christ, will find it difficult to “leave loud,” or to justify leaving over silly disputes, or to neglect praying for those who have left.

May 11, 2021
Ryan T. Anderson - Wilberforce Weekend Speaker Series - BreakPoint Podcast
24:45

John Stonestreet visits with Ryan T. Anderson on the image of God presented in the physical make up of male and female.

Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and the Founding Editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey.

He is the author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment and Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom. He is the co-author of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense and Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, and the co-editor of A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism? Perspectives from “The Review of Politics.”

May 10, 2021
Changing the World One Child at a Time
04:24

Mary Slessor was born to a Scottish working-class family in 1848. At an early age Mary joined her parents in the Dundee mills, working half a day while going to school the other half. By age 14, Mary was working 12 hour shifts. Ever an avid reader, Mary kept a book propped up on her loom so she could read while working.

Mary’s mother, a devout Presbyterian with an interest in missions, saw that her children were raised in the Faith. When a local mission to the poor opened in Dundee, Mary volunteered to be a teacher. Her sense of humor and sympathy made her popular.

At age 27, Mary learned of the death of famous missionary, David Livingstone. Inspired to join her church’s mission in what is now southern Nigeria, Mary taught and worked in the dispensary. With her devotion to learn the local language, plus by cutting her hair and abandoning the traditional Victorian dress as impractical in the hot climate, Mary quickly set herself apart from the other missionaries. She began eating local foods as a cost-cutting measure.

Finding the mission hierarchy frustrating, she welcomed opportunities to go upriver into inland areas. The need for workers in these regions with fewer missionaries was significant, so she asked to be stationed there. However, since male missionaries had been killed in those areas, her request as a single woman was turned down as too dangerous.

After a medical furlough for malaria, Mary was stationed in a region where shamans dominated much of life. These men conducted trials in which guilt or innocence was determined by whether or not the accused died after taking poison. Slavery was also rampant among the powerful, and slaves were often sacrificed on their owner’s death to be their servants in the afterlife. Women’s rights were virtually nonexistent.

Despite these challenges, Mary was able to integrate into the community and earn the trust of the local people. As a woman, she was not seen as the threat that male missionaries were. And, her ability to speak Efik and her embrace of local lifestyles in clothing, housing, and food endeared her to the native peoples.

It was in Okoyong that Mary began the work for which she is now best known. The locals believed that when twins were born, one of them must be the child of a demon. The mothers were ostracized and, since there was no way to tell which was cursed, both children  would be abandoned to death by starvation or wild animals.

Like the earliest Christians who rescued victims of attempted infanticide by exposure, Mary began rescuing twins. She saved hundreds of children and, against the advice of her mission agency, adopted nine as her own.

Like the earliest Christians whose example she emulated, the actions of Mary Slessor not only saved lives but played a major role in changing the local culture. Her understanding of the language, history, and customs, plus her standing in the community, enabled her to work as a mediator and give judgments in local tribal courts.

When the British attempted to set up a court system in the area, Mary warned them it would be a disaster. So, the British consul appointed Mary as vice-consul in Okoyong, making her the first female magistrate in the British Empire. In this position, Mary continued to mediate disputes, while acting as liaison with the colonial government, continuing to care for children and continuing  her work as a missionary.

At age 66, Mary finally lost a long fight with malaria. She was given a state funeral, which was attended by many people who travelled from the tribal regions in order to honor her. She was nicknamed the “Queen of Okoyong.”

Mary Slessor’s story is a wonderful part of the larger, ongoing Story of restoration, accomplished by Christ through His people within the time and place they are called. Slessor offers yet another example for Christ-followers that taking the Gospel to pagan cultures will typically involve protecting children. Our calling is no different.

May 10, 2021
Assurance in Christ in a Pandemic With Eyes Ahead to Birth-rate Challenges - BreakPoint This Week
53:08

John and Maria breakdown some trends in the news during BreakPoint This Week. They discuss how our response to the pandemic can cause us to despair. They discuss the importance of keeping our eyes on Christ and building our hope around a Christian worldview. Maria turns from a segment of looking to Christ to a segment looking at the challenges in our thinking about childrearing. John highlights two recent podcasts where the hosts share concern in birthrates and how that is impacting our culture.

All of these topics follow a quick tour through BreakPoint commentaries from this week where Maria asks John for greater insight on what he's seeing going on in the culture.

// Resources //

Is Christian Cohabitation the New Norm?

- BreakPoint -

President Biden Called a Good Catholic

- The Point -

Biden Scraps the ‘Protect Life’ Rule: We Need Cultural Change, Not Political Games

- BreakPoint -

The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown>>

Millions Are Saying No to the Vaccines. What Are They Thinking?

- The Atlantic -

 

A Shrinking Society in Japan

A Population Slowdown in the U.S.

- The Daily Podcast -

 

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May 07, 2021
Should We Edit Our Genes?
07:00

More and more, we're hearing about the promises of gene editing. It's a scientific technology that literally allows us to rewrite our DNA. Still in the experimental stage, with technologies like CRISPR, we've seen how the technology can be used wrongly. It can put humanity at risk. Many Christians are not aware of the biological challenges until it's too late.

In this week's What Would You Say? video, my colleague Brooke McIntire walks through how Christians can think about gene editing. Here's Brooke McIntire.

You’re in a conversation and someone says, “Gene editing can help us wipe out disease and will improve life for everyone.”

What would you say?

In recent years, talk of gene editing has become extremely popular. Gene editing technologies like CRISPR promise not only to eradicate disease and disability, but also to provide human enhancement and designer babies. But this powerful technology comes with a host of major ethical issues that need to be carefully considered and addressed.

You may wonder what ethics has to do with gene editing – after all, doesn’t eradicating disease and disability sound like a no brainer? It’s true that we can and have used technology to alleviate suffering in the world, and that is a good thing. But sometimes our well-intentioned actions can have devastating unforeseen consequences.

The next time someone says, “gene editing can help us wipe out disease and will improve life for everyone,” here are 3 things to remember:

Number 1: Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

When we hear about the exciting advances in technology and genetics, it’s easy to believe the promise that it will make our lives better or healthier. But, as countless stories in science fiction have taught us, simply pursuing innovation for innovation’s sake can have dangerous consequences. That’s why it’s important to ask not only “can we” do something, but “should we” do something. As technology continues to advance, the question of “should we” will get more and more weighty.

For example, a group of researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London used CRISPR technology to edit 18 human embryos. But when they finished, they found that around half the embryos ended up with what they called “major unintended edits.” These “major unintended edits” are more harmful than they sound. They can actually lead to birth defects or life-threatening medical problems like cancer. And, those issues could permanently enter the gene pool and affect future generations.

Sometimes, our finite minds don’t always foresee the potential dangers or ramifications of these innovations on human life. This is why it’s dangerous to separate science from philosophy and ethics. These decisions shouldn’t just be left up to scientists or experts who may be preoccupied with scientific advancement without a larger, ethical perspective and boundaries.

Number 2: Treating human life as disposable doesn’t make our society more humane.

Humans aren’t simply problems to be fixed or objects to be experimented on. Those 18 “edited” embryos are actual human lives that have been permanently altered in the pursuit of innovation and science. Many embryos will simply be discarded or destroyed because their usefulness has expired. But defining the value of a human life by their utility is not advancing society in a desirable or worthy direction.

The sincere desire to eradicate genetic diseases is understandable, and the longing to heal reflects God’s image in us. Ethically sound and medically safe treatments that don’t dehumanize other human beings should be pursued.

But we must proceed with an ethical framework, and an awareness of the human temptation to “become like God” with our own ideas about what is good and evil. Which leads to our third point.

Number 3: Gene editing can’t deliver on its promise of control.

In the ethics of biotechnology, there’s a fine line between healing and enhancement. Healing is fixing something that’s broken. Enhancement is trying to improve something that isn’t broken. It can be tempting to want to just “upgrade” healthy people or give our children a leg up in the world through various biotechnical enhancements.

But this desire to “enhance” humanity misinterprets what it means to be human and exposes the urge to have complete control over our lives. We like to think that we have everything under control, that we can protect ourselves from any kind of pain, and decide what is moral on our own.

But technology and human “enhancement” can’t deliver on its promise to meet those deep desires for control. As we discussed earlier, this search for control often descends into a chaos of unintended consequences. As long as we keep looking to technology to solve our need for control or security or hope, we’ll find ourselves disappointed. What we’re missing can’t be provided by technology. In reality, our craving for purpose, security, and the freedom to create and invent without hurting others is best met when we love our Creator, and love our neighbor more than we love ourselves.

So the next time you’re talking about technology and someone says “gene editing will help us wipe out disease and help create better lives for all,” remember these 3 things: 

Number 1: Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

Number 2: Treating human life as disposable doesn’t make our society more humane.

Number 3: Gene editing can’t deliver on its promise of control.

For What Would You Say, I’m Brooke McIntire

That was my colleague Brooke McIntire with this week's What Would You Say? video. Each week, a new video on our What Would You Say? series, tackles a question of cultural significance, answering it in a way that you can understand and repeat and use in your conversation with others. To make sure you don't miss a single What Would You Say? video, go to www.whatwouldyousay.org.

May 07, 2021
The Supreme Court Doesn’t Get the Last Word
04:32

The idea of a politically neutral Supreme Court is one of our nation’s persistent and appealing myths. The Court’s job, at least according to our founding documents, is to interpret existing legislation and arbitrate disputes about that legislation. In practice, especially over the past several decades, the Court hasn’t always stayed in that lane.

In a crucial chapter in his important book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman shatters the notion of political neutrality within the Court, as well as the notion that the Court is impervious to cultural pressure. For example, in the landmark 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey, which struck down abortion restrictions, the court famously offered this incredibly consequential line: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The justices went on to say that for the Court to define those concepts (i.e. to define reality) would be for the Court to deny freedom itself. 

Though this sort of thinking is largely taken for granted today, it would have been utterly unrecognizable to America’s founders, not to mention much of the world throughout all of human history. As Trueman points out in the book, this script was first espoused by Romantic-era philosophers like Jean Jacques-Rousseau. Rousseau suggested that true reality is found not in something bigger-than or outside-of ourselves, but merely in what we feel. This radical notion is, of course, entirely incompatible with the idea of a Creator who had a purposeful design for what He made.

Yet, when the Court issued their opinion in Planned Parenthood V. Casey, the idea of self-determining meaning, identity and reality itself had so deeply seeped into our collective imaginations that the supposedly neutral U.S. Supreme Court took it for granted. Even more, the Court appealed to the centrality of precedent in its reasoning. Roe V. Wade, after all, had already been decided, said the justices, as if to ignore other landmark cases in which precedent was rightly overturned.

In 1954, the Court overturned the awful “separate-but-equal” Plessy vs. Ferguson decision from 1896 that legalized racial segregation. Precedent should be respected, of course, but an appeal to precedent is not an argument. Wrong decisions that do not align with reality should be overturned.

On the other hand, Trueman points to the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Texas. This decision overturned precedent set in 1986. In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia specifically pointed to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, noting how the Court claimed precedent should be respected above reason.

Scalia’s concern is instructive for all of us today. The Court has a history of showing itself susceptible to cultural tastes. Justice transcends culture. It is not best served when based on the latest social fads.

This history, especially in light of the major and more contemporary shifts in cultural tastes about selfhood and sexuality, reveal how vulnerable the Court is to cultural fashions. The 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, which effectively struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and the 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which imposed same-sex “marriage” on the nation, were clearly driven more by cultural winds than some “long arch of the universe that bends toward justice.”

The only real way forward is by finding an anchor for meaning, justice, purpose and dignity. In just a few weeks, at the Wilberforce Weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, we will spend a weekend looking at the only notion that’s ever been big enough to ground any of these eternal concepts: the Image of God. This audacious idea is both crucial within a Christian worldview and central for our cultural witness. And the incredible lineup of speakers and thinkers includes Dr. Carl Trueman, author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. Get your tickets at wilberforceweekend.org

May 06, 2021
If Marriage is Designed for Pro-creation Should Christians Unable to Have Children Marry?
53:13

John and Shane field a question on adoption. A listener wrote in to ask if adoption to a homosexual couple is better than a child being parentless.

They then work through a question on if a Christian should marry if the marriage looks to be childless. 

John and Shane close the question and answer time looking at immigration. A listener asks for a worldview perspective on a topic that has become strongly politicized. 

May 05, 2021
If Marriage is Designed for Pro-creation Should Christians Unable to Have Children Marry?

John and Shane field a question on adoption. A listener wrote in to ask if adoption to a homosexual couple is better than a child being parentless.

They then work through a question on if a Christian should marry if the marriage looks to be childless. 

John and Shane close the question and answer time looking at immigration. A listener asks for a worldview perspective on a topic that has become strongly politicized. 

May 05, 2021
If Marriage is Designed for Pro-creation Should Christians Unable to Have Children Marry?

John and Shane field a question on adoption. A listener wrote in to ask if adoption to a homosexual couple is better than a child being parentless.

They then work through a question on if a Christian should marry if the marriage looks to be childless. 

John and Shane close the question and answer time looking at immigration. A listener asks for a worldview perspective on a topic that has become strongly politicized. 

May 05, 2021
Evangelicals & Casual Sex
04:58
May 05, 2021
Biden Scraps the ‘Protect Life’ Rule: We Need Cultural Change, Not Political Games
04:32

The term “political football” is a perfect descriptive for how the executive branch of the federal government handles abortion. There are two “teams,” pro-life and pro-choice, who toss the issue back and forth from administration to administration. Neither decisively win, at least in the long run. While state level legislation and federal court decisions have moved the ball in real ways, executive orders and legislative rules are barely temporary, depending entirely on who is in the White House.

After President Biden’s first 100 days in office, it is clear that the football is in the hands of the pro-abortion team. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule that would restore a major source of federal funding for abortion clinics. This rule would undo the Trump administration’s “Protect Life” rule, which withheld money designated for low-income family planning from any clinics that “perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion…” The “Protect Life” rule also required clinics to keep their abortion and non-abortion services physically and financially separate.

The rule made a difference. Planned Parenthood, which drew an estimated $60 million in annual federal funding just from Title X, dropped out of the program rather than attempt to meet the new requirements. Now, under the Biden Administration, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are back on the federal dole.

Bizarrely, the Biden Administration claims that its new rule will not lead to federally funded abortions. When Owen Jensen, a Catholic reporter from Catholic network EWTN asked why the President would “insist that pro-life Americans pay for abortions and violate their conscience,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied, “that’s not an accurate depiction of what happened.” She then quoted from the Public Health Service Act, which stipulates that no Title X funds “shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

That isn’t a real answer, of course, as Jensen pointed out. Money is easily moved around. In a fiscal shell game, Planned Parenthood can simply divert funding they don’t have to spend on non-abortion services back to abortion,.

Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Joseph Naumann agreed: “In spite of explicit prohibitions in federal law and clear congressional intent that abortion may not be a part of this program, it has repeatedly been coopted by abortion supporters as a funding stream for organizations, programs, and facilities that directly promote and provide abortions.”

What might we learn from all of this?

First, though elections do have consequences, at least when it comes to who is President, they’re short-lived. This means that putting the right person in the White House matters, but is not the highest or best goal of pro-lifers. For example, President Trump’s most significant contribution to the pro-life “team” are not his executive orders, but a thoroughly remade judiciary. At the same time, many more millions of tax dollars are given to Planned Parenthood by Congress.  The most effective legislation to limit abortion and fund alternative care has been at the state level. Those elections matter too.

Second, the battle for unborn lives will be won or lost in the larger culture. It is encouraging that though Americans are very much divided on abortion itself, they strongly oppose government footing the bill. A Marist Poll earlier this year found that almost three-fifths of Americans oppose taxpayer funding for abortion.

In other words, a lot of folks who want abortion to remain legal don’t want to coerce their neighbors into paying for them. That’s at least a start. The finish line, however, is when abortion is as unthinkable as other grave evils like slavery and child sacrifice.

Until then, this political football will continue to change hands with each and every election.

May 04, 2021
Is Christian Cohabitation the New Norm?
05:47

 Recently, researchers at State University of New York determined that descendants of immigrants to the United States from places such as Asia typically lost the ability to speak their mother tongue by the third generation. Something similar, but more serious, seems to be happening with Christians in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Each successive generation is losing the understanding of, not to mention the will to live by, Christian sexual morality.

Two years ago, a Pew Research survey found that half of American Christians think casual sex is “sometimes or always” morally acceptable. The slight silver-lining in that survey was that evangelical Protestants were by far the least likely group to express acceptance of casual sex. Unfortunately, a new analysis calls into question just how committed the children of evangelicals are to Christian teaching in this area.

These numbers reflect a larger trend among evangelicals: with each generation, American evangelicals increasingly adopt the attitudes of the wider culture toward sex and marriage. This time, the behavior in question wasn’t casual sex, but cohabitation. In 2019, Pew Research reported that a majority – 58 percent – of white evangelicals said cohabitation is acceptable if a couple plans to marry. View on cohabitation become noticeably less Christian among younger respondents. As early as 2012, the General Social Survey found that over 40 percent of evangelicals in their 20s agreed that cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple has no express plans to marry. And, earlier this month, David Ayers at the Institute for Family Studies found that nearly half of evangelical Protestants aged 15-22 who were not currently cohabiting or married, said that they would probably or definitely cohabit in the future.

Still, as dismaying as the attitudes of young evangelicals are toward sex, behavior is what most effectively erodes the Christian norm. Among those ages 23-44 who had already cohabited, a whopping 65 percent indicated they would likely or definitely do so again.

An important caveat, as is typically the case with these kinds of surveys, is that religious commitment makes quite a difference. Young evangelicals who attended church at least twice a month before the pandemic were the least likely to approve of “shacking up.” Yet, even they were a minority for their age group. Across all groups analyzed by Ayers, cohabitation had become, as he put in an article at Christianity Today, “a new norm.”

How can this cultural assimilation be slowed? How can the next generation be convinced of the sacredness of marriage, as a norm worth preserving and living? Again, the experience of immigrants offer an analogy. Research by one immigrant grad student at the University of Alberta found that “speaking the [native] language regularly at home” is the crucial first step in passing the mother-tongue from parent to child.

That may sound simple, but it is. The word for passing on moral values and behavior through regular instruction in the faith by parents and pastors is catechesis. The kind of catechesis necessary for this cultural moment not only involves the “what” of biblical morality, but

the “why” and the living out of the “how.” According to Ayers the lack of a reason given for God’s rules is a key factor behind young evangelicals drifting into behaviors common in the wider culture.

Whenever I teach worldview to students, I like to draw a triangle with three levels. Worldview is at the foundation of the triangle, values is at the middle level, and behavior is at the top. The idea is that one should evaluate what is true and good, build their values from that, and allow that to shape behavior. Today, however, too many Christians live “upside down.” The unthinkingly embrace behaviors common in our culture, those behaviors shape their values, and they land with an ultimately non-Christian worldview.

We need to approach teaching the next-generation, especially when it comes to areas where the Christian vision is so different than the “new normal” in a “bottom-up” way. We must teach what is true about male and female, sex, and family, offering the what and the why. From there, we can work cultivate a strong set of values, by talking openly about what they are and living them out together. Only from there will countercultural behavior blossom.

For any parents, grandparents, teachers, or pastors who want to see the next generation follow Christ in this culture, catechesis isn’t optional. Today, the Christian view of sex and marriage is like a foreign language, and the wider culture is actively catechizing them.

May 03, 2021
Reviewing the President's Speech to Congress and the Moral Decay in Higher Education - BreakPoint This Week
01:12:20

John and Maria review President Joe Biden's speech to congress. They discuss the role of government and the stretch it has had into our lives. The two share how government expansion creates thin fabrics in society, trying to hold weight it was never intended to hold.

Maria shares a story from Seattle, where staff and faculty at Seattle Pacific University vote no confidence in their board. The vote was made due to frustration with the school's hiring policies that uphold a traditional Biblical ethic in regards to sexuality.

John and Maria begin their conversation revisiting some of the top stories from BreakPoint this week. They discuss the character of Trevor Lawrence and his opportunity to impact standards for player character. They also talk about an unknown trend in human trafficking involving young boys before revisiting a story from last week where President Biden appealed a court order that could cause doctors to perform genital mutilation surgeries. 

Apr 30, 2021
Loving Our Neighbors by Refusing to Lie
04:28

When John McCain was running for President in 2008, Saturday Night Live ran a recurring skit about his running-mate, then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Tina Fey, playing Gov. Palin in her trademark red suit, delivered the memorable line, “I can see Russia from my house!”

It was pretty funny. It also wasn’t real. Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house. Today, however, a surprising number of people believe she did. This is a testimony to the power of lies.

A few weeks ago, Georgia state legislators passed a bill that added additional days for early voting, limit the number of ballot boxes that had (for the first time) been set up across the state during the pandemic, and changed the requirements for voting by mail. Rather than rely on matching signatures by eye, mail-in ballots will now be verified using a voter’s ID.

The partisan backlash over the bill, even though it expanded voting access in many way, wasn’t surprising. The lies about the bill, how quickly they were spread, by whom, and the corporate reactions to them are worth noting. President Biden likened the bill to laws that oppressed African Americans, calling it “Jim Crow on steroids.” Major League Baseball announced it was moving the 2021 All Star Game out of Atlanta in protest, and even Stacey Abrams caught heat for not calling for economic boycotts of Home Depot and Delta Airlines. 

Of course, people sometimes lie. But the stakes are higher when millions of people – including those with no interest in or loyalties to politics– believe those lies. Now, millions of people in Georgia and elsewhere are needlessly anxious, fearful, and angry. That’s cruel.

In James 3 the apostle calls the tongue a “fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” The tongue can, James says, “corrupt the whole body, set the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Among the reasons that Christians cannot sit out our culture-wide conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity is that it is based on a lie about the human person, a lie that has convinced many. To relinquish the belief in a reality that exists outside of ourselves is to give up more than we might realize. If men can be women, if laws which expand voting access in Georgia can be renamed as bringing back Jim Crow, then what is real? If Christians give in to lies, why would we be trusted to tell the truth about God?

Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel once said, “words create worlds.” Words do not change created reality, but they do reshape culture and therefore what people think is reality. Among the sources of the deep fracture in American culture right now is the loss of trust in our institutions and information sources.

No matter how normal as a practice or successful as a strategy of influence, Christians must never, at least intentionally, partake in misinformation. While we are just as susceptible as anyone to believe lies that reinforce our views and to disregard facts that challenge them, the very practice of not compromising on truth will be an increasingly important part of our cultural witness.

Even if we have good intentions, for example “weeping with those who weep,” we still can’t afford to lie. We can’t love our neighbors and lie to them. So, it’s imperative, even if inefficient, to take the time and find out what is true before speaking, especially when it comes to complicated, often heated political matters.

God’s words made reality. As image bearers, our words can create worlds too, at least perceived worlds. As followers of Christ, let’s commit to using our words to build the Kingdom of God, where lies have no place.

Apr 30, 2021
Does Trevor Lawrence Have Too Much Character to be the NFL’s #1 Pick?
03:55

Most people (at least those paying attention) expect quarterback Trevor Lawrence to be the first player selected in this year’s NFL Draft. Frankly, his draft stock has been a foregone conclusion since his heralded arrival at Clemson in 2018, and was only strengthened after he led the Tigers to the National Championship as only a freshman. He’s a team leader who can read a defense and flat out throw the ball.

In fact, the only doubts that exist about Lawrence’s potential in the NFL have nothing to do with talent or poise, but only concern his character. Let me be clear. Some pundits worry Lawrence has too much character.

In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Lawrence said, “I dont have this huge chip on my shoulder, that everyones out to get me and Im trying to prove everybody wrong.” As if that were not troubling enough, he clarified, [T]heres also more in life than playing football.” 

As a committed Christian, who is very public about his faith and the way it shapes his life, one of the things Lawrence considers more important than football is Jesus. He also apparently has a thing for family. Recently, Lawrence skipped an NFL pre-draft event to marry his high-school sweetheart. This crazy behavior fed a narrative that Lawrence, like other Christian athletes, is probably too “soft” and lacks the kind of monomaniacal focus required to succeed in football.

Given that there’s never been a shortage of Christian players who possessed deep faith and achieved great on-field success, this narrative is baseless. No one who was the receiving end of a hit by Steelers’ great Troy Polamalu thought his faith made him somehow “soft.” Not to mention, Lawrence has proven his competitive zeal. In three seasons at Clemson, he lost only two games.

Still, the presumption that the perspective and balance and priorities shaped by a sincere faith are somehow liabilities, and obstacles to athletic success, persists. So, when Lawrence tweeted, “I am secure in who I am, and what I believe. I dont need football to make me feel worthy as a person,” the critics pounced.

Their critiques, in reality, say nothing about Trevor Lawrence. They only expose how absurd discussions of character have become in our culture. Scarcely a week goes by without a story featuring an active or former NFL player in trouble with the law. In the weeks leading up to the draft, a former NFL player killed five people before killing himself. That same day, police arrested another former player on charges of first degree murder in connection with a shooting that injured one and killed another. A few days after that, a current player ended up behind bars on weapons charges. The local news report of that story began tellingly: “Another pro football player has been arrested in Northeast Ohio on a weapons charge.”

The NFL has learned about character the hard way. Whenever a player is selected in the draft later than their abilities suggest, the reason is nearly always a concern about character. Teams spend a lot of time and money up front assessing a prospect’s character because they’ve learned how costly it can be. In 2013, after tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder, the Patriots became the first NFL team to hire a “character coach.”

All of which makes concerns that a player like Lawrence has too much character simply bizarre. If anything, what the Bible calls the “fruit” of faith and character would make him a safe choice. But, in a world of “expressive individualism,” things like character and virtue and integrity seem old-fashioned. Still it’s these old-fashioned ideas our ailing young men, and our ailing society, need the most.

Apr 29, 2021
Our Daughter Says She's Pansexual. How Can We Walk This In Loving Her Well? - BreakPoint Q&A
47:20

John and Shane field a sobering question from a ministry-minded family. A daughter informed her mother that the daughter identifies as pansexual. John and Shane provide a host of resources and encouragement for the mother and her family as they walk a road of love, support, and guiding their family to hope in Jesus Christ in the midst of confusion.

Another listener seeks insight on what they're seeing as an agenda play out in the business community. Specifically, the listener identifies shifts in power where agendas are guiding the business community to a socialistic and communistic ideal. The listener asks how Christians should respond to soft movements of coercion we see inside our economy.

With graduation approaching, another listener asks for resources for a teen's parents unsure what their daughter should do next year. Rather than attend a university, where a level of maturity is essential, the listener suggests a link or gap year. She asks John and Shane for their recommendations.

Apr 28, 2021
What Every Christian Needs to Know
05:09

Scripture says woe to those who say that good is evil and that evil is good. That’s a culture-wide feature of our world. Each day, it seems, brings new and audacious ideas aimed at unravelling and misordering God’s very good creation.

Our first impulse might be to “blame the culture,” but it should be, instead, to take a hard look in the mirror. If the Church exists to proclaim and bear witness to the rule and reign of Christ, we may find that our culture’s woes aren’t as much the result of a secular occupation as they are the result of a Christian evacuation.

Francis Schaeffer noted how Christians think about life in terms of “bits and pieces” instead of “totals.” For example, many Christians able to recite core beliefs of the Christian faith struggle to see all of life as it truly is, the Story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.

To see what we are missing, consider who the Book of Acts describes Apollos. A man “fervent in spirit,” Apollos “spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.” And yet, he missed certain things related to the full life and work of Jesus. It’s not that he had wrong ideas, but that he didn’t understand where they fit within the larger Story of Jesus the Christ. This is similar to our situation today.

What we often miss, as Christians today, can be thought of in three broad categories: the past, the present and the future. Or, to put it another way, what was, what is, and what is to come.

To clarify what was, recall that first calling of God for His image bearers, a calling that has never been removed, is what might be called the “creation mandate.” God didn’t create His world in all of its glory to simply destroy it. He created the world to glorify Himself. He created His image bearers to glorify God by living out what He intended for us, where He intended us live. This created purpose, for humanity and the world, God called very good.

God’s created intent is restored, renewed in Christ. Another way to say this is that Christ has not come to save us from our God-given humanity, but to save us to it. To confess Christ as Savior from sin but to deny His relevance in society and culture is to miss, or perhaps even reject, His kingship over the entire world. Working to restore the world to its God-given order is itself gospel ministry.

The what is of the present is nothing less than the most extraordinary event in all of history, the Incarnation. Jesus atones for the sins of the world by His obedience and death, and launches the new creation by His resurrection. Thus, His Gospel, the good news, is not less than how we can be saved from our sin and be in heaven when we die, but it is more. The good news of Christ is, in reality, the Gospel of the Kingdom. In Christ, the Kingdom of God has come and will one day be fully realized in the full and final defeat of the enemies of God.

Finally, we must recover a biblical understanding of what is to come. Theologian N.T. Wright described what Christians should look forward to this way:

“In the New Testament, we do not find a life after death in heaven, but a life after life after death. In other words, a newly embodied life in a newly reconstituted creation. And ... all the great Christian teachers for centuries after that, taught the same thing: that what God did for Jesus on Easter, he will do for all his people at the end, raising them to new bodily life to share in the life of the new world.”

Together, the Christian vision of what was, what is, and what is to come, offers a broad and rich understanding of God’s Story. Unless Christians, especially in this time of cultural chaos, rediscover our place in that story, we’ll be confused and often ineffective, our witness diminished.

There is no greater task, then, in the church today than to re-catechize, to rethink what the Gospel is and what it means for us to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to champion the rule and reign of Christ in this cultural moment.  Hundreds of Christians will be joining us this year to dig deep into Christian worldview, cultural analysis and restorative leadership as Colson Fellows. If you’d like to join them, and rediscover your place in the Great Story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, consider joining the Colson Fellows program. To learn more, please visit www.colsonfellows.org

Apr 28, 2021
In California, Hundreds of Men Transfer to Female Prisons
04:54

Last fall, California governor Gavin Newsom signed The Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act, a bill which, among other things, would “allow incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex people to be housed and searched in a manner consistent with their gender identity.” Since this law went into effect back in January, in a new case of “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” over 200 prisoners have requested to be transferred from men’s prisons into those detaining women. As of April 6th, not a single request has been denied.

Imagine attempting to argue for this law 20 years ago. Imagine trying to convince anyone that biological males, specifically males who’d already demonstrated a willingness to break the law, should be incarcerated with women. Even if abuse of all sorts wasn’t a real problem for America's prison population, this would be a bad idea.

Until quite recently, California’s law (not to mention the ideology upon which it is based) would have been unthinkable. Even more, all of the warnings (and there were plenty of warnings) that embracing certain ideas about sex and marriage and gender would make laws like this inevitable earned accusations of exaggerations and “slippery slopes.”

Yet here we are. And, if the Biden Administration succeeds in making the Equality Act federal law, an unlikely but no impossible prospect, California’s idiosyncrasies would be national law. This whole thing is a case study in how the unthinkable becomes first inevitable and then unquestionable.

In reality, of course, perceptions of or claims to gender identity do not change chromosomes, nor do they eliminate male desire or weaken male physical strength when compared to women. To ignore these realities of the physical world, is not only to our peril but to the peril of the women who will be trapped with biological males against their wills. This isn't sound or compassionate policy. This will be, for many women, the definition of cruel and unusual punishment.

To ignore biological reality in the context of punishment and rehabilitation is not wholly different than a doctor or nurse treating a patient according to a perceived identity that conflicts with biological reality. Such medical care would not be helpful or loving. It would be malpractice.

Two thousand years ago, the pagan worldview of Gnosticism proclaimed a denigration of physicality. Greco-Roman thinkers often thought that the material world was less valuable, or even contrary to the good of the spiritual realm. Gnosticism’s condemnation of the physical even snuck into the Church, proclaiming that Jesus could not have been fully human or have a real body.

The Church, in light of Scripture’s robust view of creation, soundly and repeatedly condemned Gnosticism as heresy. Yet, elements of this hyper-spirituality clung to Western thought throughout the centuries and popped up again and again in the church, proclaiming that the fleshly concerns of the physical world did not matter or, even worse, should be fully rejected.

Gnosticism in its latest form can be seen in this new California law and in these California prisons, not to mention across the country in so many other areas. The reality of the physical male body and the bodily danger posed to female inmates, not to mention the bare essentials of physical biology (one warden announced that this law would mean new maternity wards in female prisons), have been dismissed by the new Gnosticism.

The Colson Center was founded as part of a ministry devoted to extending love and dignity to the men and women behind bars. Chuck founded Prison Fellowship to take seriously Christ’s words in Matthew 25. Placing female prisoners in physical danger isn’t a way to love them or care for them. Enabling men to hate and even desecrate their own bodies through surgery and chemical restraints isn’t treating them with dignity as image bearers. Truly loving any image bearer of God, including those who are incarcerated, must involve loving them as they truly are including the creational goodness of their physical bodies.

Apr 27, 2021
Monique Duson on Critical Race Theory - BreakPoint Podcast
14:13

John Stonestreet visits with Monique Duson about the image of God and how it is challenged inside critical race theory.

Monique spent 2 decades advocating for Critical Race Theory (CRT), but through a series of events began to see the contradictions of CRT with the historic Christian worldview.

She is now convinced that CRT is not the best way to achieve racial unity and actively speaks out against the use of CRT within the church. Monique's vision is to promote a vision for racial healing based on the historic Christian worldview.

We invite you to watch John's discussion with Monique as they talk about the Image of God, the theme of the 2021 Wilberforce Weekend. Monique has a special perspective to share and we are excited to have him in our lineup for the conference.

www.wilberfoceweekend.org

Apr 26, 2021
Will Medical Professionals Be Forced to Perform Transgender Surgeries?
04:42

On April 19th, the Biden administration filed an appeal in a case that could force “religious doctors and hospitals to perform potentially harmful gender-transition procedures against their conscience and professional medical judgment.”

The case involves an Obama administration rule interpreting the Affordable Care Act. The rule was issued in 2016, and prohibits insurance companies and health-care providers from discriminating against people on the basis of sex. The rule anticipated that discrimination on the basis of sex would soon legally include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Biden administration has repeatedly pointed to the 2020 Supreme Court decision in the Bostock case, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, as now legally requiring this new way of seeing categories of sex.  

If this new way of reading the rule stands, insurance companies and providers “may not deny access to medically necessary medications, surgeries, and other transition-related treatments for transgender people if similar services—a hysterectomy, for example—would be covered for non-transgender people.” This would, of course, redefine the concept of “medically necessary,” ignoring the obvious difference between removing perfectly healthy organs and removing organs riddled with cancer.

Also, the rule contains no conscience protections for doctors or hospitals. Therefore, Catholic hospitals, which do not perform hysterectomies except to preserve the life or physical health of a woman, would be forced to violate Catholic teaching. Various legal challenges to the rule by faith-based groups, all of whom claim that the regulation violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, have been unsuccessful.

Courts did, however, block Trump administration attempts to eliminate the mandate. So, the litigation over the rule continues. In January, a federal district court in North Dakota ruled in favor of the Sisters of Mercy, a group of nuns who believe that every man and woman” including transgender individuals, “is created in the image and likeness of God, and that they reflect Gods image in unique—and uniquely dignified—ways.”  They also believe that “performing gender-transition, abortion, and sterilization services . . . [violates] their religious beliefs regarding human sexuality and procreation,” and object to “providing insurance coverage for abortions, sterilizations, and gender transitions.”

If this case sounds a lot like the Little Sisters of the Poor case, it does.In fact, the district court cited the Little Sisters case several times in ruling that the mandate violated RFRA. Like the Obama administration, who couldn’t leave a group of nuns in peace to serve people in need, the Biden administration has decided that it can’t leave this other group of nuns in peace, either. So, it appealed the district court ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Sisters of Mercy, as Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund put it, “joyfully serve all patients regardless of sex or gender identity,” and “routinely provide top-notch care to transgender patients for everything from cancer to the common cold.” They also provide “millions of dollars in free and low-cost care [provided] to the elderly, poor, and underserved.” Still, the Biden administration is ready “to punish [the Sisters] with multi-million dollar penalties” even though, as a federal appeals court wrote, “There is no medical consensus that sex reassignment surgery is a necessary or even effective treatment for gender dysphoria.” In fact, there is ample evidence that gender reassignment surgery makes matters worse, not better.

Given both precedent and the makeup of the federal courts, it’s difficult to imagine the Biden administration will prevail in this case, especially at the Supreme Court.  However, that is not the primary concern. Upstream from the courts is the larger culture, one not only quick to embrace and advance observably wrong ideas about the human person, but to sacrifice religious freedom in order to do it. 

Apr 26, 2021
The Chauvin Verdict, Ohio Shooting, and Incapable Worldviews | BreakPoint This Week
01:00:49

John Stonestreet and Maria Baer recount the challenging aspects of what happened in America this week.

After recalling the details of the events surrounding the Derek Chauvin verdict following the death of George Floyd, John and Maria discuss a recent shooting in Ohio.

They close with the challenging situation Planned Parenthood finds itself in as the organization works to distance from racist roots and the current reality that their abortion services overwhelmingly impact people of color.

Apr 23, 2021
The Chauvin Verdict, Ohio Shooting, and Incapable Worldviews | BreakPoint This Week

John Stonestreet and Maria Baer recount the challenging aspects of what happened in America this week.

After recalling the details of the events surrounding the Derek Chauvin verdict following the death of George Floyd, John and Maria discuss a recent shooting in Ohio.

They close with the challenging situation Planned Parenthood finds itself in as the organization works to distance from racist roots and the current reality that their abortion services overwhelmingly impact people of color.

Apr 23, 2021
A Victim of Bad Ideas Is Frozen out of Fertility
04:49

Seven years ago, Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story told professional women, “Freeze Your Eggs, Free Your Career.” The story told of a woman in her late 30s, single and successful in her career, who spent $19,000 to have her eggs frozen. She planned to focus on a career now and keep open the possibility of marriage and kids later.

It didn’t turn out that way. Still single on her 45th birthday, she decided to have a child with the help of a sperm donor. However, her eggs failed to produce a child. She was crushed.

This experience isn’t uncommon. Writing at Evie Magazine, Molly Farinholt reports that, “a woman who freezes 10 eggs at age 36 has only a 30-60% chance of having a baby with them.” Whatever “freeze your eggs” might accomplish for a woman’s career, it’s just wrong to say that it enables a woman to “have it all.”

Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims. This unnamed woman was sold a bill of goods. She is not only the victim of bad ideas widely assumed in our culture about sex, about babies, and about parents. Countless other victims, in fact, have been left in their wake. These ideas have reshaped imaginations, redefining what many think to be possible. Based on these remade imaginations, people make decisions. Often, what they have been promised fails to materialize.

The central idea that has reshaped the cultural imagination is that sex, marriage, and babies are fully separable from one another. The “pill,” shorthand for artificial birth control, gave tangible form to this idea. Separating sex and procreation drove the sexual revolution which, in turn, culturally accomplished separating sex from marriage. Bereft of its God-ordained unitive and procreative purpose, sex became, at best, an expression of personal affection or, at worst, a form of exploitation.

The rise in out-of-wedlock birthrates, which accelerated in the late 1960s, signaled the final dissolution of childbirth and marriage. Still, the link between sex and childbirth remained, for obvious reasons. That link was severed by artificial reproduction technologies, such as IVF, sperm donation, and egg-freezing. Now, people could produce a child without sex or, for that matter, even having met one other.

So, first we wanted sex without marriage. The only way that was possible was to secure sex without babies. Artificial reproduction accomplished that. Then, along the way, we wanted to remove any stigma from wanting babies without marriage or wanting marriage without babies. Finally, with artificial reproductive technologies, we want babies without sex. The divorce is complete.

Even worse, it’s complete and uncontested in the cultural imagination. So many Christians, especially Christian young people, simply cannot imagine the idea that sex, marriage, and babies are a package deal, or that separating them is a recipe for cultural chaos. The false narrative of the sexual revolution about sex, marriage, and babies is now deeply embedded even in the Christian imagination.

Another bad idea is also implicated in this story about the failed promises of our technology. Businessweek’s insistence that technology enables woman to “have it all” on her terms assumes that true freedom is doing whatever we want, free from any and all consequences. Tragically, biology didn’t get that memo.

Our cultural narratives do nothing to change underlying biological realities. Whatever promises we make, age remains “the single biggest factor affecting a woman’s chance to conceive and have a healthy baby.” Believing otherwise, or expecting that technology will rescue us from the consequences of our decisions, changes nothing.

It still remains true that all of us, men as well as women, must make difficult choices. The first one may be reimagining and embracing a radically different vision of the good life than the one our culture peddles, especially when it comes to sex, marriage, and children. In particular, those called to marriage, and not all are, may need to recalibrate. After all, our priorities and our timeline may not match God’s.

Apr 23, 2021
Planned Parenthood’s Reckoning with Margaret Sanger’s Racism Doesn’t Go Far Enough
05:58

For years, abortion rights activists have attempted to downplay or even deny that Margaret Sanger, the closest thing the movement has to a patron saint, was motivated by racism. Planned Parenthood, the organization Sanger founded, widely celebrated her (even naming an award after her), as if her troubling words and actions could be somehow separated from the causes she championed. To be clear, Sanger considered abortion to be barbaric, but the organization that carries on her vision has embraced it as their primary strategy and largest source of revenue.

In the wake of the “racial reckoning” of the past year, denying what the historical record plainly reveals about Sanger is no longer tenable. After all, many others, including those with a far less damning paper trail, have been denounced as racists. Sanger’s re-evaluation was long past due.

In a recent New York Times’ op-ed, Planned Parenthood president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson, acknowledged Sanger’s sordid history of racism, white supremacy, and eugenics. She acknowledged that “Sanger spoke to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally in New Jersey to generate support for birth control.” She admitted that Sanger supported the Supreme Court’s decision in Buck v. Bell, which upheld mandatory sterilization for those deemed “unfit” and which infamously proclaimed that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.”  She told her readers about something a colleague of mine knows as family lore: “The first human trials of the birth control pill — a project that was Sanger’s passion later in her life — were conducted with her backing in Puerto Rico, where as many as 1,500 women were not told that the drug was experimental or that they might experience dangerous side effects.”

It’s past time, Johnson wrote, to “take responsibility for the harm that Sanger caused to generations of people with disabilities and Black, Latino, Asian-American, and Indigenous people.” However, wouldn’t “taking responsibility” necessarily include evaluating whether Sanger’s racist disdain for people of color and the marginalized lives on in Planned Parenthood’s work?

It does. In fact, Planned Parenthood is the most obvious example there is of systemic racism, a concept many people reject out of hand but shouldn’t.  Certainly, the idea of “systemic” or “institutional racism” is controversial. Too often, the accusation is a convenient blanket condemnation for anything a pundit or politician doesn’t like, a way to demand policy changes or to subvert debate.

Theologically speaking, it shouldn’t be controversial to suggest that sin can take systemic or structural forms. That much is obvious throughout the Scripture and human history. Systems and structures often operate, with either intention or inertia, in such a way that certain groups are harmed. This is possible even if no one associated with the “systems and structures” harbors any ill will towards these groups.

In the same way, just because Ms. Johnson is an African American or workers at Planned Parenthood aren’t personally racist doesn’t mean the organization isn’t systemically and structurally targeting people of color. The abortion rate for African American women is nearly three times as high as that of white women. The rate for Hispanic women is nearly two times as high.

By one estimate, 79 percent of Planned Parenthood facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic neighborhoods.

Whereas the average white woman might live her whole life without coming within 25 miles of one of these facilities, for many women of color, it’s far easier to find an abortion clinic than a bank branch or a decent grocery store. Whether by design or not, it reveals a system or structure that disadvantages people of color in the most basic way possible, by depriving them of life.

I can’t say it any better than did former NFL star and human rights advocate Benjamin Watson:

“Whether they personally identify with Sanger’s ideology or not, they continue to carry out her mission, by serving as the leading executioner of our children. The same Sanger they claim to disavow would applaud their efforts and results, as a disproportionate percentage of Black children have been killed in Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics. Acknowledging a racist history does not absolve them of the blood on their hands, as they continue to take full advantage of victims of the racism they decry. Quite frankly, how much of a racist or eugenicist Sanger was or wasn’t is of no real consequence right now as children die daily. The issue is that the profitability of abortion makes it a difficult cash cow to forgo. I urge Planned Parenthood to continue this ‘reckoning,’ not simply by calling out racism and combating white supremacy, but by using their wealth to meet the needs of mothers and their influence to halt, not perpetuate, the ultimate goal of a eugenic agenda, extermination of an undesirable’s offspring.”

He’s right. If Planned Parenthood is truly serious about eradicating Sanger’s sordid legacy, it must abandon abortion. Otherwise, what Harpers called “The Racial Reckoning Within Planned Parenthood” is little more than posturing and public relations, which, I suspect, would please its founder.

Apr 22, 2021
How Should a Dutiful Christian Respond to a Workplace Hostile to Faith - BreakPoint Q&A
46:16

John and Shane field a question from a listener whose workplace is hostile to the Christian faith. Hear how John encourages the committed Christian to live not by lies.

Another listener writes-in to ask for resources for the elders of his church. He is looking to help his church respond with truth and love to culture issues, helping the church leadership understand immediate social challenges.

To close, John fields a critique on a BreakPoint commentary related to Jack Phillips. The listener seeks to help frame the issue without falling into traps set inside legal structures. John provides a response to help Christians respond without compromising on Biblical truth.

Apr 21, 2021
Honoring New Life for Chuck Colson in Remembering His Passing 9 Years Later
04:46

Today, on the ninth anniversary of his death, I want you to hear from Chuck Colson about his birth. His new birth, that is. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet. This is BreakPoint.

Chuck Colson was one of the great evangelical leaders of the twentieth and early twenty-first century. He had an enormous influence on so many different organizations, so many different Christians leaders, and, of course, so many individual people.

I can’t tell you how many times I meet someone who tells me, “Chuck Colson was my mentor,” even if they had never met him. They then go on to identify a book that Colson had written or a talk that he had given at some particular event. One of the striking things about it is that when someone names a book, it’s almost inevitably a different book each time.

Make no mistake: Colson’s influence came about because of how Jesus Christ had changed his life. He was an incredibly gifted person. You have to be incredibly gifted to find your place just down the hall from the most important man on the planet some time in your thirties. Yet, this giftedness accompanied by what he would often admit was his pride, led Colson to an incredible fall, one that was public and in front of the entire world.

But, he came to Christ, and that changed the trajectory of his entire life. He founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, and he also founded the Colson Center. So, today, on the ninth anniversary of his passing, I want you to hear Chuck Colson describe his own conversion, as he did on a BreakPoint that was on the thirtieth anniversary of that conversion.

Here’s Chuck Colson:

Thirty years ago today, I visited Tom Phillips, president of the Raytheon Company, at his home outside of Boston. I had represented Raytheon before going to the White House, and I was about to start again.

But I visited him for another reason as well. I knew Tom had become a Christian, and he seemed so different. I wanted to ask him what had happened.

That night he read to me from Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, particularly a chapter about the great sin that is pride. A proud man is always walking through life looking down on other people and other things, said Lewis. As a result, he cannot see something above himself immeasurably superior — God.

Tom, that night, told me about encountering Christ in his own life. He didn’t realize it, but I was in the depths of deep despair over Watergate, watching the President I had helped for four years flounder in office. I had also heard that I might become a target of the investigation as well. In short, my world was collapsing.

That night, as Tom was telling me about Jesus, I listened attentively, but didn’t let on about my need. When he offered to pray, I thanked him but said, no, I would see him sometime after I had read C. S. Lewis’s book. But when I got in the car that night, I couldn’t drive it out of the driveway. Ex-Marine captain, White House tough guy, I was crying too hard, calling out to God. I didn’t know what to say; I just knew I needed Jesus, and He came into my life.

That was thirty years ago.

I’ve been reflecting of late on the things God has done over that time. As I think about my life, the beginning of the prison ministry, our work in the justice area, our international ministry that reaches one hundred countries, and the work of the Wilberforce Forum and BreakPoint, I have come to appreciate the doctrine of providence. It’s not the world’s idea of fate or luck, but the reality of God’s divine intervention. He orchestrates the lives of His children to accomplish His good purposes.

God has certainly ordered my steps. I couldn’t have imagined when I was in prison that I would someday go back to the White House with ex-offenders as I did on June 18 — or that we would be running prisons that have an 8 percent recidivism rate — or that BreakPoint would be heard daily on a thousand radio outlets across the United States and on the Internet.

The truth that is uppermost in my mind today is that God isn’t finished. As long as we’re alive, He’s at work in our lives. We can live lives of obedience in any field because God providentially arranges the circumstances of our lives to achieve His objectives.

And that leads to the greatest joy I’ve found in life. As I look back on my life, it’s not having been to Buckingham Palace to receive the Templeton Prize, or getting honorary degrees, or writing books. The greatest joy is to see how God has used my life to touch the lives of others, people hurting and in need.

It has been a long time since the dark days of Watergate. I’m still astounded that God would take someone who was infamous in the Watergate scandal, and soon to be a convicted felon, and take him into His family and then order his steps in the way He has with me. God touched me at that moment in Tom Phillip’s driveway, and thirty years later, His love and kindness touch and astound me still.

Apr 21, 2021
How Christians Ended Foot Binding in China
05:31

The practice of foot binding, tightly wrapping the feet of young girls in order to reshape them and prevent them from growing too large, began sometime during the ninth or tenth century in China. Small feet on women were considered attractive in Han Chinese culture and, over time, the practice grew increasingly extreme. In fact, by the sixteenth century, the foot binding process broke the bones in young girls’ feet. The goal was to produce “lotus feet,” with the ideal feet being no longer than 4 inches. Women with “lotus feet” were able to only manage small steps and would sway as they walked, something considered alluring by Chinese men.

By the end of the nineteenth century, foot binding was deeply embedded as a cultural norm. Nearly half of all women in China and almost all upper-class Han women had their feet bound. Though a painful, debilitating, and abusive practice, having “lotus feet” was essential to securing a good marriage.

In the space of one generation, foot binding disappeared.

The successful campaign against foot binding was jointly led by Western missionaries and native Chinese Christians. In 1875, John Macgowan, a Belfast-born missionary with the London Missionary Society, was a key figure, and called a meeting of Chinese Christian women to oppose foot binding. Nine of these women agreed to not bind their daughters’ feet, to not allow their sons to marry women with bound feet, and to undergo the painful process of unbinding their own. This was the beginning of the Quit-Foot-Binding Society, the first anti-foot binding society in China.

Macgowan also convinced Chinese intellectuals, including the Buddhist reformer Kang Youwei, to oppose foot binding. In 1885, Kang founded the Foot Emancipation Society. In 1898, he wrote a memorandum to the Emperor urging him to abolish foot binding, arguing that it made China an object of international ridicule.

Other anti-foot binding societies developed rapidly, some who were part of Kang’s movement and others led by or inspired by foreign and Chinese Christians. In the end, Chinese Christian women took the lead to end foot binding. For example, Shi Meiyu was the daughter of a Methodist pastor who refused to allow her own feet to be bound. As the first Chinese woman to receive a medical degree from an American University, she founded two hospitals in China and labored tirelessly to abolish foot binding.

The campaigns to end foot binding were remarkably successful. In 1902, the Empress Dowager Cixi banned foot binding, though her edict was rescinded. Then, in 1912, the newly founded Republic of China issued a ban. By 1949, at the start of the Communist revolution, the practice had stopped completely in all but a few rural areas.

Social scientists have learned crucial lessons from the success of these campaigns. For example, the missionaries that began the fight against foot binding did not try to lead the movement. Instead, they recruited and helped organize indigenous Chinese to lead the movement.

Though not all of these indigenous leaders and participants in the campaign were Christians, many were. The movement effectively drew in non-Christian intellectual leaders like Kang Youwei by using arguments grounded in the understandable Chinese desire for respect from other nations.

In Shanghai, Alicia Little recognized the importance of basing her work against foot binding on ideas that made sense to non-Christians, instead of simply appealing to her Christian faith. Of course, Christianity is true and therefore aligns with reality. Thus, Little was able to find appropriate prudential arguments in order to make her case.

Another important lesson from these anti-foot binding movements is how essential it is to form institutions that can preserve and promote core ideals. The success of these campaigns was largely due to the organizations Macgregor and others founded. In fact, establishing institutions may have been the critical factor in this campaign’s success, compared to the failures of earlier attempts to end the practice.

And, of course, these campaigns point to something seen repeatedly throughout history. Christians bringing the Gospel to pagan societies have always – always – found themselves defending children from bad ideas and abusive cultural norms. In our pagan times, stopping the assault on children about their God-given sex is a calling. We’d do well to learn from the Christians in China who worked to end foot binding.

Start by making the Promise to America’s Children, pledging to protect the minds, bodies, and the most important relationships of the children in your life. Come to BreakPoint.org to learn more and to sign your name to this important promise.

Apr 20, 2021
The Image of God and Expressive Individualism - Carl Trueman on the BreakPoint Podcast
17:08

John Stonestreet visits with Dr. Carl Trueman, a Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies at Grove City College, Pa, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Faith and Freedom.

Dr. Trueman's book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution, has been called the most important book of the past decade and is the featured resource for the Colson Center this month. Make any gift to the Colson Center during the month of April and we'll send you a copy of Dr. Trueman's book.

We invite you to listen to John's discussion with Carl Trueman as they talk about the Image of God, the theme of the 2021 Wilberforce Weekend. Dr. Trueman has a special perspective to share and we are excited to have him in our lineup for the conference.

Apr 19, 2021
The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self
04:49

Stop and think about this statement, “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body.” How did a sentence like this become not just common, and not even just plausible, but unquestionable? Even more, how did it happen so fast? 

In his new book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution, Grove City College professor Carl Trueman explains the answer as thoroughly and clearly as possible. According to Trueman, the transgender moment – along with its claims about sex, gender, and human identity – is just a symptom, or an expression, of a much deeper and older cultural revolution. If Christians are to have any hope of responding effectively and faithfully, it is essential to understand how that revolution took place. 

(Dr. Trueman is one of the featured speakers at next month’s Wilberforce Weekend in Fort Worth, Texas. Recently, on a special Colson Center webinar, he offered a preview of what’s in the book and what he’ll be talking about in May.)

Trueman’s central point is crucial and unlocks virtually every one of our culture’s most controversial and significant issues. The view of human identity that is now taken for granted is radically different from the view most people throughout history (not only Christians) have long held. In the Christian view of the human person, we are more than the stuff we’re made of. We have a telos, a moral shape, a created purpose, a design. 

Just as a plane is made to fly, a book is made to be read, and a fish is made to swim, our purpose is to image and glorify God. If we hope to thrive as individuals and as a society, we must live in alignment with that design. Otherwise, we’re fighting not just against God, but against our very natures.

Sadly, that idea, which is fundamental to life itself – not to mention to a biblical worldview – would be considered “too deep” for many Christians and churches. In the book, Dr. Trueman describes how freshmen entering his classes usually know what the Bible teaches about sexual morality but have no idea why the Bible teaches it. So, when a gay friend asks why they shouldn’t be able to marry someone of the same sex, or when a transgender relative claims a new name and demands new pronouns, these students are often at a loss to justify their convictions. For the record, my experience with students and, too often, their parents, educators, and even pastors is often identical.

All contemporary Western people, to one degree or another, are unwitting disciples of an ideology that Trueman identifies as “expressive individualism.” This view, which is as much caught as it is taught in our culture, declares human beings to be a kind of “living playdough.” Not only can we mold and remake ourselves according to our feelings, but the highest purpose of our lives is to look within, determine an identity, and then express it to the world, while demanding that everyone comply. Of course, this also means that our highest duty to each other (after discovering and expressing our own identities) is to recognize and affirm their chosen identities, no matter how impossible or contrary to nature they may be. 

There is a reason that so many people, yours truly included, consider Dr. Trueman’s book the essential explanation of our cultural moment. In astonishing detail, he traces the history of selfhood in Western culture up to the present moment and describes how the ideas of men like Rousseau, Freud, and others became the cultural water in which we all swim. 

Still, the best part of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is that it does more than describe what has gone wrong. Trueman helps prepare Christians to respond in grace and truth. 

You can get a copy of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self for a donation of any amount to the Colson Center this month. Just visit BreakPoint.org/April2021, to request a copy. Again, that’s BreakPoint.org/April2021. Also, please join me, Dr. Carl Trueman, and others at the Wilberforce Weekend conference next month in Fort Worth. The focus of the event is understanding and applying, from a variety of angles, who we are as made in the image and likeness of God. The imago Dei is an essential doctrine in the Scriptures, and central to our cultural witness. For more information, go to WilberforceWeekend.org.

Apr 19, 2021
High Court Defends In-Home Worship in California - BreakPoint This Week
01:07:32

John and Maria discuss the fatal shooting of Dante Wright in Minneapolis. Maria shares how a compassionate response is effective to step forward in love as a community. 

Maria then introduces a new take on the saga in transgender athletes in collegiate athletics. New actions by the NCAA are putting states in a challenging position to say what isn't true and redesign women's athletics.

John and Maria close the program reflecting on the Supreme Court's decision regarding a case out California. Pastor Jeremy Wong and California resident Karen Busch sued the state after being barred from holding Bible studies and prayer meetings in their home. The court upheld lower court rulings, allowing the pair to continue prayer meetings, in a 5-4 decision by the High Court.

Apr 16, 2021
The 2021 Engage Art Contest
03:55

Who’s your favorite poet? Do you even have a favorite poet? Even before COVID, when did you last attend a concert or visit an art museum? When did you last draw a picture, or photograph something beautiful, or write a song, or cook a fancy dinner, or just make something?

Enjoying, engaging in, reflecting on, and creating art is a profoundly divine activity. God is, as theologian T. M. Moore puts it, “the Great Artist.” His universe was made with “such wonder, diversity, order, color, sound, dimension, scope and harmony that He could confidently pronounce Himself pleased with what He had made.”

Made in His image, humans are also creators. Artistic creativity is, in fact, an integral and distinguishing capability of being human. The works of our imaginations and of our hands have the potential to reflect the very nature, purpose, and character of God in the world.

Not only that, but as the folks at Engage Art explain, art is one way that Christians can cultivate a culture of community:

“All of the individual artworks being made by filmmakers, musicians, potters, and all the rest; all the museum collections and comic books; all the dance crazes, songs, poems, etc.—they all get mashed together to create the culture we all get to live in.”

For the last few years, Engage Art has sought to cultivate, celebrate, and reward artistic creativity by inviting artists of all ages and backgrounds to submit original music, short films, drawings, paintings, photographs, and more. Winners of the Engage Art contest in each category receive cash prizes and have their works displayed with the performing and visual arts at the EngageArt.org. (Submissions to the contest are made through the Engage Art app, which can be found on the website or at the Apple and Android app stores.)

The contest is itself an artistic creation of longtime art appreciators and philanthropists Bill and Linda Bantz. They have structured this contest not only to encourage human creativity, but to increase engagement with Scripture. The whole approach reflects an important belief – that a new generation of artists can find inspiration in the Bible’s rich and accurate description of reality, just as so many great artists have throughout history.   

The theme of this year’s contest, open as of April 15th, is based on Ephesians 6:10-20, which is often called the “Spiritual Battle” passage. Thus, submissions are encouraged which “discuss the broad and evergreen theme of good vs. evil, as well as the idea that unseen forces have an impact on our world.” As Paul explains in that passage, we battle “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

All the information and requirements for submitting a work for the 2021 Engage Art contest can be found at the website EnageArt.org. There’s also a gallery of past contest entries, including paintings, illustrations, sculptures, films, and music videos.

Years ago, Chuck Colson said, “For the Christian, the arts are an important way to understand God and His creation. In a post-Christian culture, those who blend artistic gifts with Christian faith can help lead us back to a biblical worldview. That is why the Church should encourage them.”

I encourage you to share your own artistic talents with the world. Enter the Engage Art contest, and please, tell any Christian creative you know about this opportunity. Details can be found at EngageArt.org, or come to BreakPoint.org for a link.

Apr 16, 2021
Applying Christian Worldview to the World Around Us
04:43

One of the most important effects of embracing a deliberate, self-conscious Christian worldview, as well as losing the sacred-secular distinction too many Christians have absorbed from the world around us, is seeing the depth, the breadth, and the width of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every sphere of life. Once we see life this way, our vision of serving Jesus is radically re-shaped in light of the unassailable, undefeatable, and advancing Kingdom of God.

Once Chuck Colson embraced this vision of the Christian life, he poured it into every single BreakPoint commentary. Each and every day, in every speech, in every book, and in every visit to every prison he ever took, he was eager to help Christians think clearly about cultural issues and trends from a Christian worldview.

During the last decade of his life, Colson decided that the best way he could advance this vision would be replication. That is why he invited Christians to study with him through what is now called the Colson Fellows Program. Inviting Christians to take a deep dive into Christian worldview over a ten-month course of study, trained and mentored by top Christian authors and thinkers. He saw class after class of Christians become the kind of culture-shaping leaders who could look at the world around them, think clearly about it, effectively analyze, critique, and discern what was happening in the world and champion the Kingdom of God in whatever time and place God had called them to.

What makes the Colson Fellows Program so different and so vital is that it is not just an exercise in learning new things, as important as that is. Commissioned Colson Fellows are, well, commissioned. Because the training includes a teaching project, a three-year planning process, and self-inventory on who God has made Fellows to be, they are able to apply a Christian worldview in real-world, practical ways.

Here’s how the program works: Colson Fellows-in-Training learn how to articulate and defend biblical truth in the marketplace of ideas through intensive instruction on worldview and cultural analysis. They read both Christian classics and the best contemporary writers, many of whom they interact with on twice-monthly webinars. Colson Center faculty includes folks such as Os Guinness, Joni Eareckson Tada, Dr. Glenn Sunshine, J. Warner Wallace, Jennifer Marshall, and Scott Klusendorf.

What may be the best part is that Colson Fellows study together, in community, in one of our 55 Regional Cohorts around the country, a time-zone specific Online Cohort or one of five International Cohorts. So, we have doctors and business professionals learning alongside of academics and lawyers, who are also learning alongside homeschool moms and everyday Christians who are passionate about living faithfully in this cultural moment. The cross-pollination of applied faith is rich, indeed.

Those who complete the program join a network of more than 2,000 commissioned Colson Fellows, who have studied with us and are living out a deeper faith in a broken world. This network includes people like pastors and religious freedom attorneys, educators, college presidents, entrepreneurs – you name it.

Colson Fellows Program Director S. Michael Craven likes to say that as people study with the Colson Fellows, many have this moment of “conversion.” Serious-minded Christians who have been walking with the Lord for many years discover more clearly, some for the first time, that they are a part of a much larger story—one that certainly includes but goes beyond our personal salvation in Jesus Christ.

Christians often say, “I’ve invited Jesus into my life,” but the reality is that Jesus is inviting us into His life. His purpose. His restoring work in the world He created. To this life, His Life, we are invited to join Him in the work of making all things new.

If you are stirred in heart and mind for this kind of faith, this kind of life, come to ColsonFellows.org to learn more. We respond to all inquiries and are happy to answer any questions you may have. We’re accepting applications now for next year’s class of Colson Fellows.

Apr 15, 2021
How Do You Love A Neighbor Who Hates Your Faith?
27:27

John Stonestreet is joined by Dr. Bill Brown, Dean of the Colson Fellows program that equips attendees with Christian worldview and a ministry plan to reach their communities.

Dr. Brown brings questions from the Colson Fellows class of 2021, along with a few questions we've received at the Colson Center related to neighborliness. 

Apr 14, 2021
What’s Behind Declining Sperm Counts and Fertility?
05:06

In the 1992 dystopian novel, The Children of Men, P. D. James tells the story of a world where no child has been born in 26 years. It’s a world without hope or purpose. Mass suicide of the elderly is common, and the not-yet-elderly are urged to watch pornography in vain hopes of stimulating libidos and reproduction.

Mind you, the story is set in, that’s right, 2021. In the book, male sperm counts collapsed in 1994 — called “Year Omega” in the novel — with the last children being born in 1995. While James’ story is fiction, in the real 2021, life may be imitating art – male sperm counts around the world are in decline and, by one estimate, a real “Year Omega” could arrive in 2045.

According to a new book by Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, between 1973 and 2011 sperm counts in Western males dropped by 59 percent. In the ten years since then, things have gotten worse. As Swan writes, "If you look at the curve on sperm count and project it forward — which is always risky — it reaches zero in 2045 . . .  That’s a little concerning, to say the least.”

The decline in male sperm counts coincides with a precipitous decline in fertility rates, not only in the West but increasingly in the developing world, too. Half of the world’s countries have fertility rates below replacement level. By 2050 two-thirds of the world’s countries are expected to have fertility rates below replacement level. The obvious questions are, one, what role do declining sperm counts are playing in this fertility drop? And two, what’s behind the declining sperm counts?

Swan acknowledges that nonbiological factors, such as “contraception, cultural shifts and the cost of having children are likely” to have contributed to declining birth rates. But she insists that there is ample evidence for biological reasons, as well. Besides the decline in birth rates, she points to things such as “increasing miscarriage rates, more genital abnormalities among boys and earlier puberty for girls.”

As for the cause in declining sperm counts, Swan and others single out “endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment, including phthalates and bisphenol-A” better known as BPA. These chemicals are found in “plastics, pesticides, cosmetics and even ATM receipts.” In addition to the environmental factors, there are lifestyle factors, such as tobacco and marijuana use, and obesity that might also be affecting sperm counts. Regardless of what’s causing lower sperm counts, the drop is real. Throw in cultural attitudes towards marriage and childrearing, and the trend is indeed “concerning.”

While it’s difficult to imagine a Children of Men-like scenario, we are already seeing the effects of the decline in fertility around the world: aging populations, a shortage of working-age adults, and 70 million men in China and India without a reasonable prospect of getting married. 

Between our treatment of the environment and our cultural attitudes and practices, it is almost as if we are following the recommendations of an “extinction consultant.” If we asked this consultant the best way to disregard and even rebel against God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply,” his answer would likely have resembled what we are currently doing.

We can do something, of course, about the chemicals Swan and others point to as being factors in the declining sperm rate. That, at best, would only slow the trajectory of our demographic demise. There are cultural factors that are far more important and would remain untouched. Not to mention, for many people, especially in the West, the answer to every environmental and social problem from climate change to poverty is “fewer people.”

That makes the Guardian’s headline about Swan’s book so ironic: “Falling sperm counts ‘threaten human survival,’ expert warns.” Given the Guardian’s track record, and that of similar publications, you would expect them be cheering for our possible extinction, or at the very least to look on the bright side: “At least the polar bears will be OK.”

The only way forward is somehow reversing the anti-human and anti-natalist worldview that is driving us towards a demographic crisis. In James’ 1992 novel, hope takes the form of a miraculous birth and a baptism. That’s a pretty good summary of what hope could look like or us in 2021.

Certainly, it will require a lot more than banning chemicals from water bottles. It will require from us, including those of us in the Church, what the New Testament calls metanoia, a change of mind that results in a transformed way of life.

Apr 14, 2021
Join in 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
03:55

In 1996 American political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote a book called The Clash of Civilizations. In it, he proposed a remarkable thesis, that while in the past, especially in the 20th century, global conflicts had been primarily between nations, countries, and kingdoms, in the future, especially in the 21st century, global conflicts would increasingly be between not nation-states but between cultures, between civilizations.

These cultural fault lines, as he called them, sometimes existed within a country or existed across regions. It didn't take very long within the 21st Century to prove his theory correct. In fact, in The Clash of Civilizations, Huntington went on to predict that the hottest of these conflicts would be between religious and non-religious cultures, specifically, that what you might call the hottest of the hot would be between Islam and the West. In the time since 9/11, his predictions have largely played out.

But there has been another story dealing with Islam that has played out at almost the same time. In fact, just over the last three decades or so, we have seen a remarkable number of Muslims coming to Christ. Individuals from the Islamic world are reporting conversions – sometimes through dreams, sometimes through missions, sometimes through other means. Regardless of the means, it has been what one missiologist called a remarkable movement of the Holy Spirit. The reports are so numerous, in fact, that a foundation recruited a friend of mine, a scholar named Dr. David Garrison, to investigate. They sent him for several months to visit various corners of the Muslim world and to figure out where these stories were coming from. They wanted to know how legitimate these reports were. Garrison put together his findings in a book called A Wind in the House of Islam.

You see in the whole history of the Islamic faith, there have been few reports of large movements of Muslims becoming Christians – very few in fact. But about 80 percent of all the movements recorded in history of large groups of Muslims becoming Christians have taken place in just the last three decades.

There's something else that's taken place over the last three decades: Each and every year for the last 28 years, during the season of Ramadan, the most holy period in the Islamic calendar, a group of Christians led by a prayer guide, have together prayed for Christ to draw Muslims to Himself. Ramadan is a very good time to keep our Muslim neighbors and Muslims around the world and prayer.

Since 1993 to be precise, the “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” prayer guide has been equipping Christians to pray for Muslims during this season of Ramadan. It is an international movement that calls on, “The church to make a deliberate but respectful effort to learn about, to pray for, and to reach out to our world’s Muslim neighbors.” There is even a “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World Prayer Guide” for kids which I have used with my own family.

The “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” is available both in a print booklet and as a digital download. You can find it by going to 30DaysPrayer.com. Or come to BreakPoint.org, and we'll tell you how to pick up a copy.

James tells us that the effectual prayer of a righteous man avails much. This has been a movement of prayer of hundreds of thousands of Christians for decades. Let’s be a part of it.  

Apr 13, 2021
Alisa Childers Wilberforce Weekend Preview - BreakPoint Podcast
25:34

John Stonestreet visits with Alisa Childers, author of Another Gospel: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity. Alisa is a featured speaker at the upcoming Wilberforce Weekend, May 21-23 in Fort Worth, Tx. 

Alisa shares how progressive Christianity is working to steal the image of God, providing context for her upcoming presentation at the Wilberforce Weekend.

For more information on the Wilberforce Weekend, including a drawing where you could win tickets, hotels, and flights to the conference, visit www.wilberforceweekend.com

Apr 12, 2021
Turning Chemicals into Code
03:55

Back in January, at meeting held at the Royal Society in London, a team of scientists and investors announced the largest prize ever offered to solve a scientific mystery. Organized by engineer and business consultant Perry Marshall, the whopping prize of $10 million (ten times the Nobel Prize payout) will be given to any person or team who can “arrange for a digital communication system to emerge or self-evolve without…explicitly designing the system.” The point of the contest is to learn where genetic code came from, and how it became the basis for all life.

The winning experiment, according to their website, “must generate an encoder that sends digital code to a decoder,” and transmit at least five bits of information, or roughly half as much as a comparable segment of DNA. In other words, to claim the prize, you must bring into existence the functional equivalent of the first living cell, without intelligently designing the system.

Judges include Oxford and Royal Society biologist Denis Noble, Harvard Geneticist George Church, and philosopher of science Michael Ruse. According to Noble, a scientist whose work led to the first pacemaker, the prize is so big, because evolution “leaves two things completely unexplained: How did life get going in the first place, and what is the origin of the genetic code.”

With surprising honesty, he continued: “I cannot see personally how DNA could have been there at the beginning. After all, it requires the cell to enable it and to reproduce, and it requires the cell also to correct errors in that reproduction and replication process.”

Perry Marshall explained why he organized the prize by recalling a debate about the origin of life he once had with his brother. Sons of a pastor, Marshall offered a standard argument from design, but his brother retorted that natural processes were sufficient to explain all of life’s complexity.  

Marshall wasn’t convinced. As he was writing what would later become his bestselling book on computer networks, he realized that “mathematically [DNA and ethernet] are identical. It’s encoding and decoding. It is a communication system…Genetics is digital communication.”

Intelligent design theorists have been making this point for decades. From a variety of angles, authors such as Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Steven Meyer have argued that information, like what is stored and communicated in DNA, has only one known source – an intelligent agent. To produce a system like DNA through unguided processes would not only be to do something that’s never been done; it would be to do something never before observed in the history of science.

But, it gets even worse of those hoping to snag that $10 million. As Dr. Noble reminded press and colleagues, DNA requires a cell to function…and cells, as far as we know, require DNA. To get one, you need the other. In other words, to win the money, competitors must not only put together the equivalent of functioning genetic code “without cheating,” they have to create the molecular machines that use, replicate, and edit that code.

How difficult is it to produce a living cell from scratch? A while back, my colleague Shane Morris asked synthetic-organic chemist James Tour this very question on the BreakPoint Podcast. Dr. Tour replied that anyone who claims we’re close to building a cell, even in the most ideal of circumstances, “has no idea what they’re talking about.” In fact, he said, “ask them for details, and you see them start to sweat.”

The bottom line? The origin of life and of the information that makes it possible remain the most significant challenge to a naturalistic worldview. The only plausible explanation for how these incredible systems came into being is intelligent design, precisely what those competing for this prize are forbidden from using.

Don’t get me wrong. $10 million is a lot of money. But, it’s still not enough to make the impossible possible.

Apr 12, 2021
The Georgia Law, "Woke Capitalism," and What It Means to Live not by Lies - BreakPoint This Week
58:39

John Stonestreet and Maria Baer discuss the ramifications of Major League Baseball moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta as a result of Georgia's new voting law. How do Christians respond when corporate activism falls for a non-factual narrative? And how is it that politics has overtaken every sphere of public life?

They also tackle Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison's surprising veto of legislation that would ban transgender surgery and hormone treatment for minors (the veto was immediately overridden)--and just how detached from reality our language over biology, sex, and gender has become.

John and Maria wrap up this week's episode discussing how it is that Gallup has found that--for the first time--fewer than half of Americans are members of a church. Is this a failure of the Church? The result of what John calls "an anemic ecclesiology?"

As for their recommendations of the week: "The Chosen" TV series and, for young people, the Impact 360 Institute and Summit Ministries.

Apr 09, 2021
Losing Ourselves
05:49

It’s easy to think that the story of the last several decades, at least as it comes to Christianity and society, is the story of moral shifting. In other words, things that were once considered wrong are now considered right, and things that were once considered right are now considered wrong. That certainly explains an awful lot, and certainly there have been moral shifts in Western society.

However, that's not enough to explain everything. More accurately, maybe we should say that the moral shifts that we see, which are obvious and which have indeed happened, are the fruit of the issue, not the root. They are the effect, not the cause.

The deepest and more fundamental shifts that have taken place in Western culture over the last several decades have not been in our definition of what's right and what's wrong. They’ve been in our definition of reality itself, specifically our understanding of what it means to be human. Starting with that framework, we can answer some questions that for many of us seemed to be nearly unanswerable. What's wrong? It's been in our definition of reality itself, specifically our understanding of what it means to be human. Maybe you find yourself in the same cultural boat as Carl Trueman: a little dizzy, like so many of us, about how quickly things went from unthinkable to unquestionable.

It is one thing for someone to say something like, “I am a woman trapped in a man's body.” Certainly, throughout history, there have been people that have thought that sort of thing, and maybe even said that sort of thing out loud. The difference, as Trueman puts it, between those times and today is that that statement has now come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful.

There is an essential question for Christians to answer. If we are to frame our worldview without being pulled here-and-there by the various deceptions of our culture while also having a strong enough cultural witness that is big enough for the questions of the challenges of this time in human history, then answering this question must involve a deep dive into the issue of the image of God. In other words, the Christian view of what it means to be human. That is why we are going to be spending an entire conference in May on that question at the Wilberforce Weekend in Fort Worth.

If we want to understand the degree to which our culture is lost, if we wish to see how far our society has strayed from the truth, and if we wish to understand where they are and go to them with the answers to the questions that they have, then we need to understand this shift. Where did it come from? How did we change our minds? Not just about what is right and wrong and not only even questions about whether there is a God or not. How did we change our minds on what it means to be human?

That is what this remarkable book by Carl Trueman offers: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. Consider the subtitle: “Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism and the Road to Sexual Revolution.” The sexual revolution has gone so far – further than even its original progenitors could have ever imagined – and at the root of that is an idea that Trueman rightly defines and identifies as expressive individualism. In other words, when who we are as human persons is completely disconnected from any design and from any creator, then the only thing there is left to us is whatever I express about myself. With this framework, when anything – whether it's religious, moral, or social norms or even laws and public policies – gets in the way of me being whatever it is that I say or that I want to be, it is here that the greatest oppression, the greatest discrimination, comes.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is a must-read book. My friend Bruce Ashford, a remarkable scholar in Christian worldview and theology, calls this book the most significant analysis and evaluation of Western culture written by a Protestant during the last 50 years. That is some serious praise. Rod Dreher calls this without question one of the most important religious books of the decade, saying, “Carl Trueman explains modernity to the Church with depth, clarity, and force. The significance of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is hard to overestimate.”

I think this book is absolutely essential reading for any Christian who wants to make sense of this cultural moment and do it in such a way that they know better how to take their faith into the public square.

As we have said so many times over the last couple weeks, our understanding of the image of God is central to a Christian worldview, and it is crucial for our cultural witness. More than that, it is the pivotal place where our faith collides with Western culture because of expressive individualism.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is the featured resource for the Colson Center this month. For a gift of any amount to the Colson Center, I will send you a copy of this book, and, trust me, you will not be sorry to get the depth of understanding that the book offers.

To pick up your copy of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, just visit BreakPoint.org/April2021.

Apr 09, 2021
Why There's No Compromising The Equality Act
05:02

The most recent incarnation of the Equality Act is also the most radical version we have yet seen. It’s also worth noting that it’s closer to becoming law than any version so far put forward. As a friend of mine would say, this isn’t magic; it’s math. This Congressional term, the Equality Act passed the House of Representatives. Though unlikely at this point, a 50-50 tie in the Senate broken by a Democratic White House is feasible, making the Equality Act a live option. Last year, it simply wasn’t. Who knows what the next round of midterms will do to these numbers?

In light of the very real threat posed by the Equality Act, a number of Christians have offered compromise solutions, most notably the Fairness for All Act. FFA would carves out exemptions for churches and certain religious organizations, though it’s unclear which ones, but it would not protect the religious freedoms of private Christian citizens who are medical professionals, business owners, bakers, florists, photographers, and so on. 

These attempts to preserve legislatively whatever religious freedoms we can, while well-intentioned, are actually premature attempts at deal-making. Tactically unwise, compromise solutions will almost certainly make things more difficult in the future. Rather than carving out a place for Christians in an increasingly hostile culture, this appeasement shrinks the space available to believers, both now and in the future.

Even so, political gamesmanship is only part of the problem with compromise solutions such as Fairness for All. In fact, there are at least three reasons not only to oppose just the Equality Act but all attempts to compromise in its direction.

First, the Equality Act, even in a compromised form, says what is not true about the human person. Specifically, the Equality Act suggests that when it comes to human beings, questions of sexual and gender identity are equivalent to categories race and ethnicity. In other words, something largely determined by behavioral choice and personal expression is treated as an essential characteristic of a person. (Though in the past, LGB advocates may have used the “born this way” argument to explain sexual identity, that argument does not serve the new letter, T, in the acronym. Therefore, it has been largely abandoned). Attempts to compromise with the Equality Act not only affirm this same, false way of thinking about who we are for everyone else but “us,” it relegates Christian belief in this area to subjective personal opinion.

Second, by hijacking the history and categories of the Civil Rights movement, the Equality Act says things that are not true about the plight of those who are LGBT. The Civil Rights Act ensured that African Americans could participate in civil society, when at times they could not. Decades ago, for example, an African American family could not take a cross country trip since so many hotels, gas stations, and restaurants refused service. Effectively, an entire segment of the population was excluded from society.

This is not the case for LGBT people. When Jack Philips refused to bake a cake celebrating a “same-sex marriage” (in a state that, at the time, didn’t even recognize “same-sex marriage”) dozens of bakeries nearby would have gladly taken the business. To compare the refusal to participate in a same-sex marriage or a “gender affirming” surgery with the Jim Crow South is obviously false, given the wide availability of services in any of these arenas. In fact, this reveals the Equality Act for what it is: an attempt to force citizens to comply with the government’s point of view.

Which brings up the third way in which attempts to compromise with the Equality Act fail. Compromise solutions wish to protect ministers and Christian institutions from being forced to comply with the government’s point of view. Everyone else is left fully unprotected. While advocates of compromise might say we should secure whatever protections we can, we ought not stand for anything short of the full dignity and full rights every human possesses to continue holding and living from their deeply held convictions.

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote decades ago, we don’t have to join every protest or hold every sign. However, at the very least, we must not say what is not true. Thus, even for a good cause, we cannot lend voices in support of our culture’s falsehoods about what it means to be human.

And, we should tell our religious and political leaders not to, either.

Apr 08, 2021
If We're Sinful How Do We Represent God's Image - BreakPoint Q&A
35:52

John and Shane deal with a series of questions related to the image of God. John has referred to our inability to articulate the image of God as a debilitating oversight. 

The first question looks at the issue of immigration and what a Christian perspective of immigration should be. John and Shane then field a question seeking understanding in how we continue to bear God's image, even though we are sinners. 

To close, John and Shane work through a question on the presence of evil in God's good creation. 

Apr 07, 2021
The Essential Hope
06:45

I have a hunch that if I went from one church to another, or one Christian school to another, or one Bible study to another, and I stood in front and challenged these followers of Christ, saying, “Fill in the blank. The Bible says that humans are made . . . ,” my guess is that I’d get a pretty solid answer: “In the image of God!”

However, if we followed up that question with another one, asking, “What is the image of God? What difference does the image of God make?” I think the response would be far more crickets than clarity. Our lack of understanding and our inability to articulate what the image of God means, and what difference this doctrine makes, is an incredibly debilitating oversight in the Church right now, and this for at least three reasons.

First, the image of God is essential to understanding the story of Scripture. Today when we talk about identity in churches and especially youth group Bible studies and things like that, we use this phrase, “identity in Christ.” But to fully understand what identity in Christ is, we need to understand our identity in creation.

Many people have rightly summarized the biblical story in four chapters: Creation (how God made the world); Fall (what went wrong with the world); Redemption (the work of Christ to redeem what God made); and Restoration (when all things will be made new again). Before we were Christians, we were made in the image and likeness of God. The Fall impacted not only our behavior and what we do, but who we are. That's what Christ restores in His death and resurrection. In other words, we're not saved from being human, were saved to be human.

The image of God is essential to understanding the notions of human equality, human dignity, and human value. We all know that the Declaration of Independence says that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Well, if you look around a room full of people, the most evident thing is not that we're equal. The most evident thing is that we're actually quite different. If there's anything about our humanity that grounds equality and dignity and value, it can't be any quality that we share on the outside, because, well, there is no quality that we all share on the outside. Some of us are older. Some of us are taller. Some of us have higher IQ's. And so on. Even atheist thinkers have recognized that the only source in history that's grounded equality, dignity, and value and given us an understanding of a shared humanity is the image of God.

Not only is the image of God essential to understanding the story of Scripture and essential to grounding notions of human equality, dignity, and value, but the image of God is essential to our cultural witness right now.

That's why we're going to focus our attention at the upcoming Wilberforce Weekend Conference, May 21st through the 23rd in Fort Worth, Texas, on this one doctrine of the image of God. From a dizzying variety of angles, we will look at this cultural question and this biblical question, “What does it mean to be human?” And we will bring a level of clarity so that we can have confidence for this cultural moment. To learn more about the conference, go to WilberforceWeekend.org.

I cannot think of a more important question for Christians to lock in on right now, than the idea that every single person is made in the image and likeness of God. Again, go to WilberforceWeekend.org to learn more about this incredible event in Fort Worth, May 21st through 23rd.

Apr 07, 2021
Why the Church Must Fight Anti-Semitism In All of Its Forms
03:55

A pattern emerges whenever a culture tries to fix itself, with only the resources of its own unmoored virtues. A problem is identified, but misdiagnosed. Then, a solution is offered that accomplishes the exact opposite of the goal. Examples of this include trampling on the rights of women in the name of inclusion, firing ethnic minorities for racism, and the new brand of anti-Semitism prevalent on college campuses that are supposed to be (even because they are) “woke.”

These many examples reveal why worldview matters. Every worldview answers the questions “What’s wrong with the world?” and “How can it be fixed?” Some worldviews get the answers to these questions very, very wrong.

Hatred of the Jews, for example, is perhaps the oldest hatred in the world. Typically, anti-Semitism is perceived as coming from far-right, white supremacists or radical Muslim extremists. However, acording to a new student group called the New Zionist Congress, however, anti-Semitism is increasingly found on college campuses, notably among the far-left. Apparently, the progressive orthodoxies built around Critical Theory offers little space for Jewish people. In the name of “standing up for the oppressed,” maybe the most oppressed group in world history is being excluded?

Blake Flayton, a self-proclaimed progressive, gay, Jewish college student first explained the problem in a 2019 op-ed in The New York Times. “At many American universities,” he wrote, “it is now normal for student organizations to freely call Israel an imperialist power and an outpost of white colonialism with little pushback or discussion — never mind that more than half of Israel’s population consists of Israeli Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, and that the country boasts a 20-percent Arab minority.”

The problem, of course, is that Critical Theory is not big enough as a worldview to deal with a real world that constantly crosses racial, socio-economic and national lines. Critical theory relies on those lines to determine human worth, dignity, and moral standing. No room is allowed for actual progress. Once an oppressor, always an oppressor. And, if an oppressed group rises above their oppression, whether perceived or real, they risk falling on the wrong side of the measuring stick.

Jewish history is long and winding. Even after the Germans attempted to exterminate them, and much of the world closed their borders to Jewish refugees, the Jewish people somehow managed to reclaim their homeland in Israel. Now that Israel has secured relative safety and freedom, all of a sudden, they’re evil?

This self-defeating and dehumanizing logic is a central flaw of this way of seeing the world. Any worldview that grounds human value in a perceived proximity to power or ethnicity robs individuals of their humanity. God’s Image is what makes us human and therefore valuable, regardless of whether we have any power or belong to any group. 

The Bible not only provides a much better standard for determining human worth, but it also offers us a clue as to why anti-Semitism has persisted for so long. God formed the nation of Israel and chose the Jewish people through which to send the Messiah in order to bless all the peoples of the earth. A world animated by His Enemy will hate them. 

Years ago in a sermon, John Piper said that a church that fails to evangelize the Jewish people - to accept, value, learn from, and minister to them - cannot “long hold on to the gospel.” He was drawing heavily from the writings of Paul, which explore the mystery of God’s love for the Jewish people. The world’s new or, more accurately, renewed hate for Jewish people is another opportunity for the Church to be profoundly counter-cultural. Psalm 122 instructs us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” That peace remains a long way off. We should keep praying.

Apr 06, 2021
A Review of Proverbs: John Closes the Time of Guided Prayer - BreakPoint Podcast
26:51

John Stonestreet serves as president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He wraps up our Time of Guided Prayer last week, reflecting on Proverbs as wisdom for the church and nation

Apr 05, 2021
Truth and Love vs. Truth or Love
04:45

Last week, the ACLU, an organization typically not friendly to Christian ideals, got one right (albeit unintentionally) when the organization tweeted out, “Trans children are perfect exactly as they are.”

Their attempt to affirm our culture’s newest progressive doctrine actually communicated the opposite. After all, trans-activists insist that children, or anyone, who struggle with gender dysphoria are “trapped in the wrong bodies” and given the wrong names. The only way, in fact, for them to “be their true selves” is by altering their bodies, blocking their natural development through puberty, and sterilizing them with medication and surgery.

In other words, what the ACLU really thinks is that trans children are not perfect the way they are. Then, just a few days after confusing the meaning of the word perfect, the ACLU issued another tweet with even more wrongly defined words, “Trans Youth are Loved. Trans Youth are cherished. Trans Youth belong.” How is telling a kid that their bodies are a mistake of God or nature a way of cherishing them? How is telling them that they’re wrong as is, not just in their feelings but in their very being, helping them “to belong?” How is any of this love?

Still, it’s one thing for the ACLU to get this issue so wrong; it’s another thing altogether for the Church to get it wrong. Just as bad is the Church embracing one of the great lies of our culture, that telling the truth is unloving and that loving someone requires affirming their choices.

 Truth matters, ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. This is why we cannot love someone without speaking the truth. It is not necessarily cruel to say what is true. It can be, of course, if the truth is said in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons. At the same time, affirming someone’s choices can be not only not telling the truth, but it can be an incredibly cruel thing to do, even when done from good intentions. In fact, the cruelest thing you can tell someone who’s not ok is that they are.

Even raising the issue of truth, especially in certain contexts, can end a relationship. For example, over the past few years, I’ve heard from many, many parents and grandparents of grown children, struggling to make sense of a generational gap that seems insurmountable. Generation gaps are, of course, nothing new but, in our culture, certain issues are driving these relationships to a breaking point.

A new, four-week, online course, beginning tomorrow April 6, will address this need. “How to Speak Truth and Love Both Inside and Outside the Church” takes place four consecutive Tuesday evenings, led by four outstanding and practical speakers who will help us hold together truth and love in our interactions with four different groups of people.

Greg Stier from Dare2Share will get things started tomorrow night as he discusses how we can speak truth and love to unbelievers who need to know Jesus. The following Tuesday, Colson Fellows National Director Michael Craven will help us communicate with Christians who don’t know what (or how) to think about the issues in our culture (or maybe who don’t seem to care very much). The third session, led by apologist and author Sean McDowell, will focus on communicating truth in love to progressive Christians who have abandoned important Christian truths. And finally, Jonathan Morrow from the Impact 360 Institute, will help us understand members of Gen Z, and help communicate to these people who often struggle to know who to trust.

Register for this course at BreakPoint.org. Each week features a 90-minute session that includes a time for question and answer with the instructor. Everyone who signs up also receives a link to the recording of every week’s session, that way you can review the information or you can catch it in case of a scheduling conflict.

Truth and love are inseparable. Jesus Christ is the source and the very embodiment of both Truth and Love. We need not choose between them. We must not choose between them.

Again, come to BreakPoint.org to register for tomorrow night’s Short Course, “How to Speak Truth and Love.”

Apr 05, 2021
Little Nas X and Our Young Men Aren’t O.K. - BreakPoint This Week
01:04:03

John and Maria discuss a new song and music video by Little Nas X. They also discuss a new development in New York related to marijuana despite recent findings of its link to young male suicide. Through this, John and Maria consider how and why young men aren't o.k..

John also spends time discussing a recent court battle that went in favor of a university professor who elected to live not by lies, referring to a student respectfully while also refusing to use preferred gender pronouns. 

Apr 02, 2021
Watergate and the Resurrection
03:55

Each year, the most popular meme that I share on social media is a picture of Chuck Colson with a quote where he describes how his experience in the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration helped him believe in the resurrection. Years ago, he described on video how watching the lies of a group of powerful men fall apart made him realize the disciples were, indeed, telling the truth. Here’s Chuck Colson:

I want to wish you and your families and friends a holy, blessed Easter. We celebrate because we as Christians know that our Lord is risen from the dead—and in His resurrection is our hope of everlasting life with God.

Indeed, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection is the only basis of our hope. Without the resurrection, our faith is futile. This is why critics of Christianity often try to explain away the empty tomb. They claim that the disciples lied--that they stole Jesus's body themselves and conspired together to pretend He had risen. The apostles then managed somehow to recruit more than 500 other people to lie for them as well, to say they saw Jesus after He rose from the dead.

But just how plausible is this theory?

To answer that question, fast forward nearly 2,000 years, to an event I happen to know a lot about: Watergate. You see, before all the facts about Watergate were known to the public--in March 1973--it was becoming clear to Nixon's closest aides that someone had tried to cover up the Watergate break-in.

There were no more than a dozen of us. Could we maintain a cover-up--to save the president? Consider that we were political zealots. We enjoyed enormous political power and prestige. With all that at stake, you'd expect us to be capable of maintaining a lie to protect the president.

But we couldn't do it. The first to crack was John Dean. First, he told the president everything, and then just two weeks later he went to the prosecutors and offered to testify against the President. His reason, as he candidly admits in his memoirs, was to "save his own skin." After that, everyone started scrambling to protect himself. What we know today as the great Watergate cover-up lasted only three weeks. Some of the most powerful politicians in the world--and we couldn't keep a lie for more than three weeks.

So back to the question of historicity of Christ’s resurrection. Can anyone believe that for fifty years that Jesus’ disciples were willing to be ostracized, beaten, persecuted, and all but one of them suffer a martyr's death--without ever renouncing their conviction that they had seen Jesus bodily resurrected? Does anyone really think the disciples could have maintained a lie all that time under that kind of pressure?

No, someone would have cracked, just as we did so easily in Watergate. Someone would have acted as John Dean did and turned state's evidence. There would have been some kind of smoking gun, or a deathbed confession.

So why didn't they crack? Because they had come face to face with the living God. They could not deny what they had seen. The fact is that people will give their lives for what they believe is true, but they will never give their lives for what they know is a lie.The Watergate cover-up proves that 12 powerful men in modern America couldn't keep a lie--and that 12 powerless men 2,000 years ago couldn't have been telling anything but the truth.

Again, may you and yours have a blessed Easter, firm in your faith that the Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed!

Come to breakpoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll share that meme of Chuck Colson talking about Watergate. Download it and share it with others by email and social media.

From all of us at the Colson Center, Happy Resurrection Day. Christ is risen!

Apr 02, 2021
“If You Don’t Affirm Me, You Don’t Love Me”
04:43

“Jesus would’ve baked the cake.”

“Christians hate LGBTQ people.”

“You’re on the wrong side of history”

“Why can’t you let them be ‘their true selves’?”

“That’s just your truth, not mine.”

Perhaps most painful, especially when it comes from a friend of family member: “If you love me, you’d accept me for who I am.”

All of the slogans that leave Christians silent or shamed today are, at root, different ways of saying the same thing – that truth and love are incompatible. For people to tell the truth, especially when it comes to issues of sexuality and gender, is to be unloving and intolerant. And, to love someone is to affirm their choices.

There’s a uniquely “Christian” version of these slogans, too. Taking a moral stand, we are told, especially on questions so culturally controversial, is to distract from the Gospel. Instead, apparently, the Church needs to be more welcoming and to avoid anything that makes people feel excluded from the Church. After all, we are told, isn’t the Gospel really about inclusivity?

Today, of all the days of Holy Week, directly confronts this mentality. Maundy Thursday is set aside on the Church calendar to remember the Last Supper. The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word for “mandate,” or “command.” At this first celebration of Communion, Jesus gave His disciples “a new command,” that they should love and serve each other. To demonstrate what He meant, He picked up a basin of water and a towel and washed their feet.

To fully understand His words and actions, recall that at this “Last Supper” and first Communion, Jesus and His disciples were obeying God’s original command, given to all Jews, to remember the Passover. God’s people were to never forget how they were rescued from slavery in Egypt. For Jesus to issue a “new” command was an audacious thing to do, especially given how significantly God’s original command stood in Israel’s history and identity as a people.

Jesus, however, went even further than merely adding instructions to an old celebration. Now, rather than remembering how the angel of death “passed over” those homes with lamb’s blood on their doorposts, they were to remember His broken body and His shed blood. Ultimately, the new command was to remember a new rescue, and how, through Christ’s death, death is not merely avoided but finally defeated.

Though the volume has increased in recent years, the American Church has been dividing over whether it should be primarily about proclaiming truth or about serving others since at least the mid-20th century. The Lord’s Supper and Jesus’ “new” command remind us that this is a false dichotomy. It’s an unnecessary choice to make. These two things need never be separated and should never be separated. On the same night Jesus commanded us to remember how His broken body and shed blood rescues us from sin (that’s the truth), He commanded us to demonstrate our new life by serving others (that’s love).

We need not choose between truth and love. In fact, we must not choose. They always go together, because they are both grounded in the same Source, or specifically, the same Person.

 “How to Speak Truth and Love Both Inside and Outside the Church” is a new short course that begins next Tuesday. The course will examine how, in practical terms, we can communicate truth to four groups of people: unbelievers who need to know Jesus, Christians who don’t know what (or how) to think, Gen Z who don’t know how (or whom) to trust, and progressive Christians who have abandoned truth. Instructors for the course are Greg Stier from Dare2Share, Michael Craven from the Colson Center, apologist and author Sean McDowell, and Jonathan Morrow from the Impact 360 Institute.

Come to BreakPoint.org to register. The course runs four consecutive Tuesday nights, beginning next week, April 6. All sessions are recorded and made available to all registered guests.

Jesus embodied truth and love, not only in the event we commemorate this day, but every event we remember this Holy Week. He is truth. He is love.

And, He has risen. Indeed.

Apr 01, 2021
How Do We Teach Our Kids To Value and Pursue Marriage and Children?
40:04

John and Shane field two important questions from parents today. The first looks for guidance on training young people to value marriage and pursue having children in a culture that seems to devalue both. 

The second parental question is from a grandmother looking to have a shaping influence with her grandchildren in spite of a strained relationship with the parents due to the grandmother's commitment to Biblical standards.

Mar 31, 2021
Is the Resurrection Story Borrowed from Pagan Myths?
03:55

Next week, Christians worldwide will celebrate, like the entire cloud of witnesses has before them, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection is, of course, the central event in the Holy Scriptures, the pivotal moment of the story of Christ, and the foundational belief of a Christian worldview. Even more, if it happened, it is the pivotal event in all of human history.

Still, it’s not difficult to see why it’s so hard to believe, especially today. Both science and experience tell us that corpses do not revive. The dead stay dead.

Even more, some skeptics level the charge that the story of Jesus’ resurrection was simply borrowed from pagan myths, who had their own “dying and rising” deity stories. So, was the resurrection story basically stolen from pagan religions? In the latest “What Would You Say?” video, my colleague Brooke McIntire tackles this issue.

The next time someone says the idea that Jesus rose from the dead was borrowed from pagan myths, here are 3 things to remember:

Number 1: Just because some stories are similar does not mean that one borrowed from another.

A little more than a century ago, a story was first told about a passenger ship that was unsinkable. However, while steaming across the Atlantic Ocean on a clear April evening, it struck an iceberg and sank. And, more than half of its passengers died from a lack of lifeboats. The name of the ship was spelled “T-I-T-A-N .  . .” Yes, “The Titan.” Did you think I was talking about the “Titanic”? That tragedy occurred in 1912. However, I was referring to the fictional story in a novel titled Futility: The Wreck of the Titan, published in 1898, 14 years prior to the sinking of the Titanic.

There are a striking number of similar details between the two stories, even in the ship’s name! However, we would never claim that the similarities suggest the latter story was influenced by the former and that the Titanic did not actually sink. Similarities between stories do not prove that one necessarily borrowed from another.

Number 2: It is utterly implausible that the early Christians would borrow major ideas from pagan myths.

The earliest Christians were pious Jews who often debated over the minutia of the Jewish Law. For example, they debated over whether Jewish Christians were still required to maintain the temple purification rites, whether Christians could eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, whether non-Jewish male Christians needed to be circumcised, and whether Jewish Christians could even eat in the same room with non-Jewish Christians. Jews believed that they had been chosen by God to be a people separated from paganism. Given this background, it would have been unthinkable for these early Christians with Jewish sensibilities to engage in wholesale borrowing from pagan religions for the foundational belief of their own new sect.

Number 3: Stories of people surviving death are not unusual.

Surviving death is a deep-seated longing in most humans. So, it should come as no surprise to find stories peppered throughout human history of people returning from the dead. Fictional stories of dying and rising gods in pagan myths do nothing to discredit the story of Jesus rising from the dead. We must decide whether or not Jesus actually was resurrected from the dead based on the evidence. And there’s a lot of evidence. If you want to learn about it, check out Gary Habermas’ book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.

To see the whole video addressing the question of whether the resurrection of Christ was based on pagan myths, go to whatwouldyousay.org.  Or, you can go to YouTube and search for “Colson Center What Would You Say?” Subscribe and be notified each time a new “What Would You Say?” video is released.

Mar 31, 2021
Caring for Children Is What Sets the Church Apart
04:42

A defining characteristic of pagan societies is the sacrificing the well-being of children on the altar of adult happiness and self-fulfillment. Our own pagan society is no different. In a single-minded pursuit of sexual pleasure, career, or lifestyle, we tell ourselves that “the kinds will be fine,” even though they’re clearly not.   

Throughout history, across cultures and time periods, Christians bringing the Gospel to pagan cultures found themselves defending and protecting abandoned and abused children as well.

For example, 19th century India was not a welcoming place for girls. Considered inferior to men, women were not allowed to be educated or to work for a living. Child marriage was a fairly common practice. Though the practice of sati (burning widows on their husband’s funeral pyres) had been abolished, the fate of widows in that culture was harsh. Considered to be cursed, they would often be subjected to terrible abuse at the hands of their husband’s family.

Pandita Ramabai’s family was different. Pandita’s father, a member of the priestly caste known as Brahmins, encouraged her to learn how to read the Hindu scriptures. Not only did she learn, her skills and mastery of the text earned her acclaim. Her study also fed her growing doubts about the truth of Hinduism.

After she was married, Pandita found a copy of the Gospel of Luke in her husband’s library. Drawn to Christianity, she invited a missionary to their home to explain the Gospel to her and her husband. Not long after, her husband passed away.

And not long after his death, a child-widow came to her door looking for charity. Pandita took her in as if she were her own daughter. Moved by the young widow’s situation, Pandita started an organization called Arya Mahila Samaj to educate girls and to advocate for the abolition of child-marriage.

It was when she traveled to England that Pandita Ramabai formally converted to Christianity. Returning to India, she set up a school for girls and widows in what’s now called Mumbai. At first, to avoid offending Hindus, she agreed not to promote Christianity and followed the rules of the Brahmin caste. Even these concessions weren’t enough. Within a year the school was under attack, and her local financial support dried up. So, she moved the school to Pune, about 90 miles away. In 1897, after a famine and plague struck the area around Pune, Pandita Ramabai established a second school 30 miles away from there.

Among the subjects taught to the girls in her school was literature (for moral teaching), physiology (to teach them about their bodies), and industrial arts such as printing, carpentry, tailoring, masonry, wood-cutting, weaving, needlework, farming, and gardening.

At first, Pandita had only two assistants. So, she developed a system to help take care of and educate the girls. First, they would teach the older girls, who would then take care of and help teach the younger ones. In this way, they managed to care for the growing number of girls who made their way to the school and take care of. By 1900, 2000 girls were living there.

In 1919, three years before her death, the British king awarded Pandita Ramabai the Kaiser-i-Hind award, the highest honor that an Indian could receive during the colonial period.

Pandita’s example is one of many that we must take seriously today. To live in a pagan society is to encounter victims of bad ideas. Often, especially in our culture, these victims are children.

Whenever a Christian or a church decides that to speak up on controversial cultural issues is to “get too political,” they leave these victims without protection and are out of step with Christian history. Whenever a Christian or a church claims that they avoid these issues because “it distracts from the Gospel,” they are embracing an anemic, truncated Gospel. Christians today can join those who’ve gone before us, proclaiming the Gospel and caring for children. One way to do this is by signing the Promise to America’s Children, pledging to protect the minds, bodies, and the most important relationships of children in our society. And learn all the ways children are being victimized and how the Church can help, by reading Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement, a vital new book by Katy Faust. Them Before Us is the featured resource from the Colson Center this month.

Mar 30, 2021
The Equality Act's Cultural Impact and Our Responsibility - BreakPoint Podcast
38:25

**REGISTER TO RECEIVE A FREE TRIP TO WILBERFORCE WEEKEND 2021** <>

We're not crying wolf with the proposed and mis-named Equality Act. Instead we're standing on the shore watching the tsunami of redefinition and rewiring of hearts, minds, and souls grow closer and closer. This version of the Equality Act presents with more support and more potential to be enacted than at any point in history. John is sounding the alarm, sharing a discussion he had with a number of educators regarding the potential cultural impact of the proposed bill.

We have discussed at length the legal aspects of the Equality Act. However, today we consider the cultural impact the Equality Act could have on our communities and families. God has placed us in a special time and specific location at this point in history. John discusses our responsibility to communicate the Gospel with the resources He has given us to address the brokenness of the world, specifically in the face of the Equality Act.

 

Mar 29, 2021
Lowering the Bar for Female Soldiers
04:36

This month, Congress halted the rollout of the Army’s new Combat Fitness Test. Unlike the old test, which dates back to before combat roles were open to female soldiers, the new test requires men and women to meet the same standards of physical fitness. That’s a problem, critics and activists say, since, so far, 54 percent of women have failed this new gender-neutral test.

Service Women’s Action Network CEO Deshauna Barber complained, “A fitness test that is so clearly biased simply cannot move forward without further review…” A letter from her organization to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees called the gender-neutral test “hasty” and “rash,” and insisted that “too many otherwise qualified soldiers are failing.” The test wrongly assumes that “every soldier is a warrior first,” and that “superior physical strength is singularly critical in battle.”

Sadly, the Army eventually agreed and revised the test to reflect these complaints.

To be clear, we are talking about testing for combat infantry roles, literally for the “boots on the ground.” Isn’t the physical strength of these servicemembers critical in battle?

At least one notable voice thinks so. Writing at West Point’s Modern War Institute, Captain Kristen Griest, the Army’s first female infantry officer, argues that lowering the physical bar for women could have deadly consequences on the battlefield:

 “While it may be difficult for a 120-pound woman to lift or drag 250 pounds, the Army cannot artificially absolve women of that responsibility; it may still exist on the battlefield…each job has objective physical standards to which all soldiers should be held, regardless of gender…To not require women to meet equal standards in combat arms will not only undermine their credibility, but also place those women, their teammates, and their mission at risk.”

She’s right. The bad idea behind lowering standards for female soldiers is the same bad idea behind putting transgender male athletes in the ring to fight women. Men and women are physically different. Just ask Tamikka Brents, who, back in 2014, had her skull fractured in two minutes by Fallon Fox, the MMA’s first openly transgender fighter.

Physical jobs require physical strength. There is no job in the world more physically demanding than combat infantry. Giving an assault rifle and a pair of boots to men or women unable to meet those demands is worse than madness. For them and their fellow soldiers, it could be a death sentence.  

       Though the sexes were created with the same dignity as bearers of God’s image, they were not created to be identical. Our differences are, in fact, where are greatest strengths lie. This truth was lost somewhere in the middle of feminism’s second wave, when the movement went from being about equality in rights to equality in roles. While the exclusion of women from certain roles in society needed to be corrected, other roles are grounded in the differences that do exist between men and women.

Recently re-watching Avengers: Endgame with my son, Hunter, I couldn’t overlook that famous scene where all the female superheroes team up on the battlefield to kick alien keester and save the day. Of course, there’s a lot of imagination involved in the entire Avengers world (and, Iron Man does end up being the one who actually saves the day, through an act of sacrifice), but cheesy “girl power” moments like this miss a remarkable truth Eric Metaxas highlights in the opening section of his book Seven Women. So often, women are portrayed as great despite being women, or because they act like men.

But the greatness of women is as women, in ways that men are not, in and as the way God made them. It is in the “very good” way God created women that they have true strength.

I was talking about that line from Eric Metaxas’ book with my wife Sarah when she first had the idea of the “Strong Women” podcast, which she co-hosts with Erin Kunkle. If you haven’t subscribed or listened, it will reset the thin narrative on women that dominates our world.   

By the way, the Friday Intensive at the upcoming Wilberforce Weekend, will offer a deep dive on the image of God as male and female. Speakers include myself, Ryan Anderson, Emilie Kao, and Rebecca McLaughlin. Come to WilberforceWeekend.org for more information.

Mar 29, 2021
Boulder and Atlanta: A Rootless Culture Searches for a Narrative in All the Wrong Places
01:03:59
Mar 27, 2021
The Curious Case of Kristi Noem
05:16

A few weeks ago, South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem Tweeted, “In South Dakota, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day by defending women’s sports!” She was referring to the state’s “Women’s Fairness in Sports” bill, which would prohibit biological males from competing in female athletics. She then added, “I’m excited to sign the bill very soon!”

As it turns out, she wasn’t so excited after all. After the legislature passed the bill, the Republican governor vetoed it. More specifically, she issued what’s known as a “style and form veto,” asking the legislature to modify the bill. The changes she requested not only gut the bill, rendering it ineffective in its original intent of protecting girls and women, but does great damage to the legislative efforts in a number of other states.

Portions of the bill, she claimed, “create a trial lawyer’s dream and include lawsuit opportunities that don’t need to be there . . . We could pass a law, get punished, and face litigation for nothing but a participation trophy.” That claim is somewhere between dubious and disingenuous. The South Dakota bill is similar to laws already passed in Idaho and Mississippi and introduced in a number of other states. The Idaho legislation was also backed and defended by 14 states attorneys general by means of an amicus brief.

Noem, however, is worried about the NCAA (the governing body for major college athletics). She told Tucker Carlson, “This bill would only allow the NCAA to bully South Dakota, and it would actually prevent women from being able to participate in collegiate sports.” So, among the “style and form” changes she requested is that the bill would only prevent biological males from competing against girls in elementary and high school athletics, not at the college level.

But the NCAA has no policy that the South Dakota bill would violate. While the NCAA allows men who have surgically or chemically transitioned to compete in women’s sports (and offers regulations to ensure what they claim is “fair”), as Margot Cleveland points out at the Federalist, “nothing in … NCAA policy requires a college or university to treat a male student-athlete as female.” If they did, they’d lose all the Christian colleges that are part of the NCAA.

Also, the NCAA has no legal standing at the state level, nor do they prevent athletes from schools that do not allow males to compete as women from their events. When the Idaho and Mississippi laws passed last year, the NCAA offered a harshly worded denouncement, but nothing with legal bite.

Further, as Alexandra Desanctis reports at the National Review, Gov. Noem “altered the bill’s language to allow athletes to compete based on biological sex ‘as reflected on the birth certificate’ or an ‘affidavit’…” In other words, all it would take for a male to compete against females is “appropriate paperwork changing his legal records to match his gender identity.”

Most pointedly, Noem removes a provision that gives female athletes a cause of action if they believe they have been “deprived of athletic opportunities as the result of having been displaced by a biological male.” As a legal advisor told me yesterday, a right with no recourse is no right at all. Not to mention, the bill would also give South Dakota schools the ability to retaliate against female athletes who complain.

The Alliance Defending Freedom’s General Counsel Kristin Waggoner summed up the whole debacle this way:

“Gov. Noem has offered a hollow substitute for the urgent protections for women’s sports that the South Dakota Legislature sent to the governor’s desk . . . By stalling her support, attempting to dodge the legal conflict, removing protections for collegiate athletes, and eliminating a female athlete’s legal remedy when her rights are violated, Gov. Noem . . . has downplayed the injustices that girls and women are already facing when they are forced to compete against males.”

So, what’s really behind this whole story? Time and again in states like North Carolina, Indiana, and elsewhere, we’ve seen the enormous corporate pressure brought to bear when it comes to LGBT issues, and we’ve seen state officials tempted to cave in face of that pressure. Now, the address on your credit card may very well be a South Dakota one. Since the 1980s, the banking industry has played a major role in South Dakota’s economy. Many banks are committed virtue signalers on LGBT issues. Not to mention, South Dakota’s tourism industry would be helped by regional and national NCAA tournaments. What’s really at play here, most likely, is the same corporate pressure that other states have faced.

But the pressure can be weathered. Governor Noem’s about-face makes it that much harder for the governors in Arkansas and other states who are currently debating similar legislation. Even worse, it undermines several years of thoughtful, pointed effort to defend the rights of women in sports and elsewhere. If you are a South Dakota citizen, please, call the governor and ask her to do the right thing. If you’re not a South Dakota citizen, be assured, this issue will be coming to a state near you, soon enough.

Mar 26, 2021
How Our Narratives Fail Us
04:49

There have been two mass shootings in a little over a week, on opposites sides of the country by individuals who, from what we currently know, sit on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum. Though quickly trotted out narratives have proven either obviously flimsy or flat wrong, Americans remains deeply entrenched in their corners and are seeing these issues through those lenses. All the while, yet another set of events reveals a country in moral crisis, with very little helpful guidance from media or from government officials.

Mass shootings continue to be, tragically, a regular feature of American life. Each new attack on innocent children, students, church members, employees, concertgoers, and shoppers hits before we’ve recovered from the last one. May we never become numb to the horror of these crimes.

After each shooting, the fury and passion to “do something” reaches a new level of volume and intensity. Certainly, those who wish to restrict guns are louder than ever, and the current political situation makes those restrictions at least a legal possibility.

Now, in full disclosure, I’m a Second Amendment guy. I own guns, and I support the right to bear arms, which is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Gun ownership has been a consistent feature of American life since its founding, a reflection of the country’s DNA – self-government, self-protection, self-provision.

But I’m also enough of a student of history and worldview to know that rights always come with responsibility. People incapable of enjoying freedoms will inevitably lose them. Those unable to govern themselves will have to be governed.

To be clear, this is not a statement of what ­ought to happen; it’s a statement of what always happens when a culture morally breaks down. The choice for any people, as Chuck Colson often said, is between the conscience and the constable. If a people will not be governed by conscience, they will be governed by the constable. The loss of conscience, which is always a failure of moral formation, will lead to the loss of freedom.

John Adams, the second President of the United States, famously said that the Constitution was meant for a “moral and religious people” and “is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” His observation applies as much to the Second Amendment as to any other.

The shocking lack of conscience on display in America is producing behaviors that can largely be grouped into one of two categories. First, historic levels of suicide, opioid use, and overdoses, as well as epidemic levels of loneliness and isolation (especially among the most vulnerable) are together known as “deaths from despair.” Second, the various and consistent acts of mass violence, such as shootings and rioting, are among those things that could be labeled “acts of desperation.” With both deaths of despair and acts of desperation at epidemic levels, we are clearly not a people moral or religious enough to sustain the freedoms we’ve been blessed with.

After his visit to America, Alexis de Tocqueville famously described the role that religion and local community groups played in uniting and directing the nation. If de Tocqueville were writing today, almost 200 years later, he’d instead describe a become a society of isolated individuals, and thus a place where addicts, the suicidal, the lonely, and too many disturbed young men are slipping through the cracks.

Political conservatives, hear me on this: Freedom is unsustainable without virtue. Demanding rights without acknowledging responsibilities is a failing strategy.

Political liberals, hear me on this: The problem isn’t guns. Ban them without addressing the real problems of our society, and the next killer will choose some other weapon of mass destruction. The rest of us will be unarmed and unable to defend ourselves.

America has become, to borrow words from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 speech at Harvard, a place with “little defense against the abyss of human decadence…such as the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror.” Even stricter laws, Solzhenitsyn went on to say, would be powerless to defend a people against such moral corrosion.

If the devolution of our collective conscience continues, the replacement of constitutional rights with constables might be inevitable. And even constables cannot truly govern, or protect, a people without a conscience.

Mar 25, 2021
Is the Organ Transplant Process Ethical? - BreakPoint Q&A
38:25

A listener writes in to John and Shane following a recent BreakPoint commentary on restricting access to organ transplants for those with disabilities. The questioner expands the concept to talk about the challenges inside the organ transplant process.

John also fields a question from a listener who wrote in to Arizona Senator Kirsten Sinema regarding the Equality Act. The Senator's office wrote to the listener claiming religious freedoms are protected inside the Equality Act. John responds, outlining the challenge in the Senator's interpretation of freedom.

John and Shane also field a question from a listener who is challenged by a church plant that is targeting a racial profile for the congregation. John and Shane work through the foundational concepts of the church.

Mar 24, 2021
Did Jesus Really Exist?
03:55

Each year as Easter approaches, pseudo-scholars, newspapers, and cable networks make headlines claiming to offer the real story about Jesus. Their accounts assume that much of the Jesus story contained in the Gospels, especially anything miraculous is largely a myth created and propagated by, first, His followers, and then, Church leaders seeking to expand their power. Despite the skepticism, few suggest that Jesus never existed.

Online, of course, that is a different story. Though there are no serious scholars who question whether Jesus of Nazareth actually existed, it’s still a claim you might encounter, either on the internet or from someone who believes their internet source. So, what if you find yourself in a conversation with someone who says: “No one really knows whether Jesus existed or not.”

The latest video in our “What Would You Say?” series tackles this question: Here’s my colleague Shane Morris…

The next time someone says they don’t think we can be sure that Jesus ever existed, here are 3 things to remember:

Number 1: Several non-Christian historians of that period mention Jesus.

Josephus was a Jewish historian who had grown up in Jerusalem in the first century, the same city where Jesus was reported to have been crucified. Josephus’ father was a Jewish priest who would have been a contemporary of Jesus, and almost certainly would have seen him if he had existed. Josephus mentions Jesus on two occasions in his History of the Jews: In one he reports his crucifixion at the demand of the Jewish leaders and in the other, he mentions the execution of James, the brother of Jesus who is called Messiah.

Josephus would have known Jesus was a historical person and would have no reason to invent him if he didn’t.

Other non-Christian historians also mention Jesus, including the Roman historian Tacitus, the Greek satirist Lucian, and a prisoner named Mara bar Serapion.

Number 2: The apostle Paul, someone who persecuted the Christian Church, would have been a contemporary of Jesus and claims to have known Jesus’ brother James.

It is very unlikely that Paul would have given his life to a movement he had once persecuted if it had been based on a fictitious man who had supposedly traveled and preached in the same area in which Paul himself lived. Jesus would have been publicly crucified at a time and location where and when Paul would have been present, in response to demands made by Jewish authorities whom Paul would have known. Paul claimed to personally know Jesus’ brother James. Fictitious people tend not to have brothers who are personally known.

Number 3: Most contemporary scholars think that at least some of the Gospels are closely rooted in the eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ disciples.

Although modern scholars differ in their opinions about the historical accuracy of the Gospels, most think the Gospels of Mark and John are closely based on eyewitness testimony of two of Jesus’ disciples, who had traveled with him. It would have been easier to invent the existence of a mythical person that supposedly lived centuries prior to writing about them. It’s much harder to invent a person that supposedly existed within the memory of living eyewitnesses. The accounts of Jesus are eyewitness accounts.

Find the whole video of Shane answering the question “Did Jesus Really Exist?” at whatwouldyousay.org. Or, search for “What Would You Say?” on YouTube. The first result will be a music video from the Dave Matthews Band, but look for the icon with the blue question mark. That’s the What Would You Say channel. Be sure to subscribe and be notified each time a new What Would You Say video is released. And look out for next week’s video on “The Resurrection of Jesus and Pagan Myth,” just in time for Easter.

Mar 24, 2021
Sports Gambling Is Growing, and It’s Targeting Our Young Men
04:49

March Madness, the NCAA Division 1 national basketball tournament is back, and better than ever. Two interesting developments so far are the incredible number of upsets in the first two rounds and, with the notable exceptions of Liberty University and BYU, the success of the religious schools. So far, the Catholics (Loyola-Chicago), the Disciples of Christ (Abilene Christian), the Baptists (Baylor), and the charismatics (Oral Roberts University) have all advanced. The sweet 16 is quite the ecumenical affair this year. 

Another notable change this year is the non-stop commercials for online sports betting. In fact, as anyone who watches and follows sports can attest, betting on games is an increasingly important part of what it means to be a sports fan. March Madness will be, as the American head of British bookmaker William Hill predicted, “very heavily bet.” The American Gaming Association expects about $8.5 billion to be wagered on the tournament. In fact, William Hill is ESPN’s official sports betting partner, which means ESPN has an official sports betting partner. And all this is having an effect. Though much of the sports world shut down during the pandemic, 2020 was still a record year for sports gambling.

The main target of this advertising is young men. Though men and women of all ages bet on sports, 43 percent of 25-to-34-year-old men who watch sports place at least one bet a week. That percentage drops to 20 percent for men 35-44, and to only 4 percent over the age of 55.  

Much of this dramatic demographic difference can be attributed to increased availability and ease of participation. Researchers have long known that living within ten miles of a casino nearly doubles a person’s chances of becoming a pathological gambler. Now, with the legalization of online services and apps, everyone lives within not ten miles but ten feet. 

There are also the differences in generational norms. Gambling is, of course, no longer as taboo as it once was. Still, there’s more to it than that. The vision of life in which men strive to contribute, and in which hard work is both rewarded and considered its own reward, has diminished, particularly among the young who, we now know, struggle to find a sense of meaning, and are catechized by cultural forces to live for amusement and entertainment. 

In a remarkable essay titled “Men Without Chests,” C. S. Lewis described what happens in a culture that fills the brain with facts and titillates the senses but does nothing to cultivate virtue: “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

A defining feature of young men today is what some have called perpetual adolescence, or “Peter Pan Syndrome.” Just a generation ago, young men were expected to be on a life trajectory that culminated with marriage and child-rearing. So, their decisions and actions, even as late teens and early twenties, were aimed at the future. As recently as 1986, most 25-year-old men were already married. Today, the median age for first marriage among American men is 30. Traits long associated with adolescence — self-entitlement, addiction to entertainment, lack of self-control, overall angst — are now features of young men well into their 30s and beyond. 

Fewer young men are reaching other marks of maturity, either, such as joining or remaining in the work force. With so much time on their hands, many turn to entertainment or video games or addictions or gambling to stave off the boredom. 

The legalization and growth of online gambling has coincided with the legalization of recreational marijuana. This is no coincidence. After all, laws are mostly downstream from the larger culture, and these laws do far more to expand personal license. Rather, they reflect and reinforce an unmistakable message, especially to young men, to aim low, to think short-term thoughts about life and the world, to pursue immediate gratification, and to not aspire to too much. 

In many cultures, this message would fall on deaf, more mature ears. Not in ours.

Mar 23, 2021
Above All Else Guard Your Heart - Proverbs Time of Guided Prayer on the BreakPoint Podcast
27:49

The gospel isn’t just two chapters, but four – not just fall and redemption. Rather, the whole story begins with creation – then fall, redemption – and concludes with restoration (for His glory).

Pastor Matt Heard shares the importance of guarding our heart, understanding that the gospel is restoring us to the original purpose for which we were made. 

The heart includes – but is way more than – our emotions. It’s where we experience longing. It’s where we discern and understand. It’s where we ponder and think. It’s where we remember significant events. It’s where my interactions with others are birthed (all authentic relationships are heart connections). It’s where we experience stress (i.e., “Do not let your heart be troubled”). It’s where we cultivate our intensity. It’s the center of our attitude. It’s where we exhibit courage. Bottom line – our heart – including our walk with God (it’s with our heart that we believe)

Matt Heard is the Founder and Principal of THRIVE, a teaching, speaking, and coaching ministry that engages people to flourish as fully alive human beings to God's glory in every arena of their life, journey, and culture. The seeds for Matt’s vision were planted when he studied at L’Abri in Huémoz, Switzerland with Francis Schaeffer, who introduced him to the writings of the late Hans Rookmaaker, an art historian known for proclaiming, “Jesus didn’t come to make us Christian; Jesus came to make us fully human.” A graduate of Wheaton College and Reformed Theological Seminary, Matt is the author of Life with a Capital L: Embracing Your God-Given Humanity. He and his wife, Arlene, are the grateful parents of three adult sons and two daughters-in-law and they divide their time between Colorado Springs and Orlando. He can be contacted through his website, mattheard.org.

Mar 22, 2021
How the Church Can Mend the Tears in Our Social Fabric
05:22

According to a recent poll published in Reason magazine, trust in American political parties is at an historic low. For the first time, more than 50 percent of Americans now identify as Independent, as opposed to Republican or Democrat.  

And, of course, it’s not just political parties that are targets of our growing skepticism. Trust in societal institutions across the board has been on the decline for years. For example, the American people have shrinking confidence in the media, in big tech, and in Congress. Even confidence the historically popular institutions, such as law enforcement and the military, is on the decline. Three years ago, civilian trust in the military stood at a whopping 70 percent. Today, that number has dropped to 56 percent.

What’s the story here? As one scholar put it, “This is not just the events of the past 12 months.” It’s a trend.

At least part of the reason is an overall disorientation and fear in the general population. Any sort of traditional consensus has now receded in our collective memory. Such a shared consensus offers stability and consistency, but, now, no new governing paradigm or worldview has replaced what has been cast aside.

Also, various offspring of postmodernism, such as critical theory, have slipped the surly bonds of academic culture to become defining features of popular culture. The portrayal of everything and everyone as only motivated by the acquisition and preservation of power erodes trust. And a growing number of Americans are now constantly looking over their shoulders for the cancel culture police.

Perhaps the primary reason we have distrust for institutions is that so many institutions have earned it. Simply put, they’ve failed us – Politicians who change their principles at the drop of the hat; journalists who play fast and loose with the truth; Hollywood, sports, and political icons fallen to scandal; couples who said “till death do we part” finding various escape clauses; not to mention, pastors and ministry leaders indulging in corruption or turning a blind eye to those who do. 

This is a time for one of my favorite anecdotes. After a particularly embarrassing loss in the playoffs, the legend goes, Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi started the next season by holding up a pigskin and saying to his Green Bay Packers, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Maybe the best way for the Church to regain the trust of the world is to go back to basics.

Christ’s first words in the Gospels were straightforward, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Paul seemed to assume that caring for the poor was a given for the Christian life. James’s definition of true religion was that it was a lived, not merely spoken, reality where Christians should “visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” To quote another of my favorite anecdotes, this one from an old friend from Tennessee, “It ain’t rocket surgery, man.”

Chuck Colson called this the Church being the Church. In an age of failing institutions, the opportunities are incredible for those who reject both a privatized, pietistic faith and the temptation to be a rootless activist group. Now is the time to take seriously the tasks of living out the Gospel, being what Paul called “ministers of reconciliation.” What that might look like could be different for different churches in different contexts. It may mean maximizing the use of church facilities, offering medical clinics or food pantries. It will certainly mean defending the weak and vulnerable, especially the victims of our culture’s bad ideas, and supporting those Christian organizations that do.

A former colleague used to say, “The Church is God’s Plan A and there is no Plan B.” Taking that calling seriously will require, at the very least, a “this is a football” moment for Christians. The task of re-catechizing Christians in a Christian view of life and the world is essential. The Church certainly has things to offer the wider culture that no other social institution does. We’ll need to be clear on what is different about the Church, beginning with the Christian understanding of the human person and human dignity.

Who humans are, nothing less than an image bearers of God, is not only a fundamental distinction of a Christian worldview, but finding ways to communicate and apply it will be critical to our cultural witness. We’ll spend this year’s Wilberforce Weekend, May 21-23 in Fort Worth, looking at the idea image of God and fleshing out how it can shape our approach to the world around us. For a full schedule, with speakers and topics, including our Friday intensive on what it means to image God as male and female, visit wilberforceweekend.org.

Mar 22, 2021
The Atlanta Shootings, Competing Narratives, and the Blame Game - BreakPoint This Week
55:48

John Stonestreet and Maria Baer discuss the top events impacting culture this week.

They highlight the recent, horrible shootings in Atlanta and dig into the various narratives by people making sense of the situation, including those which blame evangelicals.

Maria then comments on the border crisis, pointing to the humanitarian concerns specifically impacting young people. John and Maria offer a Christian perspective to support both children and parents as the crisis is likely to grow in the coming weeks. Finally, Maria shares her gratitude for a number of virtues that make the United States a blessed place to live, while John alludes to line from Chuck Colson to guide our attention as we understand the privilege of living in America.

To close, Maria introduces a story on a new "Zionist Congress" being established by young Jews who are facing persecution. John and Maria both comment on the spiritual component of racism that is impacting our country.

Finally, John highlights the inspirational story that led Dick Hoyt to run marathons over the course of four decades with his son. Dick passed away this week at eighty-years-old. Maria shares a family tradition of honoring Passover with a recommendation for audience members to participate in a Seder meal.

 

--

 

Resources

Join us at the 2021 Wilberforce Weekend, May 21-23!

"Curating Beauty," the Strong Women Podcast with guest Ashley Marsh

"Anti-Semitism: The Oldest Hatred," by John Stonestreet and Maria Baer, BreakPoint

"A New Zionist Congress Is Born," by Blake Flayton, Tablet

"Inspirational Boston Marathon dad Dick Hoyt dies at 80 after 4 decades of races with his son," ABC News

"Strongest Dad in the World," by Rick Reilley, Sports Illustrated

A Passover explainer and recipes: https://mjaa.org/passover/

 
 
Mar 20, 2021
Gripping Grace, Avoiding Sin
04:58

Recently, especially as a response to the revelations of particularly egregious misconduct by Ravi Zacharias, and even abuse, we’ve been warned away from saying anything akin to “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” What is, to some an admission that, as my colleague Shane Morris has put it, everyone is made of the same clay, is, to others, excuse-making cloaked in faux humility. To them, it suggests that sexual sin, even the most terrible kind, is inevitable for men, so we shouldn’t expect any better. Or to put it differently, if only God’s grace stands between us and horrific sin, we don’t need to take responsibility for avoiding sinful behavior. In the end, it’s up to God, and, in the end, the horror suffered by victims is downplayed.

Though none of these things is, in our view, necessarily implied by saying “there but for the grace of God go I,” the concerns are valid if for no other reason than an observation Chuck Colson often made. “There is no limit to the human capacity for self-rationalization.” Even our admissions of guilt can be, he knew, attempts to rationalize our behavior.

Still, there is an important truth about our propensity for sin no matter which slogan we use. In fact, the Bible repeats this in various ways. Proverbs 4 says, “The way of the wicked is deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” In other words, we can surprise ourselves with our sin. After all, our “hearts are deceitful above all things,” the prophet said, “and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”

The Bible is full of this wisdom. At the same time, these verses are not excuses. It’s precisely because our own sin can so surprise us, that we should be cautious and beg God for protective grace, even to the point of metaphorically cutting off our limbs and gouging out our eyes, should it come to that.

In recent weeks, we’ve learned of abuse committed on a staggering scale, but it didn’t come from nowhere. It came from a long-term trajectory of compromises made possible by a perfect storm of failures – of accountability, of honesty, of tolerating, hiding, and abetting temptation. It is a gift of God that so few of us are in such a position to commit evil on this scale.

I doubt that anyone who says “there, but for the grace of God, go I” is suggesting they’re mere inches away from doing the exact same thing as we’ve learned about Ravi Zacharias. That’s because it’s doubtful that anyone intends to sin on a grand scale.

Back in the age of Saturday morning cartoons and “Just Say No!” public service commercials, there was one ad where, as the screen flashed images of a down-and-out drug addict, the announcer would proclaim, “No one dreams of becoming a junkie.” In the same way, spouses who decide to cheat are often already unfaithful in their internal trajectory. Great sins are often the product of many little decisions and are driven by internal rebellions that are finally offered opportunity. King Solomon might be the best example of all (see 1 Kings 10-11).

Acknowledging that our nature is fallen and susceptible to such compromise is a wise thing to do, especially when mixed with asking for God’s grace. One of Jesus’ last and most urgent commands to His disciples was for them to pray that they would not fall into temptation. The same request is a central part of how Christ taught all of His followers to pray in the Lord’s Prayer.

In other words, while not every sin may be expressly inevitable, each is possible. We are capable of it. To think otherwise is to sound an awfully lot like Peter, “Lord, I would never deny you.” Every fallen human being is at least capable of many evils, even the unthinkable ones. 

If we are to accept our capacity to surprise even ourselves by the depth of our own depravity, we may need to deny ourselves things we’d like to have. Cutting off our limbs may mean some men or women shouldn’t be in leadership, or shouldn’t travel as much as they do, or shouldn’t take that promotion, or accept that new job, or buy that new toy, or stay on Twitter.

Where the rubber of “there, but for the grace of God, go I” meets the road is in understanding the depth of our sinful capabilities and in bearing the responsibility of making arrangements to avoid it. There but for the grace of God go any of us. It’s true. We still have to grip that grace, from moment to moment, for dear life.

Mar 19, 2021
Instavangelists and Our Restless Hearts
04:35

In his remarkable autobiography, Confessions, St. Augustine famously wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Solomon talked of God “putting eternity in our hearts.” In other words, as John Calvin observed, humans are “incurably religious creatures.”

         Though millions of Americans have given up on organized religion and a growing number now declare themselves as “nones” (in other words, no spiritual affiliation), these observations by Solomon, John Calvin, and St. Augustine remain true. In fact, our religious impulse is so strong, even the New York Times has noticed some new places where it is showing up. The vast majority of those who have fled the church, argued millennial author Leigh Stein in an article last week, haven’t become less-religious at all. Rather, many (especially women) have embraced new belief systems, often led by self-appointed social media gurus who preach self-care, left-wing activism, and New Age spirituality, maybe with a side of herbal supplements.

Instagram “Influencers” such as Glennon Doyle and Gwyneth Paltrow have won millions of followers with their personal growth advice and positive thinking. Though the packaging is updated, Stein pointed out, they’re using the same old formula as televangelists. These “Instavangelists” (her word, not mine) don’t talk as much about God, but they employ the same me-centric business model.

It was in 2017, Stein claims, that she “began noticing how many wellness products and programs were marketed to women in pain,” and how the social media industry would stoke moral outrage but fail to offer a worldview big enough to handle it. This, in turn, became a business opportunity for the internet gurus. Some specialized in call-out culture and others in self-help cures, but all insisted that the answers to our problems lie within us if only, like little gods, we assert our desires and moral intuitions as absolute.

Self-worship in any form, however, is a recipe for spiritual restlessness. After all, we make terrible gods, and we know it, especially in our more honest moments.

The women that millions have chosen as moral leaders, Stein argues, “aren’t challenging us to ask the fundamental questions that leaders of faith have been wrestling with for thousands of years: Why are we here? Why do we suffer? What should we believe in beyond the limits of our puny selfhood?”

“We’re looking,” she continues, “for guidance in the wrong places, instead of helping us to engage with our most important questions, our screens might be distracting us from them. Maybe,” she finishes, “we actually need to go to something like a church?”

For those of us who do go to church, this may seem obvious. But, for a writer who admits to seldom praying to God, this is a remarkable realization. As St. Augustine himself would attest, no one is more vulnerable to the truth than when they’ve seen all that the world has to offer and ask, “Is this it?”

At the same time, a very different self-help guru seems to have come to that realization, recently. In a podcast with Orthodox iconographer Jonathan Pageau, clinical psychologist and bestselling author Jordan Peterson all but admitted, in remarkable and tearful words describing the limits of his intellectual capacity to understand, that God is breaking down the door of his heart.

As a disciple of Carl Jung, Peterson has long treated Christianity as a useful myth in which people can find meaning. Yet, through personal struggles and dialogue with Christians, he admits to wanting to believe (and maybe in some sense to actually believe) that this Jesus story is true. “I probably believe (in Christ),” Peterson said, “but I’m amazed at my own belief and I don’t understand it.”

Both the trajectory (outward not inward) and posture (teachable not entitled) of Peterson’s search stands in stark contrast to Instavangelism, and it raises tough questions for those leaving organized religion behind. With what will you replace it? What’s big enough to fill the God-shaped hole in your heart? If Christianity isn’t the true story of the world, is there an alternative?

If Stein and Peterson and, for that matter, Augustine are right, these alternative religions will never satisfy the human impulse to worship. At least not for very long.

Mar 18, 2021
Is Changing Gender Pronouns Capitulating to the Transgender Movement? - BreakPoint Q&A
31:19

John answers listener questions related to using gender pronouns, responding to employer terminology in assisted suicide, and considering statistics for support in defending marriage and parenting structures.

 

Mar 17, 2021
Ending Organ Transplant Discrimination Against Those with Disabilities
04:50

During the pandemic, the world learned that some British doctors placed “Do Not Resuscitate” orders on COVID-19 patients with intellectual disabilities. These orders reflected a tendency across Western culture to commodify human life, valuing people based on extrinsic abilities and appearances rather than assuming inherent value for all who are part of the human family. As a result, the disabled are not deemed as valuable as the non-disabled. To be clear, the pandemic didn’t cause this way of seeing those with disabilities, it only revealed it and worsened it.

For example, a recent story at NBC News reported that denying organ transplants to people with Down syndrome and autism “is common in the United States, even though it is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act.” According to one study, 44 percent of organ transplant centers will not add people with developmental disorders to their transplant list. Eighty-five percent “consider the disability as a factor in deciding whether to list the child.” That’s against ADA policy.

One reason given to defend this discrimination is that someone with Down syndrome “may not be able to comply with post-transplant requirements, such as taking immunosuppressive drugs.” This “reason” doesn’t pass the laugh test. The intellectually disabled are usually, as several of my colleagues will attest, perfectly capable of taking their meds on schedule without assistance. Those who are aren’t have guardians and caretakers who can ensure they comply.

Another reason given for leaving individuals with disability off transplant lists is far more sinister. These patients are, some clinics claim, “more likely to have co-occurring conditions that would make a transplant dangerous” and “the patient's quality of life would be unlikely to improve with a transplant.”

On one hand, as a report from the National Council on Disabilities found, these worries are unfounded. Though some disabled people do have co-occurring conditions that make transplant surgery dangerous, most don’t. And patients with intellectual disabilities can benefit from transplants as much as any other patient.

The real story behind this discrimination, in fact, can be summed up in the phrase “a patient’s quality of life,” a phrase that has been used throughout history, but especially recently, to promote various forms eugenics. After all, providing people with “less-worthy lives” with a transplant is to waste a perfectly good organ that could go to someone more “valuable.” Already, as NBC noted, more than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for organs nationwide. The average wait times, even after a patient makes the list, can be three-to-five years. Hopefully, new technologies such as printable organs will soon be available, but until then, rationing is necessary. So, shouldn’t the organs go to the “best of us?”

Of course, no one puts it like this. To do so would expose the lethal logic at work behind leaving people with intellectual disabilities off the list. Instead, we hear things about disabled people not “benefitting” from a transplanted organ, which is absurd. A new heart beats and circulates blood. This is true regardless of the person’s intellectual capacity.

Today, 16 states ban this kind of discrimination, with similar measures pending in eight other states and in Congress. Still, these laws face an uphill battle, even if passed. As the head of the National Council on Disabilities admitted, the real goal of these laws is to inspire "a change of heart so people understand that they are discriminating.”

So, even as we support the legal efforts to prevent this discrimination, we remember that the best protection for people with disabilities is to recover the idea of the Imago Dei. When people cease seeing themselves and others as image-bearers, they see people as means and not ends, as units of utility to us and to society.

This is why we have chosen “restoring the Imago Dei” as the theme of this year’s Wilberforce Weekend. For three days, May 21-23, in Dallas/Fort Worth, we will be exploring how to apply this principle to our cultural moment. I hope you can join us. Come to WilberforceWeekend.org to learn more and to register.

Mar 17, 2021
What We Must Learn from Amy Carmichael, Missionary and Defender of Children
05:38

In nearly every sector of society—media, education, medicine, public policy, even sports—children are now subjects of social experimentation. As fundamental realities of life such as sex, marriage, and parenting are reimagined, we say to ourselves, “Oh, the kids will be fine.” Overwhelming evidence suggests they aren’t.

 At the same time, too many churches and too many Christians, often jaded by Christian activism either poorly done or poorly received (or both), have moved to the sidelines. At times, this move has been away from the social implications of the Gospel, focusing instead on personal transformation and privatized faith. Other times, this move has been simple compromise on moral issues, out of a misplaced attempt to be nice and “welcoming.”

This indifference to our culture’s widespread exploitation of children, places these churches and these Christians firmly outside Church history. Time and time again, across cultures and time periods, those who brought the Gospel to pagan cultures found themselves defending and protecting abandoned, abused, and victimized children.

 One of the great missionary heroes of Church history is a clear example. Amy Carmichael was born in 1867 to devout parents in Ireland. By 1895, after already serving as a missionary in Japan and Ceylon, Carmichael devoted herself to bringing the Gospel to South India.

Immediately, Carmichael started wrestling through the idea of contextualization, how best to present the Gospel in that cultural setting. For example, unlike most missionaries at the time, Amy wore the same clothes as the local population. She travelled with a group of Indian women converts known as the Starry Cluster and would tell anyone, regardless of caste, (another cultural reality) about God’s love. Many women fleeing slavery and prostitution in Indian temples came to Christ because of her teaching.

One day, a young girl named Preena, who had been sold as a temple slave by her widowed mother and literally branded when she tried to run away, listened as Amy Carmichael told of God’s love. Preena ran away again, this time to Amy’s house.

Amy knew that if she took Preena in, she could be charged with kidnapping. However, she also knew to send Preena back would mean further beatings or even death. Driven by the truth of the gospel, Amy welcomed Preena into her home.

This led Amy to begin began studying the caste system in more detail. She learned that children were often dedicated to the gods and left at temples to be slaves and child prostitutes. Horrified, she dedicated the rest of her life to fighting these abuses.

As word spread, children and teenagers who had run away from temples began to show up at her door. Soon, Amy was looking after almost 50 people. So, she moved all of them to the city of Dohnavor and established the Dohnavor Fellowship, a home for former child prostitutes.

In 1901, Amy was taken to court by infuriated Hindu priests. Still, Amy continued to provide a home for any child who came to her for help, and the priests’ lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.  In 1918, she added a home for boys, many former temple prostitutes. Throughout her life, Amy Carmichael took in over 1,000 children, giving each one a new home, renewed hope, and even a new name.

In 1931, Amy had a serious accident and broke both her leg and her ankle, and badly injured her hip and back. This, combined with neuralgia, effectively left Amy bedridden for the rest of her life. As a result, she led the Dohnavor Fellowship from her bedroom.

In 1948, largely because of Amy’s work, child prostitution was outlawed in India. Three years later, Amy died at the age of 83.  At her request, no stone marked her burial place. Instead, the children she had saved erected a birdbath over her grave, engraved with the word Amma, which means “Mother.”

            The parallels between what children faced in that pagan culture and what children face in our pagan culture is obvious. In both contexts, children are sacrificed to sexual ideologies, and forced to serve the desires of adults. In both contexts, anyone who resists faces significant social pressures, even political penalties. One difference is that Carmichael didn’t think that standing for children would be an impediment to telling people about the love of God. On the contrary, she believed it was an essential part of serving Christ in that pagan culture.

Today, you can join Carmichael and others from Christian history by making a Promise to America’s Children, pledging to protect the minds, bodies, and the most important relationships of children. And then, learn all the ways children are being victimized and how the church can help, by reading Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement, a vital new book by Katy Faust. Them Before Us is the featured resource from the Colson Center this month.

Mar 16, 2021
Leaders Who Fear the Lord - A Time of Guided Prayer with Cheryl Bachelder
21:57

Cheryl Bachelder shared at the Time of Guided Prayer last week. She spoke on the importance of Proverbs 31, remembering a Proverbs 31 woman who made a significant impact on Cheryl's life.

This is a special edition of the BreakPoint podcast. Cheryl is the former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., a multibillion-dollar chain of more than 2,600 restaurants around the world. She has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, featured on Mad Money, and received top industry awards. She had prior leadership positions at Yum! Brands, Domino’s Pizza, RJR Nabisco, the Gillette Company, and Procter & Gamble. Today, Cheryl serves on boards, mentors CEOs, and invests in philanthropy.

Mar 16, 2021
“Peace and Security” for the Ancient Church in Iraq?
04:48

A recent four-day visit by Pope Francis to Iraq was bound to attract attention, given that he is the Pope and Iraq is, well, Iraq.  Some of the media coverage, however, demonstrated just how little the press “gets religion.” In one especially funny and now-deleted example, CNN referred to the Vatican as the “Holly Sea,” instead of the “Holy See.”

Still, this visit was full of meetings that mattered, such as the Pope’s meeting with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leader of the Shiites in Iraq. This meeting took place in Najaf in what is called the “Plain of Ur” (yes that Ur, the one where Abraham came from). In a statement issued after the meeting, the Ayatollah affirmed “his concern that Christian citizens [of Iraq] should live like all Iraqis in peace and security, and with their full constitutional rights.”

That would be a welcome development given the suffering Iraqi Christians have faced at the hands of their Muslim neighbors. About two-thirds of Iraqis identify as Shia Muslims so, if their leader can persuade them that Christians belong and deserve the same rights they have, it could make a significant difference.

The Pope’s visit also focused much-needed attention on the plight of one of the oldest and most-vulnerable Christian communities in the world. The antiquity of this Christian community is apparent in a name: “Chaldean Catholic Church” (yes, that “Chaldean,” as in “Ur of the Chaldeans,” from the book of Genesis. Around 70-80 percent of all Iraqi Christians belong to this particular group, which traces its origin to the Apostle Bartholomew. Its distinctive historical identity is well-attested all the way back to the early-to-mid third century, and its liturgy is conducted in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. These Christians begin their remembrance of Lent with what is called the “Fast of Nineveh,” which commemorates the repentance and fast of that ancient city as told in the Book of Jonah.

For these Christians, the biblical account is more than familiar. It’s something akin to family lore. Still, in addition to their close connections with ancient history, they model faithfulness and perseverance.

Iraq, like so much of the Middle East, is mostly Islamic. Since the early 7th century, this Christian community has experienced oppression at the hands of Muslim rulers. The severity and nature of this oppression varied, converting to Islam would have made their lives much easier. But they didn’t.

Despite their oppression, these Christians have made significant contributions to their society. They were the ones who translated Greek texts on science, math, and philosophy into Arabic. Thus, in a way, Chaldean Christians made Islam’s often-heralded contributions in these areas possible.

Recent events in the region have nearly accomplished what 14 centuries of Islamic oppression couldn’t. Iraq’s Christians are, as the Archbishop of Irbil put it in 2019, “perilously close to extinction.”  At the time, he was specifically referring to the threat of ISIS, but the dispersion of Iraqi and other Middle Eastern Christians had begun long before and with them went “the culture and wealth which flowed from” the Christian presence.

Hopefully, the Grand Ayatollah’s statement will make a difference. Meanwhile, the community’s way of life is providing a compelling witness of the power of the Gospel. A mother who had lost her son to ISIS told Pope Francis, “Our strength undoubtedly comes from our faith in the Resurrection, a source of hope. My faith tells me that my children are in the arms of Jesus Christ our Lord. And we, the survivors, try to forgive the aggressor, because our Master Jesus has forgiven his executioners. By imitating him in our sufferings, we testify that love is stronger than everything.”

Her words left Pope Francis, as he put it, “speechless.” Not only should we pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq; we should watch them and learn what we can about faithful perseverance and reliance on the risen Christ. We may be put to the test ourselves, soon enough.

Mar 15, 2021
What does the Church have to say about what it means to be a man and a woman in today's culture? - BreakPoint This Week
01:12:33

John Stonestreet and Maria Baer discuss the sex and gender issues  dominating the news this week: President Biden's new Gender Policy Council designed to promotes women's rights, but actually advances the transgender agenda;  Governor Andrew Cuomo's alleged harassment and even assault of female colleagues; to the treatment of women employees--even in Christian ministries. What does the Church have to say about what it means to be a man and a woman in today's culture?

Also on today's episode: Millennials flock to the empty religion of Instagram; John and Maria's recommendations for the week: interviews with Jordan Peterson and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist.

-- RESOURCES -- 

Join us at the 2021 Wilberforce Weekend, May 21-23, in Fort Worth!

"The President's New Gender Policy Council," by John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera, The Point

"Two Marches, One Question: Can Anyone Be a Woman?" A What Would You Say? video

7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness, by Eric Metaxas, available at the Colson Center online bookstore

The Strong Women Podcast with Sarah Stonestreet and Erin Kunkle

"The Empty Religions of Instagram," by Leigh Stein, New York Times

"Prayer Isn't What We Think It Is," an Upstream Podcast episode with Shane Morris and Kyle Stroebel

Jordan Peterson on Restoring the Faith, YouTube

"The Divided Mind," Iaian McGilchrist on the Sam Harris Making Sense Podcast

Mar 12, 2021
Meanwhile in Hong Kong . . . The Tyranny Expands
04:41

According to a recent article in The Guardian, “Nearly every main voice of dissent in Hong Kong is now in jail or exile.” The latest chapter of Beijing’s grab for power saw “Hong Kong police charge 47 pro-democracy campaigners and politicians with conspiracy to commit subversion. All face life in prison if convicted.”

The protests, which began with hopes of a democratic rebuke to the autocratic regime of Xi Jinping, have seemingly come to an end, not with a bang but with a proverbial whimper. In the last year and a half, as the world’s eyes turned to COVID-19 and other troubles, the Chinese government all but crushed any dissidents and all but ended democracy in Hong Kong.

For a moment, it appeared as if 2019 might be a reboot of 1989, with the tide of freedom overwhelming attempts at dictatorship. News coverage told of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in Hong Kong rising up against a law, pushed through by the Beijing-controlled local government, that allowed Hong Kong citizens to be prosecuted under the mainland’s jurisdiction.

Protestors were backed and, in many cases led, by Hong Kong’s Christian population. At one point, the praise chorus “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” became an unofficial anthem of the protests.

For months, the Communist leadership tried everything from coercion to concessions, to squash the protests, but the protests only intensified. By late summer 2019, the government withdrew the offending law, but the movement had, by then, become about much more than one law. It was now about preserving a free Hong Kong. Pro-democracy candidates all but swept Hong Kong’s local elections in November of 2019, and protestors flew British and American flags in an extra show of defiance.

But when the headlines from changed from protesters to a virus and the world economy ground to a halt, other nations and their governments turned inward. The country best positioned to apply pressure, the United States, was also dealing with its greatest domestic turmoil in generations and the most contentious Presidential election in recent memory.

Meanwhile, on China’s mainland, the overlords didn’t let this crisis go to waste. COVID provided all the excuse they needed to clamp down on crowds, protests, and news stories. Under new stringent national security laws, virtually any dissent to the regime’s dictates is now liable to draconian punishment. China’s promise to maintain a “one country two system” arrangement with Hong Kong was a surprisingly easy thing to discard for something enshrined in an international agreement.

Though we may be tempted to give up hope for the people of Hong Kong, many there haven’t. Hundreds continue to defy Beijing by publicly protesting the recent convictions. Though the United States is wavering on what to do, Australian, British, Japanese, and European governments have decided that it can no longer be business as usual with the “People’s Republic.”

Beijing knows that as long as the West remains divided and distracted, they’re free to extinguish Uighur culture and deny Hong Kong its liberty, but not because China is as strong as its leaders suggest. China’s economy is incredibly vulnerable and will only become more so as its population ages. Not to mention, the world is now fully aware of what it’s doing the Uyghur population.

Given that so much Christian activity in China flows through Hong Kong, we owe it to our brothers and sisters there to pray. In a real sense, an assault on Hong Kong is part of the larger war on Chinese Christianity. We should also insist that the fate of Hong Kong becomes a foreign policy priority. There can be no “business as usual” with this regime… not from the U.S. government and not from U.S. corporations.

As we make our appeals, let’s remember how Christians have fared throughout history when challenged by godless empires. The empires are long gone. Christians aren’t.

By the way, we will honor someone who continues to speak up for China's liberties, Pastor Bob Fu of China Aid, at the Wilberforce Weekend this May in Fort Worth, Texas. Come to wilberforceweekend.org to learn more.

Mar 12, 2021
The COVID Baby Bust Reflects a Disturbing Cultural Reality
04:48

At the start of the pandemic, many expected the lockdowns and quarantines to lead to a “baby boom.” Well, the data is in. Instead of a “boom” it’s been a “bust.” As CBS recently reported, records from more than two dozen states show a “7% drop in births in December — nine months after the first lockdowns began.”

While 7% may sound like a small dip, it’s not. As the New York Times puts it: “The pandemic’s serious disruption of people’s lives is likely to cause ‘missing births’ — potentially a lot of them. Add these missing births to the country’s decade-long downward trend in annual births and we can expect consequential changes to our economy and society in the years to come.”

As the Times pointed out, this “baby bust” is, in reality, a pre-existing condition of COVID, not created by the virus but made worse. While some of us have talked about the ongoing birth dearth for years now, a major news outlet reporting on it is itself newsworthy. Until recently, most media outlets have insisted the problem is overpopulation, that too many humans were literally destroying the planet.

However, as USC demographer Dowell Myers told CBS, America’s shrinking fertility rate and its economic impact is nothing less than a “crisis.” Fewer babies means a smaller work force in the future, which means lower economic productivity and a smaller tax base. This, in turn, means additional stress to Social Security, and fewer people to take care of a rapidly aging population.

If COVID isn’t the cause, how did we get here? Ideas … bad ones with consequences and victims.

At the top of the list is the “Population Bomb” myth. In 1970, Paul Ehrlich, the author of the book with that title, predicted that "Sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come . . . an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.” That didn’t happen, but here’s what did. Within 15 years of Ehrlich’s prediction, nearly every developed nation, along with many developing ones, had embraced some version of his stark theory and declared war on human fertility. As a result, birth rates dropped below replacement rates.

In addition to that ecological myth, there’s an anthropological one, too. For decades, women were told that their bodies were in the way of their progress. If women wanted equality, they would need to be liberated from their own procreative potential. The tragic irony is that once women were, in fact, disconnected from their bodies, transgender men stepped in and appropriated all of the equality and all of the rights promised to women. And now, climate change has been added as the latest reason to forego child-rearing.

The postponing and foregoing of childbirth has corresponded to the postponing and foregoing of marriage. Since 1980, the median age of first marriage has gone from 24.7 for men and 22 for women to 30 and 28 respectively. The additional six years for women correspond almost exactly with their peak fertility.

It’s impossible to over-emphasize the role of culture in all this.  When was the last time marriage and childbearing, at least in their traditional forms, were celebrated on TV or in film? When was the last time they were celebrated in church?

Israel is a notable exception to the global COVID-19 “baby bust” trend, with a birthrate twice that of the United States. Even non-religious Israelis are having children above replacement level. The cultural attitude toward marriage and family there is just as distinct as the results. As anyone who’s been to Israel knows, Saturday dinner is a sacrosanct family event, for religious and non-religious Israelis alike, and children figure prominently in Israelis’ definition of “life, liberty, and happiness.”

Christians, of course, should hold at least as high of a view of marriage and fertility. After all, God never revoked the command to be fruitful and multiply, and Jesus’ command to let the little children come to Him implies there are children around in the first place. Scripture is clear that “children are a heritage from the Lord.”  Next to the Gospel itself, children are the greatest gift we can give future generations.

Mar 11, 2021
What's the Difference Between Single and Same-Sex Parenting? - BreakPoint Q&A
45:28

John and Shane field a follow-up question they answered last week from a single woman considering adoption. The question last week asked if the listener should move forward with an adoption knowing that the child would not receive a fatherly influence in the adoption. 

This week a listener wrote in to ask what the difference would be in a same-sex relationship where two parents of the same gender are unable to provide the mothering or fathering a child needs. 

Another listener reflected on work and worship, challenged to understand how to form menial tasks into worshipful acts. She pushes John and Shane for greater clarity in understanding what makes mundane tasks a spiritual expression.

To open the Q&A time, Shane presents a question from a listener who is questioning if she is residing in a Christian echo chamber. She notes that she follows a number of Colson Center resources and finds herself deeply invested in understanding the world from a Christian perspective, but is slightly concerned that she might not be seeing the full picture in the world.

Mar 10, 2021
The Myth of the Underdog
05:00

The overall cost – room and board – to attend Smith College, an elite women’s college in Northampton, Massachusetts, is in the neighborhood of 78-thousand dollars per year. An allegation of racism, made by an African-American student against a school janitor in 2018, has prompted a complex cultural discussion there that is full of worldview implications. It also exposes the significant limitations of critical theory and intersectionality, the dominant lenses by which our culture discerns issues of race, privilege, poverty, and discrimination.

The New York Times called the situation a collision of “race, class and power.” A black female student was eating lunch in a dorm that was supposed to be closed for the summer. When a janitor called security, the student claimed that she was questioned for “eating while black.” The janitor, whose entire annual salary would barely cover half a year’s room and board at Smith, was placed on leave. Another janitor quit after the student posted his picture online, calling him a racist coward.

Smith College responded by issuing a public apology… to the student. Months later, an independent law firm released its report on the entire incident. They concluded that there was no evidence that anyone acted with racial bias.

One of the embedded myths of American culture is the good-hearted, perhaps unlucky, but ultimately victorious “little guy.” Almost every sports movie or war movie features an unlikely hero with a big heart but little chance of success, yet who nevertheless comes out on top: the Cinderella team in March Madness, “Rudy,” the nerd who gets the girl, the hockey team of misfits, the basketball team with the actual dog on it. Most of us cheer for the underdog.

The problem lies in assigning virtue to underdogs simply because they’re an underdog. The modern world, said G.K. Chesterton, has far too many virtues, that are “wandering wildly” and doing “terrible damage.” In other words, our virtuous instincts can go awry when they’re not anchored to the Truth.

This at least partially explains why this situation at Smith College has thrown off so many people, including The New York Times. Who’s the “Good Guy” in a story in which everyone is the underdog? Who should win when an ethnic minority student and a blue-collar worker fall at odds? Who should win if we’re not allowed, or don’t know how, to issue moral judgments on behavior because we’re issuing them simply on social class, ethnicity, or race?

Jesus chose the uneducated and unpopular as His disciples: fishermen, tax collectors, Zealots… Viewing this through the myth of the “perfect-hearted” Little Guy, it’s tempting to conclude that though the disciples didn’t seem important or wise, Jesus must have known the real story. Perhaps the Twelve were the first century equivalent of the lead character in a high school romantic comedy. Maybe the nerd who’s ignored and bullied until he takes off his glasses and everyone realizes how good-looking and big hearted he really is.

But that’s not true. The disciples, at least according to the Gospels, were kind of pathetic. When they weren’t angry, jealous, or power-hungry, they were confused and scared. Jesus had to say “I came from the Father” about 400 times before they even kind of grasped what He meant.

When Paul says that God chose the “foolish things of this world to shame the wise,” he wasn’t saying that fools are secretly wise and just haven’t enjoyed their deserved moment in the sun. He uses the foolish and the weak to display His glory. By choosing these 12 disciples, outcasts and underdogs, He gets to say, “See what I can do?” After all, how great is a God that can save the world and build a kingdom using any of us?

The fatal flaw in our current cultural discussions on oppression and justice is a misunderstanding of our common humanity: our common dignity as created in God’s image, our common frailty as fallen from His grace, our common foolishness after the fall, and our common reliance on His grace for wisdom and help.

Without a doubt, the young woman at Smith College shouldn't be profiled because of her skin color. Neither should a janitor be falsely accused of racism.

Virtue is action, not category. And no one is virtuous or guilty simply because they are an underdog.

Mar 10, 2021
The President’s New “Gender Policy Council”

On March 8, International Women’s Day, President Biden signed an executive order establishing a Gender Policy Council. According to USA Today, the Council will seek to “advance gender equality in domestic and foreign policy . . .  [and] combat systemic bias and discrimination, including sexual harassment.” 

Until recently, we could assume that by “gender equality,” the president planned to deal with discrimination against women. But times have changed. The new council “will also focus on transgender rights,” which means it’s likely the council will find new ways to apply the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock, a case that redefines “sex” to include “gender identity” in Title VII.

So this new Council will likely ignore the lived experiences and needs of biological females in federal law, instead creating ways for biological males to claim the rights of being a woman. 

I cannot imagine this is what the organizers of International Women’s Day had in mind. 

Mar 10, 2021
Should Singles Adopt? Redeeming Brokenness Instead of Creating It
05:33

The fundamental assumptions of a Christian worldview are straightforward. The universe is created, not eternal or random. Humans are made in God’s image, not mere animals and not gods themselves. Right and wrong are grounded in eternal truths, not subject to the whims of a person or a culture. Christ’s death and resurrection have cosmic implications, in direct contrast to both utopian and dystopian narratives.

Applying the fundamental truth of a Christian worldview, particularly in this cultural moment, is not so straightforward. For example, this past week we heard from a woman wrestling with whether or not to go through with an international adoption.  

Adoption is so hopeful; why would anyone question it? Well, the women who wrote in is single and committed to the Biblical description of marriage and family. She knows that children fare best when raised by biological mom and dad. She understands that practices like sperm donation and surrogacy intentionally create a life in which that parent-child relationship is broken. She knows that even without a biological link, there’s a difference between mothering and fathering and that kids tend to fare better with both. As a single woman, she wondered whether her desire to adopt may similarly deprive a child of a father.

“My ‘need’ [her quotes] cannot be the deciding factor in this decision. I know raising a child in a single parent home will leave a hole in this child’s heart. I know this child needs a father. I know that even my best intentions and hardest efforts will not compensate for this loss.”

At the same time, as she undoubtedly understands, the alternative for this child is grim. In much of the world, a high percentage of those who age-out of orphanages (including orphanages in Eastern Europe where she hopes to adopt), end up in jail.  “I can’t help but think that providing a loving home with one Christian parent would be better than a life in these group homes with no parents,” she wrote.

And, she’s exactly right! In her honest and serious ethical reflections are all the right distinctions. Her desire to adopt a child in need is beautiful and not comparable with sperm donation or surrogacy, neither in intention nor in practice. Here’s why.

As Katy Faust, author of Them Before Us: Why We Need a Children’s-Rights Movement points out, the child-manufacturing practices of our modern reproductive technologies are largely motivated by the emotional desires of adults. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself, but the child’s needs have to be taken into consideration as well. While certain treatments of infertility attempt to fix or heal what is broken, others clearly cross the line and treat kids like commercial products.

As a result, surrogacy and sperm donation create a place of brokenness that didn’t exist before. Specifically, children are deprived of the right to know a biological parent. These technologies place “us” (the adults and their desires) before “them” (the children and their needs). To use stark terms, in a very real sense, these procedures create orphans.

That is a very different scenario than meeting the needs of children already facing a life with no mother or father. Though this woman has a God-given desire to be a mom, her fundamental question is not, “How can I become a parent?” Rather, it’s “How can I give a child a parent?” The difference is everything.

Just as important is her recognition that fathers matter too, and, as a single mother, she won’t be able to fill that need. While our larger society has embraced the idea that “all kids need is love,” and while so many mothers have to play the heroic role of attempting to fill the need of both mom and dad, she realizes that a mother’s love and a father’s love aren’t the same.  Love is more than strong feelings and self-esteem. It’s an embodied reality.

This woman’s desire to have children is not the problem, and it doesn’t have to conflict with a child’s needs. It actually can go to meet those needs. As Katy Faust says, when rightly understood, the rights of adults and children do not need to be in opposition.

If this women does open her heart, life, and home to a child who’s lost mom and dad, her story and example of clear thinking can inspire others to put “them before us,” i.e. the needs and rights of children over and above the desires of adults. That’s the title of Katy Faust’s new book, which covers the full spectrum of issues in which our culture struggles to rightly honor and respect children. You can pick up a copy of Them Before Us with a gift of any amount to the Colson Center this month. Just visit breakpoint.org/broadcast.

And, for a full answer to this woman’s question, check out the most recent “Q&A segment” on the BreakPoint podcast. Visit breakpoint.org, or subscribe to the “BreakPoint podcast” or wherever you get your podcasts.

Mar 09, 2021
The Kids Aren't Fine: Stories From Inside Family Redefinition - BreakPoint Podcast
01:09:06

Our culture proclaims a narrative, that what kids need are parents not moms and dads. Movies, television shows, music, public policies, they all call us to a new way of organizing the family. This new organization prioritizes adult desires, wishes, and needs over kids. We hear, over and over, that the kids will be fine. But the kids aren't fine.

Katy Faust has been on a campaign for years to tell the stories of children who are victims of the sexual revolution. These are often unheard voices in our culture. 

Children, conceived by invetro fertilization have stories. Katy is telling them. Kids adopted into loving families have a story our culture often doesn't hear. Katy is sharing it. Those raised in same-sex households have stories. Katy is sharing those stories.

Katy's new book is titled Them Before Us. It calls the culture to place the needs and desires of children over those of adults. 

Mar 08, 2021
Rescuing the Victims of the Sexual Revolution
05:06

Imagine a young man with every advantage. He’s well-educated, goes to church, lives in a nice neighborhood, able to secure strong employment... But he grew up without ever having known his father. Even as he moves into adulthood, his desire to know his father, his sense of loss for what he missed, is somewhere between insistent and consuming.

There used to be a time when fatherlessness was considered a tragedy. Now, raising a child without a father or, in some cases, without a mother is a perfectly acceptable intentional choice. The only thing that matters are the adults making the decision who have desires to meet. The adults are put first; the children, all too often, come in a distant second.

This sweeping social change didn’t happen overnight, or by accident. It’s the logical outcome of the three fundamental lies of the sexual revolution. These lies are now so widely embedded in modern society that we don’t give them a second thought. But it wasn’t always this way.  

The first lie of the sexual revolution (and I owe my friend Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse for the wording here) is that sex, marriage, and babies are separable. That these created realities were part of a biological, social and religious package deal, went unquestioned until quite recently. Technological innovations, such as the pill, IVF, and surrogacy, legal innovations such as no-fault divorce, and cultural innovations such as ubiquitous pornography and “hook-up” apps, have all made it increasingly easy to imagine that sex is not inherently connected to childbearing, and that childbearing is not necessarily best placed in the context of marriage.

The second lie of the sexual revolution (thanks again to Dr. Morse for this wording) is that men and women are interchangeable. What we mean by this has evolved to a much more fundamental level. Interchangeability in rights was a good thing. Interchangeability in roles was, at times, good and, at other times, blurred biological distinctions. Today, of course, we talk as if men and women are interchangeable in reality, as if men can bear children and “not all women menstruate,” and as if love can make a second mom into a dad. None of this is true.

The third lie of the sexual revolution is that human dignity derives from autonomy, that our ability to sexually self-determine, not only in our behavior but our identity, is the essence of human dignity. In that equation, those unable to sexually self-determine, or who stand in the way of someone’s “true self” (typically defined by happiness) are excluded from the category of dignity.

These three lies of the sexual revolution were largely justified by a myth, one repeated over and over in different ways, to assuage our collective consciences as we fundamentally violate the created and social order. That myth was “the kids will be fine.”

But, of course, they aren’t fine. Not even close. In her new book, Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement, Katy Faust documents all the ways the kids aren’t fine, and all the ways their well-being is sacrificed on the altar of adult happiness. This is essential reading, not only so we can take our place in Christian history among those who stood for and defending children from hyper-sexualization, abandonment, abuse, and social experimentation, but also because too many Christians embrace cultural norms about reproductive technologies, sexuality, and marriage. In doing so, the Church is complicit in putting children at risk.  

In Them Before Us, Faust begins in a crucially different place than the sexual revolution: the rights of the child, not the happiness of adult. That’s what “them before us” means. Simply put, adults must do those hard things that honor the fundamental right of children to be known and loved by both mother and father.

The results of the sexual revolution are in: Children are the victims of our bad ideas. Christians are called to be agents of restoration in whatever time and place they find themselves. For us, now, that means advocating for children’s rights. As Faust writes, “Our culture and our laws must incentivize and encourage adults to conform their behavior to the needs of their children if we are to have any hope of a healthy and thriving society.”

Get your copy of Them Before Us, this month, with any gift to the Colson Center. Come to breakpoint.org/broadcast to get your copy of Them Before Us today.

Mar 08, 2021
Bethany Christian Caves to LGBT Adoption, Challenging Children & Ministries - BreakPoint This Week
01:05:04

Bethany Christian Services, one of the nation's largest faith-based adoption and foster care agencies, has decided to begin placing children with same-sex couples: John Stonestreet and Maria Baer wonder why and discuss the implications not only for the children but for Christians organizations that seek to remain true to the biblical understanding of family and human sexuality. As John points out, this issue is certainly not about ensuring that same-sex couples have access to adoption, because there are plenty of organizations only too happy to help.

Also on today's episode: What are deepfakes, and what potential dangers do they hold? Is Dr. Seuss being cancelled? Why we should care about "deadnaming."

Mar 05, 2021
One in Six Gen Z-ers “Identify” as LGBT
06:41

If the last two Presidential elections, the last midterm elections, and every exit poll ever conducted can teach us anything, it’s to not put too much faith in polling. Still, a new Gallup poll released last month deserves a serious look. In a remarkable jump from prior years, one in six adult members of Gen Z (that is, ages 18 to 24) self-identify as LGBT.

The first thing to unpack is the definition of terms; specifically, what does it mean to identify as LGBT? The disconnection of biological reality from one’s identity makes this question particularly complicated. Is merely conceiving of oneself as “LGBT” enough, or must on claim it, or advertise for it, or “outwardly present” in a way consistent with cultural stereotypes? Does identifying as an “L,” “G,” or “B” imply these 18 to 24-year-olds have engaged in homosexual behavior? Does being attracted to members of the same sex qualify as behavior? Or, does any sexual encounter with someone of the same sex mean they must identify as gay? The answers to these questions aren’t clear.

The fact is, in addition to those who experience same-sex attraction and struggle with gender dysphoria, calling oneself LGBT has become a sort of Cool Club for the disenfranchised. I’ve personally heard from high school guidance counselors, teachers, youth pastors, and others that many kids who struggle socially, or with depression, or with fitting in, now claim to be homosexual or transgender. In other words, it’s entirely plausible, even likely, that more young adults identify as LGBT because the terms are not clear and because they’re unhappy.

Still, the ones who’ve made this acronym the new Cool Club are the adults, not the kids. To resurrect words from the early days of this issue, this is nurture, not nature. Now, to be clear, many of the most vocal advocates of the new sexual orthodoxy admitted years ago that the “born this way” narrative was useful, not really true. Now that the debate has largely been settled, at least culturally, there’s no need to hold anyone to a fixed orientation or identity.

Of course, Christians are typically accused of denying the “spectrum of sexuality,” the idea that sexual urges may ebb and flow throughout a lifetime towards members of the same or the opposite sex. However, both Old and New Testament Scriptures take the idea that sexual attractions can change, both in intensity and direction, largely for granted. One way to describe the Biblical view, to quote G.K. Chesterton, is “there are a lot of ways to fall down, but only one way to stand up straight.”

Today, however, the various spectrums of sexuality (and there are at least four taught to elementary school age children) have nothing to do with moral or natural guidelines for our sexual impulses. Rather, those impulses are equated with identity, which is also seen as fluid. Though their impulses may change, children are taught that they have no power over their impulses and that to deny them is to deny themselves.

They are, in fact, taught to be slaves to their desires, even if those desires lead them to misery or harm. In this context, Christianity’s greatest news may be that humans actually have freedom to navigate our desires. We are not mere creatures of instinct and, in Christ, can be made free indeed.

Another crucial component to make sense of this Gallup poll is a larger cultural observation: we don’t know what love is. The adult Gen Z-ers highlighted in this survey have been raised in an environment offering only two bad understandings of love. For some, every time they’ve heard the word “love” used in their entire life, including within the Church, it’s been in either a shallow and sentimental sense or in a sexual sense.

Imagine never hearing that relationship between love and God’s moral character, but only of a squishy, sentimental figure who has no strong feelings about anything except our happiness. Imagine never understanding Who God is or His created intent for His world, but then trying to make sense of relationships. In reality, one of the consequences of divorcing love from its only real Source is that sexual love has been disconnected from the physical bodies He gave His image bearers. In turn, sexual acts, sexual morality, and sexual impulses are left completely up in the air.

Among the The Four Loves identified in his classic book (storge, or affection; phileo, or friendship), eros, or sexual love, and agape, or sacrificial love), C.S. Lewis thought true friendship had become the rarest. Recent data backs him up. At least part of the crisis of absolutizing sexual deviancy, is that young adults lose the ability to even conceive of true friendship. In fact, the vast majority of people who claim to be LGBT in the Gallup poll identify as bisexual. How many simply lack categories for true, affectionate, loving, and yet non-erotic, relationships?

At the same time, trying to disconnect from our design is like trying to disconnect from gravity. Reality eventually wins. This means that Christians have actual good news to offer a culture helplessly obsessed with but thoroughly confused about sex. We can offer a love that reorients and transforms sexual impulse (eros), a love that orders friendship and affection (phileo and storge), and a love sacrificial and self-giving (agape). In the process, image bearers can find their true identity as created, loved, and redeemed by God.

Mar 05, 2021
Persecution and Failed States Go Hand in Hand
04:45

In just the last few weeks, two mass kidnappings took place, both at schools in northwestern Nigeria. In the first, “unidentified gunmen” attacked a boarding school in Niger state, killing one student and kidnapped 42 others -- 38 of the abducted were rescued a week later, presumably by government forces.  The day before that rescue, “unknown gunmen” in neighboring Zamfara state kidnapped over 300 girls from a boarding school. On Tuesday, the AP reported the release of 270.

It’s not clear whether the kidnappings were driven by ideology or ransom money, though the motive doesn’t make much of a difference to the girls and their families. Not to mention, in places like northwestern Nigeria, ideology and profit are not mutually exclusive motives. When hostages are released by Boko Haram or other extremists, it’s almost always because some ransom has been paid. Regardless of motivation, the average Nigerian (especially the average Nigerian Christian) lives in constant threat for his personal safety.

Nigeria’s inability to guarantee the basic safety of its citizens has observers now asking whether it is on the verge of becoming a “failed state,” the official term for a state “where the government is no longer in control.” The label is most often applied to countries such as Yemen or Somalia, where basic institutions are virtually non-existent.

At least when it comes to protecting the Christian population and institutions, Nigeria’s government hardly seems in control. Because groups like Boko Haram and Fulani militants operate with a de facto immunity in Nigera, their actions against Christians are given a de facto legitimacy. If the government’s blind eye is not intentional, it’s fair to ask whether its authority even extends beyond Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

German sociologist Max Weber famously defined a state as a “human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” Using that most basic standard, Nigeria is failing. Groups like ICON have documented the violence in the northern part of the country, where Christians are killed, wounded, assaulted, and abducted with regularity by Boko Haram and Fulani militants.

Nigeria is not the only country on the “World Watch List” for Christian persecution that is also characterized as a “fragile” or “failed” state. Seven of the top ten countries on the Open Doors list also rank high on the “Fragile States Index” list produced by the Fund for Peace. Nigeria ranks ninth on the World Watch List and ranks fourteenth on the Fragile States Index.

This pattern makes both political and biblical sense. A state that cannot effectively restrain or punish perpetrators of violence is in no position to protect the religious freedom of its citizens. As the Apostle Paul told the Romans, government is “instituted by God” to “execute wrath on the wrongdoer.” Thus, we are to obey the government, including paying our taxes, not because the government is morally praiseworthy (Rome certainly wasn’t), but because of its God-ordained role in keeping the peace.

Paul also urged Timothy to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectable in every way.”

Around the world, many of our brothers and sisters don’t even have the option of living the kind of “quiet and peaceable” lives we take for granted. Still, so many manage to live in a godly and dignified way, which is a powerful testimony to the legitimacy and vitality of their faith.

As we pray for persecuted Christians in Nigeria and elsewhere, we should also pray for the stability of their nations, and even for their government leaders. We should pray that they would have the courage and capacity to end insurgencies like Boko Haram, and, whenever possible, we should ask our nation and its leaders to intervene, or at least assist, in squelching the chaos. Without national stability, our brothers and sisters around the world are kind of like sitting ducks, at the mercy of those who would wish to do them harm, and they have no hope of living “quiet and peaceable” lives.

Mar 04, 2021
Persecution and Failed States Go Hand in Hand

In just the last few weeks, two mass kidnappings took place, both at schools in northwestern Nigeria. In the first, “unidentified gunmen” attacked a boarding school in Niger state, killing one student and kidnapped 42 others -- 38 of the abducted were rescued a week later, presumably by government forces.  The day before that rescue, “unknown gunmen” in neighboring Zamfara state kidnapped over 300 girls from a boarding school. On Tuesday, the AP reported the release of 270.

It’s not clear whether the kidnappings were driven by ideology or ransom money, though the motive doesn’t make much of a difference to the girls and their families. Not to mention, in places like northwestern Nigeria, ideology and profit are not mutually exclusive motives. When hostages are released by Boko Haram or other extremists, it’s almost always because some ransom has been paid. Regardless of motivation, the average Nigerian (especially the average Nigerian Christian) lives in constant threat for his personal safety.

Nigeria’s inability to guarantee the basic safety of its citizens has observers now asking whether it is on the verge of becoming a “failed state,” the official term for a state “where the government is no longer in control.” The label is most often applied to countries such as Yemen or Somalia, where basic institutions are virtually non-existent.

At least when it comes to protecting the Christian population and institutions, Nigeria’s government hardly seems in control. Because groups like Boko Haram and Fulani militants operate with a de facto immunity in Nigera, their actions against Christians are given a de facto legitimacy. If the government’s blind eye is not intentional, it’s fair to ask whether its authority even extends beyond Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

German sociologist Max Weber famously defined a state as a “human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” Using that most basic standard, Nigeria is failing. Groups like ICON have documented the violence in the northern part of the country, where Christians are killed, wounded, assaulted, and abducted with regularity by Boko Haram and Fulani militants.

Nigeria is not the only country on the “World Watch List” for Christian persecution that is also characterized as a “fragile” or “failed” state. Seven of the top ten countries on the Open Doors list also rank high on the “Fragile States Index” list produced by the Fund for Peace. Nigeria ranks ninth on the World Watch List and ranks fourteenth on the Fragile States Index.

This pattern makes both political and biblical sense. A state that cannot effectively restrain or punish perpetrators of violence is in no position to protect the religious freedom of its citizens. As the Apostle Paul told the Romans, government is “instituted by God” to “execute wrath on the wrongdoer.” Thus, we are to obey the government, including paying our taxes, not because the government is morally praiseworthy (Rome certainly wasn’t), but because of its God-ordained role in keeping the peace.

Paul also urged Timothy to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectable in every way.”

Around the world, many of our brothers and sisters don’t even have the option of living the kind of “quiet and peaceable” lives we take for granted. Still, so many manage to live in a godly and dignified way, which is a powerful testimony to the legitimacy and vitality of their faith.

As we pray for persecuted Christians in Nigeria and elsewhere, we should also pray for the stability of their nations, and even for their government leaders. We should pray that they would have the courage and capacity to end insurgencies like Boko Haram, and, whenever possible, we should ask our nation and its leaders to intervene, or at least assist, in squelching the chaos. Without national stability, our brothers and sisters around the world are kind of like sitting ducks, at the mercy of those who would wish to do them harm, and they have no hope of living “quiet and peaceable” lives.

Mar 04, 2021
Is My Desire to Adopt Trying to Fill a "Child-Shaped Hole" in My Heart? - BreakPoint Q&A
44:27

John and Shane field a question from a woman who is questioning her motivation to adopt as a single woman. She asks the two if her desire to adopt is to fill a "child-shaped hole" in her heart, or if she is really concerned with the betterment of their life. Additionally, she cites statistics related to children growing up without a father. She asks if it is best for her to pursue an adoption.

John and Shane also field a question from a mother regarding best practices in addressing cancel culture. She references the move to take down monuments of flawed men. Her question is how to best equip her daughters to participate lovingly in the conversation.

John and Shane begin the question and answer time working through a critique on their posture with young people leaving the church. A similar question asked for resources to equip young people to remain connected to the church.

Mar 03, 2021
British Doctors Order “Do No Resuscitate” Those with Mental Disabilities
05:51

On a cultural level, COVID-19 did not create as many problems and challenges as it revealed and escalated. Like the medical co-morbidities that made the virus more dangerous and more deadly for individuals, cultural pre-existing conditions only worsened during the pandemic. Social distancing and lockdowns, for example, made our pre-existing cultural problem of loneliness that much worse for many.

In the same way, the general, widespread disregard for the those with intellectual disabilities in our culture made their mistreatment during the pandemic easier as well. For example, during the first wave of the pandemic in Great Britain, various facilities that care for people with intellectual disabilities, what the Brits call “learning disabilities” issued blanket “Do Not Resuscitate” orders. These orders came, according to one source, directly from doctors, without consulting the patients or their families.

In December, following public outcry, Britain’s Care Quality Commission investigated and found that the orders were, in their words, “inappropriate” and should be rescinded. That was not, however, the end of the problem.

According to the Guardian newspaper, people with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome continue to be told that they will not be resuscitated if they become ill with COVID. This despite last year’s public outcry and the Commission’s report and instructions. Also, given that “people with [intellectual] disabilities aged 18 to 34 are 30 times more likely to die of COVID than others the same age,” a Do Not Resuscitate Order is a practically a death sentence.

This horrific practice has nothing to do with medicine. DNR’s are usually reserved for people too frail to benefit from CPR, which is not the case here. As one advocacy group told the Guardian, “some [orders] seem to have been issued for people simply because they had [an intellectual] disability.”

Why single out people with intellectual disabilities? The immediate answer is obvious. The doctors issuing these orders are eugenicists, willing to eliminate patients who, they think, drain resources. The larger answer is also obvious. Embedded in Western culture is a tendency to commodify human life, valuing people based on extrinsic abilities and appearances. Thus, the disabled are not deemed as valuable as the non-disabled.

In the U.K., this thinking is obvious in other ways, too. For example, a positive Down syndrome in utero test results in an abortion 90 percent of the time. Attempting to “explain away” this terrible number by noting that not all pregnant women are tested for trisomy 21 does not change the awful, inconvenient fact: when a British woman is told her unborn child has Down syndrome, she is nine times more likely to kill the child than to keep it.

To be clear, in this respect, Britain is a typical Western nation. In countries like Iceland and Denmark, the percentage of abortions following positive test is nearly 100 percent. In addition, the Danish and Icelandic governments have made prenatal testing for Downs syndrome almost universal.

In a now infamous 2017 tweet, CBS News announced that Iceland is “on pace to virtually eliminate Down syndrome ....” The language chosen by CBS News only revealed they shared Iceland’s eugenic impulse. As actress Patricia Heaton replied, Iceland “was not, in fact, eliminating Down syndrome. They were just killing everyone who has it.”

It’s hard to think of a clearer example of some lives being considered worth less than others, based on the criterion that what constitutes a “worthwhile life” is what the person can do. As medical ethicist Chris Kaposy has written, “Western cultures value independence, and consequently people with high levels of dependency are often stigmatized.” A more-accurate word, at least under some circumstances, would be “loathed.”

Even “feel-good” stories about individuals with disability finishing a triathlon, or being a model, or scoring in a basketball game can betray sub-narratives of dehumanization. We end up “celebrating” these people for what they’ve done, not who they are, or how they mimic those things that earn value in our culture, rather than their intrinsic worth and dignity as Image-bearers. The stigma against these individuals remains.

The British “Do Not Resuscitate” orders took place in the midst of the pandemic, but the ideas that led to them existed long before. COVID-19 gave cover for these ideas to be put in practice under the guise of some “greater good” or “necessity.”

Recently, a British joint committee on vaccinations announced that those with intellectual disabilities would be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s good news, although it is likely merely a reaction to the scandal, but it doesn’t address the eugenic impulse prevalent in so much of Western culture and medicine. Which means long after the COVID-19 emergency has passed, we’ll still need to confront and displace the very bad idea that some lives are worth less than others, and we’ll still need to stand up for and protect the victims of that very bad idea.

Mar 03, 2021
Our Work Is Our Worship
05:33

For the last few months at the Colson Center, we’ve been doing a Q&A feature on our podcast. Each Wednesday, Shane Morris and I field questions from our readers and listeners about all sorts of topics. But once in a while we get a question that deserves a full BreakPoint in response.

Recently, a woman wrote in asking how she can know that she’s really worshipping God. “For years,” she explains, “attending church meant singing in the choir, playing bells, women’s Bible study, organizing funeral dinners, cleaning the church, making banners…now I’m in my mid 70s and all those things are not on my list anymore and I’m wondering: have I really been worshipping God all these years or was it just busy work? And how do we know if we are worshipping when we are sitting in church? Sorry to bother you but I’m locked in my house and my resources are limited.”

First of all, what an outstanding question. To this listener: Your heart for the Lord and for His people is obvious, and it sounds like you have years of faithful, humble service behind you. Don’t doubt for a moment that your work—whether in corporate worship, or feeding the congregation, or helping them grieve, celebrate, or just enjoy a beautiful space has been anything but precious in God’s sight. Nor are you likely to know this side of eternity the kind of impact you had on the lives of your fellow worshippers.

Our culture teaches us to admire dramatic, heroic acts—the kind that make headlines and exciting movies. But I think if there’s anyone sure to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” it’s those like this listener, whose mundane, often unnoticed acts of love for the church span decades. “Busywork” has nothing to do with it. A life spent this way is more like, a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”

Now, I understand there’s more to this question. It sounds like this listener’s time in church services has been put on hold because of COVID. How does someone who is no longer able to serve God’s people in obvious ways continue to worship Him?

The answer really gets to the heart of what serving and worshipping God means. We have this deeply ingrained instinct that a higher calling must be dramatic, marked by speeches, battles, cures for diseases or passing historic legislation. But I’m convinced that the bulk of really world-changing work is done by ordinary people who will never make headlines, living faithful lives where God had placed them. They’re the ones who really shape cultures and ultimately, eternity. Most importantly, their worship is pleasing to God.

Remember the story of the Widow’s Mite? All of the rich dumped bags of gold into the temple coffer. The woman who had barely two copper coins to rub together? She dropped them both in. And Jesus said she out-gave them all.

The point is clear: The God who owns everything and has all power doesn’t need our resources, and He’s not impressed by our resumes. He’s mainly interested in our faithfulness and our sincerity. And that’s good news, because it means we can truly worship and glorify Him wherever we are and no matter how humble our circumstances.

Look, I get it. It’s tough when your mission field shrinks. Every CEO who retires feels that letdown. Every mom whose child goes off to college wonders, “What now?” The point is that God doesn’t need us to do “great things” for Him. He wants us to do the right thing no matter where we are.

Sweep the floor, make the bed, do the dishes, put food on the table, meditate on Scripture—maybe invite that neighbor no one ever talks with to join you. In all of these circumstances, it isn’t so much what you do, but the Person for whom you do it that matters.

Our listener is right to see being in church as a priority. If at all possible and prudent, we should be with God’s people and serve wherever we can. But though the worship we give Him on Sunday is central, Scripture is clear that everything done well to God’s glory is also a spiritual act of worship. It’s also clear that acts the world sees as having little value can be priceless in God’s sight.

So, to our questioner: Keep up the good work, to the glory of God, wherever you find yourself, and you’ll truly be worshipping. To the rest of our listeners: find someone like this woman and start taking notes. 

And please join me and Shane every Wednesday on the BreakPoint Podcast, where we take and respond to readers’ questions.

Mar 02, 2021
Victims of the Equality Act - Ryan T. Anderson and Emilie Kao - BreakPoint Podcast
50:50

Ryan T. Anderson and Emilie Kao joined John to reveal the victims of the Equality Act. 

Ryan T. Anderson is an American political philosopher who is best known for his opposition to same-sex marriage. He is currently president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Emilie Kao is an attorney who has defended religious freedom for the last 14 years. She has worked on behalf of victims of religious freedom violations in East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South Asia at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and Becket Law.

Previously she worked at the United Nations and Latham and Watkins.

Kao also taught international human rights law at George Mason University Law School as an adjunct law professor.

Mar 01, 2021
A Promise to America’s Children
05:20

Thirty years ago, the idea of socially and medically experimenting on children to advance a controversial and unproven ideology was unthinkable. Today, it’s considered by some to be unquestionable. There is a full-court press to fully and finally embed transgender ideology in public life, especially with school-aged children, starting with the Equality Act.

In his promises and nominations, President Biden has made his priorities on this clear. In his first day in office, he signed an executive order forcing K-12 public schools that accept federal funds to adopt sexual orientation and gender identity policies. As Emilie Kao at The Heritage Foundation points out, this paves the way for ending girls’sports and violating the privacy of bathrooms and locker rooms. We can also expect curriculum that would expose elementary-age children to claims such as, “little girls might be little boys trapped in the wrong body.” So-called “gender-affirming” treatments, including social reinforcement, puberty blockers, and even mutilating surgeries, will enforced as the only acceptable course of action for counselors, teachers, physicians, and parents.

At the root of this all-out assault on our children is the dangerously bad idea that adult desires matter more than the wellbeing of children. Each chapter of the sexual revolution, but especially the most recent ones, have placed “us before them,” repeating the same myth in various forms: “the kids will be fine.”

But they’re not. As author and children’s rights activist Katy Faust insists, “Our culture and our laws must incentivize and encourage adults to conform their behavior to the needs of their children.” We need, she says, “a new global children’s rights movement.”

Christians ask me all the time, but especially when it comes to the all-out cultural assault on children, what can we do? My first answer is we must not sit this one out. In fact, Christian history is full of stories of Christians who confronted a pagan culture by seeking to protect children who were being abused and victimized. Two examples that come to mind are Amy Carmichael, who won souls and freed temple prostitutes, and William Wilberforce, who freed slaves and instituted child labor reforms.

This is our moment to live out our faith by looking after children.

To do just that is why the Colson Center has joined an important new coalition, of over a dozen other organizations, thousands of parents, and dozens of lawmakers. The Promise to America’s Children (which is headed up by the Heritage Foundation, the Family Policy Alliance, and the Alliance Defending Freedom) has articulated a simple promise: that as adults, we will protect children in three areas: their minds, their bodies, and their most important relationships.

I’m quoting here from the Promise:

“I promise to nurture and protect your mind as you grow, doing everything in my power to keep you from harm, to instill values, and to give you the best opportunities for success.”

“I promise to honor and protect your body as you grow, affirming your dignity and worth in the body you have been fearfully and wonderfully given.”

“I promise to invest in, nurture, and protect our relationship because you are unconditionally loved by and of infinite worth to me.”

Within each promise are a set of principles that identify the key ways  children need protection. Their minds need to be protected from graphic pornography and harmful curriculum. Their bodies need to be protected with privacy in vulnerable places like bathrooms and from experimental surgeries that create permanent damage. Their relationships with parents need to be protected from unnecessary government intervention and educators who think parents don’t deserve to know what’s going on with their kids.

Read and sign this promise at promisetoamericaschildren.org. The statement can then be shared with your church leaders and legislators. In fact, the legislators that sign on receive model legislation that they can back and promote and that reflect the principles laid out in the full statement. Even better, you can share this statement and discuss the three areas to protect children and the ten principles of doing so, with your unbelieving friends and neighbors. I’m serious, this statement will help you discuss this difficult issue with others.

To be even better equipped, check out today’s BreakPoint podcast. Dr. Ryan Anderson joins me to discuss the Equality Act, followed by Emily Kao, who is spearheading this coalition effort, The Promise to America’s Children. Also, for a gift of any amount this month, we will send you Katy Faust’s new book, Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement.

Mar 01, 2021
The Tsunami-like Impact of the Equality Act - BreakPoint This Week
59:29

The Equality Act promises to impact nearly every aspect of life for men, women, and children. John Stonestreet, Shane Morris, and Maria Baer explore the impact the Equality Act will have on society.

The trio also explores cancel culture and how it is causing big tech responses to ideas that aren't celebrated in progressive advances. Ryan T. Anderson's book When Harry Became Sally, presents strong evidence through research and stories to show the challenge in responding outside of physical reality for those challenged by gender dysphoria. They reference Rand Paul's recent interaction with Rachel Levine, formerly known as Richard Levine, over what is called gender mutilation around the world. Called gender transitioning in America, Levine responds saying, essentially, the science is complicated but firm and settled. John highlights how this issue impacts some of the most vulnerable in our society, namely children, and the culture is experimenting on the vulnerable with this issue.

John calls Christians to respond in two ways. He calls Christians to research, build understanding, and discuss these issues in our circles. Christians cannot sit out on this issue. He also calls Christians to count the cost of participating in championing God's story on this matter. Maria highlights Solzhenitzyn's phrase Live Not By Lies, being made popular again by Rod Dreher.She notes that our call is simply to tell the truth, and helping others align their felt truth against physical reality.

To close, Maria shares a story from Smith College where a student was eating lunch in a closed cafeteria. After being nicely engaged and escorted out, the young lady took to social media to claim racial bias. After an investigation the school found the claims were unfounded. The trio unpack this issue, highlighting the clashes that are happening inside intersectionality.

Feb 26, 2021
Britney Spears Is Not a Thing (She’s a Person)
05:13

Last summer, outside a California courtroom, a group of protestors gathered, marched, chanted, took lots of selfies, and held signs that read, “Free Britney.” Footage from that day now comprises the opening scene of a newly released New York Times documentary about Britney Spears, the pop music star who rose to fame as barely a teenager in the early 2000s. 

Spears is now in the middle of a legal battle over control of her financial estate. Her genuinely tragic story begins with her parents’ insistence on making Britney a star at an extremely young age. Having achieved that goal, her innocent “bubble gum pop” persona turned into something far less innocent. After spending much of her career attempting to outdo her previous sexual explicitness, Britney Spears has spiraled into ongoing and severe mental health issues, worsened by broken relationships, and constantly being stalked by paparazzi. 

Objectifying others is not only a sin itself, it leads to other sins. Pride, contempt, jealousy, adultery, murder, sexual predation, even self-harming behaviors like drug abuse and sexual promiscuity are all rooted in seeing and using people, even ourselves, as objects instead of Image-bearers. 

Most Christians, and even non-Christians, would say that treating anyone in any of these ways is wrong. However, objectifying people has become so normal, we do it in ways we don’t even realize. Some of those protestors who gathered outside the courthouse in California were probably genuinely concerned for her well-being. But what of the others, such as those telling reporters over and over how much they “love” this pop star they don’t even know? Aren’t they really using her, too?

After all, they’ve turned her situation – her tragedy and pain – into something to consume. It’s entertainment, or catharsis. They are using a person they cannot practically love, serve, sacrifice for, or even talk to, and making her fill a need they have. That’s objectification, too.

This behavior is different than admiring or honoring a well-known figure. There is a fundamental difference between, for example, the Americans who lined up along railroad tracks to honor the life of Abraham Lincoln as his body was taken to lie in state, and those who gathered for the “Free Britney” rally outside family court. Admiring virtue and being grateful for a life well-lived is different from looking to fill a need that should be met in real relationships.   

In a celebrity-driven culture like ours, it is tempting to think we have a celebrity-shaped hole in our hearts instead of a God-shaped one. For artists, this takes the form of seeking to be popular instead of seeking excellence. For consumers, this takes the form of elevating and worshiping celebrities in their prime and then ridiculing them and gawking at them afterwards. 

Celebrity-ism is as much a problem in the Church as out. We can be grateful for YouTube access to the teachings, articles, and sermons of our favorite pastors and for the inspiration from our favorite Christian authors or artists through Instagram. But are we idolizing? Are we angry if they say something we don’t like, commenting as if they’re not real people or as if their job is always to agree with us? Do we assume a level of intimacy that is not appropriate with someone we actually don’t know? Do we use them to replace local churches or to provide spiritual authority in our lives, when that is not their place nor role?

The dangerous mistake is confusing our ability to enjoy the consumable goods we get from Christians “celebrities” or social-media influencers with a right to access or intimacy with the people themselves to meet our needs. It is a mistake we make with people we don’t agree with, too. Just look how Christians treat each other on Twitter, as if we are dealing with cartoon characters instead of real people. 

When it comes to the clarity we need on human value and boundaries with others, our culture is both out of ideas and off its foundation. Objectifying, idolizing, and “celebritizing” (I made that one up…) are all ways of treating image bearers as brands, not people, expecting them to fill our need, whether for diversion or community or meaning. In that context, mutual fandom and the hatred of a common enemy are two sides of the same coin. 

No matter how interesting, how talented, how fun to love or hate they are, people are not objects.

Feb 26, 2021
Harriet Tubman, a Woman of Faith and Courage
03:55

The Biden administration recently announced it will accelerate the process of replacing President Andrew Jackson image on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman, at least on the front. Jackson would still appear on the reverse side. This plan was first announced under the Obama Administration but was halted by President Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

As the excellent 2019 film portrayed, Harriet Tubman was a towering figure of courage and faith who risked her own life and freedom, time and time again, to rescue men and women from slavery.

Tubman was born into slavery on a Maryland plantation in 1822. As a young girl, she was trained as a nursemaid and made to work driving oxen and trapping muskrats in the woods. Harriet’s owners frequently whipped her. She also endured the pain of seeing three of her sisters sold, never to be seen again.

Even as a child, Harriet demonstrated a strong rebellious streak, running away for days at a time. She may have learned this from her mother. When her owner attempted to sell one of her brothers, Harriet’s mother dissuaded the would-be buyer by announcing, “The first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open.” This may have been where Harriet learned that resistance to evil was not only right, but could even sometimes be successful. Harriet’s deep and abiding faith also came from her mother, who would tell her stories from the Bible.

At about 26 years old, when Harriett learned she might be sold away from her family, she made her escape along the Underground Railroad, traveling at night to avoid slave catchers and following the North Star until she reached Pennsylvania and freedom.

Once there, she made a dangerous choice. She decided to risk her own freedom in order to give others theirs.

For eight years, as America headed toward the cauldron of the Civil War, Tubman made many dangerous trips back to Maryland, leading scores of slaves north to freedom. During these trips she relied upon God to guide and protect her. She never once lost a runaway slave. As Tubman herself later put it, “I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

Harriett never took credit for her remarkable success. Instead, she explained, “’Twant me, ‘twas the Lord. I always told him, ‘I trusts to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,’ and he always did.”

In the process, she earned an appropriate nickname: Moses. Abolitionist Thomas Garrett put it, “I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul.”

During the Civil War, Harriet worked for the Union Army as a scout, spy, cook, and nurse to wounded and sick soldiers. Amazingly, she even helped lead an armed assault on Southern plantations in coastal South Carolina, during which 750 slaves were rescued. Many, she then recruited to join the Army.

In later years, Tubman became an advocate for women’s suffrage. She also donated property to be turned into a home for former slaves, despite the fact she lived in or near poverty for much of her life, mostly because she constantly worked to help others. It took 30 years for Tubman’s service to the Union Army to finally be recognized by the U. S. government. She was awarded a widow’s pension of $8 per month in 1895, and an additional $12 a month in 1899 for her war-time service as a nurse. If you do the math, that’s $20.

Now, 100-plus years after her death, the United States is ready to bestow on this heroic woman of faith the honor of placing her portrait on the $20 bill. Both ironic and fitting.

Feb 25, 2021
Is the Church Really A Representative of God Right Now?
42:33

John and Shane walk through a challenging question related to perceived impressions that the church is slipping into moral deism. A Colson Fellow asked about John's Bene-Kuyper option, blending the Benedict Option and Kuyper's view of culture engagement. 

Another Colson Fellow asked John and Shane to explain how to engage a pastor and encourage a church that doesn't see the need to participate in conversations in the culture. The Fellow mentioned there is a growing fear the church could "lose our witness to the lost".

To close, John is asked how believers should respond in the wake of the Ravi Zacharias report. When pastors, priests, and teachers fall morally, how should bewildered Christians move forward? 

Feb 24, 2021
The Equality Act
05:03

Late last week, Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced the Equality Act, a grave threat to religious liberty and conscience rights that would, in effect, erase all legal distinctions between male and female in public life. The Equality Act would make gender identity and sexual orientation protected classes under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forcing compliance in areas such as public accommodation and education.

Until the GOP lost majority in the Senate, there wasn’t much of a chance of the Equality Act becoming law. The outcome of the Senate runoff races in Georgia made it much more practical for President Biden to keep his promise of signing the Equality Act into law. Of course, its fate in the Democrat-controlled House was never really in doubt.

To be clear, you should only care about the Equality Act if you are a Christian, or a person of faith, or a woman, or own a business, or run a non-profit, or go to school, or teach at a school, or are a medical or mental-health professional, or (especially) are a female athlete, or under the age of 18, or ever use a public restroom. That’s not an exaggeration. In fact, here is the exact wording from the Equality Act:

“An individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.”

This applies to…

“any establishment that provides a good, service, or program, including a store, shopping center, online retailer or service provider, salon, bank, gas station, food bank, service or care center, shelter, travel agency or funeral parlor, or establishment that provides health care, accounting or legal services,” along with any organization that receives any federal funding.

So, for example, as Ryan Anderson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center described in an op ed this week:

“Medical doctors, secular and religious, whose ­expert judgment is that sex-reassignment procedures are misguided would now run afoul of our civil-rights laws. If you perform a mastectomy in the case of breast cancer, you will have to perform one on the teenage girl identifying as a boy. All in the name of equality.”

Shelters for battered women would be forced to admit biological males. Prisons would not be able to protect female inmates from predatory males who claim to be females. Biological males will be given the opportunities, scholarships, and championships of female athletes. It’s not clear that women’s sports would survive. More religious adoption and foster-care agencies would be forced to compromise their convictions about marriage and the family or shut down. School bathrooms and locker rooms would be open to both sexes.

In addition to these specifics, the Equality Act would bring with it three broad, sweeping changes. First, specific conscience protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which have long been legal priorities, would be circumvented in cases deemed discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Effectively, conscience rights deemed religiously-based would be tossed aside.

Second, anyone who affirms the biological reality of the sexes would be, in law, relegated to the same status as the racists whose oppression of African Americans made the 1964 Civil Rights Act necessary.

Finally, The Equality Act would have a dramatic impact on education, public or private. According to a new coalition called “Promise to America’s Children,” a coalition I’m proud to be a part of, the Equality Act greases the skids for even more graphic curricula “about sex, abortion, and politicized ideas about sexual orientation and gender identity ideology . . .” Not only that, but as federal legislation, this would affect every state, not just progressive ones, “overriding efforts by concerned parents and community members at the local level.”

It’s not over, however. The Equality Act still faces significant obstacles in the Senate. Here are three things you can do:

  • Contact your Representative and your Senators and let them know to oppose the Equality Act.
  • Share widely the resources and articles on the Equality Act found at BreakPoint.org.
  • Go to promisetoamericaschildren.org and sign the statement committing to prioritize children’s rights over adult happiness. That’s PromiseToAmericasChildren.org, and share the resources found there with your pastor, church, and community.
Feb 24, 2021
Amazon Blocks Sale of Book Exposing Transgender Ideology
05:29

Several months ago, Amazon began blocking the sale of books they deemed “dangerous” to LGBTQ people. Some of these books, to be frank, were hateful and demeaning. Others were deemed hateful for simply questioning the dominant narratives about homosexuality, gay marriage, or gender dysphoria. The most recent book banned by Amazon is among the most scholarly and thoroughly researched on the issue of transgenderism. When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment was written by Ryan Anderson, recently named president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Anderson’s book, along with Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (which surprisingly hasn’t been blocked by Amazon…yet) are the two essential reads on the topic. You can still buy both from our online bookstore at BreakPoint.org, even if you can’t on Amazon.

What Anderson does so well in When Harry Became Sally is to articulate how transgender ideology is advanced by misstatements and contradictions. For example, there’s a dramatic disparity between what we're told about those who identify as transgender and what the research actually shows. We’re told that children know if they are “born in the wrong bodies,” but anywhere from 80 to 95 percent of children who question their gender identity eventually outgrow those feelings. We are told that gender transition surgery is necessary because of high suicide rates, but rather that reducing the risk among those who identify as transgendered, transition surgery may dramatically increase it. In other words, the process of learning the best way to care for those with gender dysphoria has been pre-empted by ideology, not led by evidence.

In When Harry Became Sally, Anderson shares stories of people who aren’t supposed to exist.  "De-transitioners" are those who chose to identify and live as the opposite gender, often undergoing therapies and surgeries, only to come to regret their decision desperately. When Harry Became Sally is one of the few places to learn that there are people who realized these decisions only harmed their bodies but didn’t make them happy.

Through science, philosophy, and clear reason, When Harry Became Sally refutes the popular ideas of our day – that gender is a social construct, that sex isn’t biological but assigned at birth, and that the only way to help those who feel “trapped” in their bodies is by altering their bodies and not their feelings.

The best biology, psychology, and philosophy all support an understanding of sex as a bodily reality, and an understanding of gender as a social manifestation of bodily sex,” writes Anderson. The case is so clear, in fact, supporters of transgender ideology have to rely on coercion, power (think the Equality Act), and name-calling to end the debate and advance their cause. Enlisting corporations like Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter has proven particularly effective.

Even so, too many Christians still wonder why this issue matters. Here are three reasons:

First, our bodies matter. This is no trivial point of Christian theology. The opening chapters of Scripture reveal that being made in God’s image means being made male and female. Jesus is revealed as the Word who became flesh and was bodily resurrected from the dead. In the New Heavens and New Earth, we will know Him by His scars. To deny the body is to deny God’s created order and His self-revelation as Redeemer.

Second, transgender ideology specifically teaches children they were born wrong, and that rejecting their bodies (maybe even mutilating it) is the best way forward. If we love our neighbors, especially the children in our culture, we cannot remain silent on this one.

Finally, allowing transgender ideology to go unchallenged, to hijack social justice movements, and to be legislatively forced on society through the Equality Act will roll back every achievement of women’s protections and rights, especially in privacy, education, and competition. Men will simply claim the rights of women. This is why so many women who identify as feminists and lesbians despise the way the transgender movement is hijacking their cause. As my friend Glenn Stanton says, transgender ideology is the new patriarchy.

Pick up a copy of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment at our online bookstore. Amazon may not want you to read it, but that tells you everything you need to know about why you should.

Feb 23, 2021
French Postmodern Chickens Come Home to Roost
05:19

Recently, a New York Times article quoted a French government official: “There’s a battle to wage against an intellectual matrix from American universities.’’ As the article went on to explain, “prominent [French] intellectuals have banded together against what they regard as contamination by the out-of-control woke leftism of American campuses and its attendant cancel culture.”

It’s tempting here to channel the faux outrage of the French policeman in the movie “Casablanca.” I’m shocked, shocked to learn that postmodern ideas born and bred in the rich soil of the French intelligentsia have mutated into something unsavory. Who could have predicted that divorcing truth from reality would lead to even more divisive and destructive ideas?

The path from Parisian literary theorists puzzling over the power of words to the not-so-friendly neighborhood activist outraged by pronouns is pretty clear. Reacting to the overconfidence and over-promises of Modernism and the Enlightenment, French intellectuals in the mid-20th Century like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida proposed a way of thinking that was skeptical and largely cynical. Postmodernism took observable parts of human life, particularly cultural biases and the tendency of powerful people to oppress their neighbors and built an elaborate philosophical system around them.

The end result was a worldview that denied that humans could have any real access to truth. Instead, all we have is words by which we attempt to describe reality and communicate. Our words, however, are hopelessly burdened with our culturally-determined biases shaped by the powerful. Our words so shape the way we see the world, postmodernism suggested, that we really have no access to reality at all. We are all trapped in our perspectives.

The spectrum of postmodern thought vacillated between an uncertainty of knowledge to a focus on power. Describing this way of thinking, Angela Franks recently described in First Things, “we are not controlled by a puppet master. Rather, we live in a vast network of demands, commandments, inducements, sorting mechanisms, disciplines, and more. ‘Power’ has no center. It is the aggregate of multiple, shifting relationships.”

Other than much of the popular music of the 1990s (from Kurt Cobain to Eminem), postmodernism remained largely a scholar’s game. Professors and students might tut-tut about there being nothing outside the text but, for ideas to escape the academy for the real world, humans need more than abstractions.

It was the evolution of Critical Theory that gave the fundamental assumptions of postmodernism flesh. As Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay describe in their book, Cynical Theories, what began as a new way to interpret texts mutated into a quest “to reconstruct society in the image of an ideology.” Proponents of Critical Theory are as adamantly against the powerful imposing their views on the oppressed as any postmodernist was. However, with a moralistic streak, they’ve added the demand that all views must be conformed to theirs, and they will use their newly acquired cultural power to punish anyone who fails to comply. 

What we’re left with are directionless, insatiable demands to combat injustice and oppression but without any means to say one moral claim is better than another. Attempts to find or forge common ground between people or communities are cynically seen as a quest for power and oppression.

In the end, as fun as it is to tease our friends in France about the ideas that were birthed on their shores, they are right about the dangers of Critical Theory, especially to those core French ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity and their hope in the universal rights of a universal humanity.

Of course, like postmodernism and Critical Theory, Christianity also objects to failed promises of the Enlightenment and Modernism. Christianity, however, is hopeful, not cynical. Rather than reducing life to a constant battle for status and power, Christianity offers the only historically solid ground for unity or progress. In the imago Dei, Christianity tethers universal human dignity and justice. In the doctrine of the Fall, we make sense of power and oppression. Within the framework of redemption, we have hope for a life propelled by love, not universal, unending, unwinnable competition.

This framework tasks Christ-followers to work for justice but to be driven by mercy. We are called to love our neighbor, not see them as the hated “other.” In other words, the Christian ethic provides the passion and foundation for a better humanity and a more just world, which postmodernism and its offspring sought, but could never find.

Feb 22, 2021
Give Jack Some Slack: The Ongoing Harassment of Masterpiece Cakeshop Owner Jack Phillips
01:01:48

For more than a decade, LGBTQ advocates have sought to force Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips to decorate cakes with messages that violate his Christian faith. This despite his victory at the Supreme Court, this despite the Colorado Civil Rights Commission being forced to end the persecution. Jack is back in court again, this time defending himself from a lawsuit initiated by  transgender attorney, who, as John Stonestreet explains passionately, is waging a vendetta against Jack Phillips.

Also in this episode: John and Shane Morris discuss the ramifications and lessons learned from the revelations regarding the late Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias; the remarkable legacy of Rush Limbaugh, who passed this week; South Carolina's new heartbeat bill to protect the lives of the unborn--and just how ridiculous abortion advocates look when they insist on stopping a beating heart.

They wrap up the show with their recommendations: Miracles by C. S. Lewis, and  . . . the next time you're in Florida . . . The Kennedy Space Center.

------Resources------

Register for our Short Course with Thaddeus Williams, author of Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth

"Jack Philips's Legal Battle Continues," by John Stonestreet, BreakPoint

Support Jack Phillips

"The Infinite Human Capacity to Deceive Ourselves and Then Rationalize It," by John Stonestreet, BreakPoint

Miracles, by C. S. Lewis, available in the Colson Center online bookstore

Visit the Kennedy Space Center

Feb 19, 2021
Give Jack Some Slack: The Ongoing Harassment of Masterpiece Cakeshop Owner Jack Phillips

For more than a decade, LGBTQ advocates have sought to force Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips to decorate cakes with messages that violate his Christian faith. This despite his victory at the Supreme Court, this despite the Colorado Civil Rights Commission being forced to end the persecution. Jack is back in court again, this time defending himself from a lawsuit initiated by  transgender attorney, who, as John Stonestreet explains passionately, is waging a vendetta against Jack Phillips.

Also in this episode: John and Shane Morris discuss the ramifications and lessons learned from the revelations regarding the late Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias; the remarkable legacy of Rush Limbaugh, who passed this week; South Carolina's new heartbeat bill to protect the lives of the unborn--and just how ridiculous abortion advocates look when they insist on stopping a beating heart.

They wrap up the show with their recommendations: Miracles by C. S. Lewis, and  . . . the next time you're in Florida . . . The Kennedy Space Center.

------Resources------

Register for our Short Course with Thaddeus Williams, author of Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth

"Jack Philips's Legal Battle Continues," by John Stonestreet, BreakPoint

Support Jack Phillips

"The Infinite Human Capacity to Deceive Ourselves and Then Rationalize It," by John Stonestreet, BreakPoint

Miracles, by C. S. Lewis, available in the Colson Center online bookstore

Visit the Kennedy Space Center

Feb 19, 2021
Redeeming Gender in an Increasingly Gender-Hostile World
05:14

In 2015, Drag Queen Story Hour launched in San Francisco. Exactly what it sounds like - men dressed as women (often provocatively) reading stories (often provocatively) to young kids in schools or public libraries - the organization now operates across the country. “Dressing in drag” almost always involves exaggerated makeup, exaggerated hair, and gaudy, sexually suggestive clothing.

One goal of Drag Queen Story Hour, according to its website, is to celebrate “people who defy rigid gender restrictions.” It’s a strange claim for a group that relies so heavily on exaggerated stereotypes of femininity. Instead of “defying rigid gender restrictions,” their “performances” portray their small, shriveled imagination of what it is to be a woman.

The larger transgender movement also relies almost completely on this kind of stereotyping. The feminist movement spent decades trying to dismantle stereotypical tropes such as “girls like pink and play with dolls” and “boys like sports and red meat,” and yet, here we are telling boys who like pink or girls who like baseball they were born in the wrong bodies, on no other evidence but those same stereotypes.

Christianity offers a far better message about who we are as male and female. To share it effectively, we’ll need a strategy that goes beyond merely protecting religious liberty, as important as that is. To be clear, we must do that hard work of preserving conscience protections for individuals and institutions who do not capitulate to the demands of the transgender movement. At the same time, as more and more young people (especially middle school girls) suddenly claim to be the opposite gender, we have to do more than just say “no.” We have to elevate God’s good design. We have to articulate what it is to be a woman and not a man; or a man and not a woman.

Unfortunately, with many exceptions, the Church hasn’t always done a great job of this. In fact, the Church often resorts to stereotypes, too, though usually in a more positive direction and with better intentions. Still, in our zeal to resist harmful teachings on gender so prevalent in our culture for so long, we have often failed to understand why God would make men and women and make them so different. Instead, we have reduced the answers to these incredibly important questions to culturally contingent things such as “gender roles” or, even worse, gender-based restrictions, without careful theological reflection on God’s design.

It makes sense. After all, lists are easier to grasp a list than sacred mysteries, and the concept of “roles” isn’t a bad one. Roles and lists are attempts to flesh out the implications of design within certain contexts. Some roles will never change. For example, only women will ever be mothers, and only men will ever be fathers. Other roles do change as cultural norms change.

The biblical vision of male and female is beautiful. Men and women were made differently but point to the same dynamic God. When God created both Adam and Eve, He said they both were created in His Image and were “very good.” It’s notable that before the author of Genesis reveals Eve’s name, he reveals she also was made in the image of God.

According to theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand, the point of our gendered design is “to be transformed into Christ, to become holy and glorify God, and to reach eternal communion with God… [t]he specific tone of masculinity and femininity must appear by itself.”

The experience of living as men and women in the world will be varied, though there are certainly uncrossable boundaries. Our best expressions of our gender are demonstrated not by conforming to stereotypes, but by conforming to Christ in the unique ways men and women are each called.

The men and women that appear throughout the Scriptures are not portrayed as epitomized versions of their gender. Rather, they reveal the glory and power of God, which is, Paul says, made perfect in our weakness.

Women can’t be men, and men can’t be women. That may not sound like good news to someone suffering with gender dysphoria, but it is. Both men and women, in their differences, point in unique ways to Jesus. Across these differences, both men and women must carry crosses in order to follow Him. That maleness and femaleness are gifts, and not constraints, is very good news in an increasingly gender-hostile world. 

Feb 19, 2021
Jack Phillips Legal Battles Continue
04:58

On June 4, 2018, it looked like Jack Phillips’s long legal nightmare was finally over. The Supreme Court had ruled in his favor in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, verbally smacking down the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for attempting to coerce him into using his artistic skills to endorse a message and slandering his religious views in the process. Finally, after several years of fighting, Jack could return to his business and his artistry without compromising his faith.

Or so he thought.

On the very day that the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case, June 26, 2017, local Denver attorney Autumn Scardina called Jack and asked him to create a pink and blue cake celebrating his “gender transition.” Phillips’s staff replied that his religious beliefs precluded him from creating a cake to express that message. That account was, by the way, Scardina’s as well—at least at first.

Scardina then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The Commission, even after the Supreme Court decision, found probable cause to proceed with this new accusation. In response, Jack filed a federal lawsuit against the Commission, alleging that it was carrying out a vendetta against him.

In March 2019, Colorado officials announced that Scardina’s case before the Commission had been dismissed with prejudice. Finally, end of story, right?

No. Scardina responded by filing a private lawsuit alleging Phillips had violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.

Scardina’s personal vendetta to get Jack faces two significant obstacles. First, his original complaint with the Commission was dismissed with prejudice. In other words, Scardina has had his day in court. Second, Scardina has told different versions of the events of June 2017. Initially, Scardina admitted that Jack had, because of his religious beliefs, declined the request to create a custom pink and blue cake in order to celebrate a gender transition. In the private suit, Scardina changed stories, suggesting that Jack turned down a request for a simple pink and blue cake only after learning that Scardina identified as transgender.

And, with that changed story, Scardina also accused Jack of violating Colorado’s consumer protection laws with false advertising. Though no one would consider news articles and a fundraising site for a Supreme Court case “advertising,” Scardina pointed to them, and Jack’s claim that he chooses to create cakes based on the message they convey, not the sexual orientation or gender identity of the customer. Even if Jack’s statements are stretched and called “advertising,” they still are not, as the Alliance Defending Freedom pointed out, a “promise to create every cake requested of him, no matter the cake’s message.”

Scardina’s claims are farcical, but the judge refused to completely dismiss the case. Instead, he permitted Scardina to file an amended complaint--twice. In the second amended complaint Scardina claims to have requested the cake out of pity for Jack, after hearing how much business Masterpiece Cakeshop had lost. Jack’s lawyers at ADF are opposing this motion.

At this point, Jack Phillip’s latest trial is scheduled to begin in March. The stakes are enormous. If Scardina prevails on the consumer protection claim, Jack could potentially have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees, which would put him out of business for good.

Jack’s legal battles have gone on for nearly a decade. He lost his wedding cake business, and tens of thousands of dollars in time and lost revenue. The Alliance Defending Freedom has been with him every step of the way, but he needs our support as well. After all, he is fighting a battle for our freedom as well.

Please pray for a successful outcome in this trial. Pray for Jack’s strength and courage. Pray that Scardina will have a change of heart and will just leave Jack alone.

Also consider supporting Jack financially. If you are able to purchase goods and services from him directly, I can assure you he hasn’t lost his touch. There’s also a page where you can donate to support him.

Feb 18, 2021