Breakpoint

By Colson Center

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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
Social Media Illnesses
01:02

Jesus said to get rid of your eye or hand if it offends you, but getting rid of the internet or social media can be even harder to fathom for many of us. Maybe it shouldn’t be. 

Sep 28, 2022
James Cameron’s Avatar Is Back in Theaters
04:17

Avatar stands as one of the clearest examples of how worldviews can be embedded in stories, and of New Age ideas embedded in a film. Chuck Colson reminds us that every movie contains worldview messages, which gives Christians the opportunity to discern, to engage, and to communicate truth with others. 

Sep 28, 2022
Gender Dysphoria vs. Muscle Dysmorphia: Why the Difference?
01:05

All of the reports correctly treat muscle dysmorphia as a disorder that required helping these men see the goodness of their bodies as they are. Yet these same news outlets treat gender dysphoria as a problem of the body, with treatment that involves body modification, such as hormones and surgery. 

Sep 27, 2022
Planned Parenthood’s New Revenue Stream Is Not a New Direction
05:57

America’s largest provider and promoter of abortion has added another revenue stream. This one also promises to destroy lives, albeit in a new and subtler way. This one also promises to help women but is, in actuality, built on ideas that deny the existence of women.

Sep 27, 2022
Marriages Are Up in War-Torn Ukraine

According to the CDC, there were 600,000 fewer marriages in the United States in 2020 than in 2000, even though the population grew by nearly 50 million. While many reasons are offered for the downward trend, one of the most common is cultural instability. 

But that explanation does not apply to Ukraine, which has been in the midst of a war for the past six months. With thousands dead, infrastructure wrecked, and control of cities switching back and forth, “stability” wouldn’t be the word to describe Ukraine. Yet, in the first half of 2022, the nation had a record number of marriages, with weddings more likely at the front than behind the lines.  

What explains so many couples taking the big leap in the face of mortal danger? Maybe they’ve got nothing to lose. Maybe marriage is an act of defiant hope. And maybe, marriage isn’t the relationship of convenience that so many in the West have come to think of it as.  

Sep 26, 2022
What “The State of Theology” Tells Us
05:04

Every two years, Ligonier Ministries works with LifeWay Research to evaluate the theological temperature of the American church. This year’s State of Theology study’s results show that not just Americans but evangelicals in particular are increasingly muddy on core truths such as the nature and character of God, the reality of human sin, the role of the Church in the world, and the exclusivity and divinity of Jesus Christ.

For context, the survey defines “evangelical” as a Christian believer who meets four criteria: that the Bible is the highest authority for what someone believes, that it is important for non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their savior, that Jesus’ death on the cross is the only sacrifice that removes the penalty of humanity’s sin, and that only those who trust in Him alone receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. Though that definition is a promising theological start, the results go quickly downhill from there.

For example, nearly half of evangelicals agreed that God “learns and adapts” to different circumstances, in stark contrast to the biblical doctrine of unchanging nature, or immutability; 65% of evangelicals agreed that everyone is “born innocent in the eyes of God,” denying the doctrine of original sin, and with it, the very reason that people need salvation in the first place.

Some 56% of evangelicals agreed with the idea that “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam,” in contrast to Jesus’ words in Matthew that without Him, “no one knows the Father.”

The most stunning result had to do with the topic of Jesus Christ’s divinity. When asked whether they agreed that “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God,” 43% of American evangelicals answered yes. That number is up 13% from just two years ago.

Even if we generously allow for some confusion in the phrasing of the questions and what they implied, The State of Theology paints a bleak picture. People who claim the title of “evangelical,” a title that long was defined, at least in part, by adherence to historic Christian belief, stand a good chance of believing humanity is basically good at birth, that God is not concerned with worship or doctrine being particularly “Christian,” and that Jesus was a good teacher, but not God incarnate.

It’s worth noting that these failures are not because evangelicals have a low view of Scripture. Some 95%, after all, still agree with the statement that “the Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches.” The implication, then, is that they simply don’t know what it teaches, either because they haven’t been taught or they haven’t cared enough to learn.

In fact, in many corners of evangelicalism, it is assumed that doctrine doesn’t matter. This can take at least two forms: hyper-emotionalism, the idea that God will settle for our sincerity and our affection, even over and above whether or not our beliefs are true; or a hyper-politicization, one that assumes it really matters whom you vote for and what group you belong to, not what you believe about the essential truth of the Gospel or the claims of Christ.

In reply to all this, Jesus was really clear. Here’s what He said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the spirit and in truth.” It was for this reason that the divine Logos came into the world “to testify to the truth,” and it’s only the truth that sets us free. And it’s interesting to me that in the Old Testament, idolatry is portrayed not only as worshipping a false God but worshipping a false idea of who God is, such as was the case with the Golden Calf incident.

A bright spot to this survey is what it revealed about hot topics, moral issues: 92% of evangelicals agreed that abortion is a sin, and 94% agreed that sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin, although that conclusion is muddied by another 28% who agreed that Scripture’s condemnation of homosexual behavior “doesn’t apply today.”

We will never have a clear sense of who God is, His omnipotence and immutability, His character and work in the world, how He sees us and what He requires of us, without a biblical understanding of who Jesus is and the absolute authority He wields over all creation. If our thinking is rooted instead in only our political allegiances or some vague notion of God’s “niceness,” we will have simply obtained a “form of godliness, while denying its power.”

Once in a meeting I attended, a Christian leader quipped, “If we could just get all the Christians saved, we’d be in good shape.” The results of this study show it’s time for many so-called Christians to repent, for many churches to renew their commitments to catechism, and for all of us who claim Christ to commit our hearts and minds to know who He is, who He has revealed Himself to be.

Sep 26, 2022
Transgender “Medicine” Exposed at Vanderbilt University, Demise of the New Atheism, and Tensions Since Dobbs
01:10:40

John and Maria discuss the dark, lucrative nature of transgender “medicine” revealed by videos disclosed from Vanderbilt University. They conclude that Christians must step into these muddy cultural waters. Later, they share about a Breakpoint on the demise of the New Atheism and finish with a conversation about the political tensions since the Dobbs decision.

Sep 25, 2022
Pro-Life Resources for this Post-Dobbs Moment
01:03

After the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, the work to protect preborn lives continues at the ground level, in every community, every city, every church. Here are some resources to fulfill that calling.  

Continuum of Care is a project of the Human Coalition that networks mothers to financial services, job training, maternity housing, and other resources in six major cities. To equip churches to minister to pregnant and parenting moms, another pregnancy and life-assistance network, Her Plan, offers a guide you can find online.   

The Abortion Pill Reversal Network educates on the reversal of chemical abortions and connects women who have started a chemical abortion with a provider within 72 hours, the window in which a baby can be saved. And, the Support After Abortion website provides classes, virtual groups, and a help number for those suffering after an abortion. 

These are just some of the organizations and resources available. Let’s make abortion unthinkable. 

Sep 23, 2022
Losing Our Religion: Blue Laws Decline While Deaths of Despair Do Not
05:12

A mortal affliction affects much of America’s heartland. Known as “deaths of despair,” both the Rust Belt and Appalachia have seen incredible spikes in rates of addiction, overdoses, violence, and suicide. In addition to the thousands who die each year by various forms of self-harm, thousands more live Gollum-like, trapped by their chemical chains and in loneliness. 

It is a complex situation. While we must not diminish anyone’s moral agency, the downward paths we are on are paved, lined, and greased by a number of contributing factors. For example, Beth Macy, the author of the book Dope Sick, has documented the lethal partnership of doctors and drug companies, not to mention the co-option of government oversight agencies, which inflicted a plague of highly addictive opioids on some of America’s poorest areas of the country.  

A new recent study, however, points to an additional complexity, an oft-ignored element of this cultural disease: the decline of religion. According to the study’s authors, there is some correlation between the end of so-called “Blue Laws” and the opioid epidemic. In certain parts of the country, Blue Laws have long limited the range of activities allowed on Sundays. Certain businesses were not allowed to be open, and certain things (especially alcohol) could not be sold. Though these laws continue in certain areas, particularly in Europe, they began to disappear in parts of the United States as the 20th century wore on, to the point that now they are few and far between. 

Of course, a significant, culture-wide phenomenon like the opioid crisis cannot be reduced to something as simplistic as whether or not people can shop on Sunday. To do that would be to mistake correlation for causation, kind of like saying murders go up with ice cream sales. And this is something the study’s authors readily admit.  

Rather than claiming that the end of Blue Laws created the opioid crisis, they use the end of Blue Laws as a marker to track the decline in American religiosity. The diminishing connections to faith in communities across the country, especially in those areas where they were once so strong, are among the factors that contributed to our nation’s chemical plague. In other words, Blue Laws are a kind of canary in the coal mine, marking when we’ve crossed a dangerous line. 

In light of these diminishing religious commitments, reinstating Blue Laws likely will not lead to a reversal in rates of addictions or other deaths of despair. Even if they were an important part of our cultural life of faith at one time, too much has changed for such an easy fix. However, what these laws represented and what has been lost as they disappear points to the underlying causes, not only of the opioid crisis but of many of our parallel pains as well. 

What we need to ask is, in a mix of Friedrich Nietzsche and REM, what is the cost of losing our religion? 

As much as we prize our individualism, particularly here in America, human beings aren’t just dust motes of consciousness, floating on the air currents of life. We’re connected, not just to one another, but to a host of other elements through relationships that give us meaning, identity, direction, and hope. To be healthy, as individuals and as communities, these relationships (upward, inward, outward, and downward) must be strong. 

Human beings need a connection to something beyond ourselves, something higher and transcendent in order to find ourselves, to know who and what we are, to be sure of our identity. We need connections with one another, especially the links of family and friendship, in order to be accountable, supported, and complete. And, we need proper connection to the physical world around us, so to be tethered to reality through things like meaningful labor, a place to call home, and some part of the world to call “mine.” 

Marx got it wrong. Religion isn’t the opiate of the masses, but instead a part of life most needed, irreplaceable by technological convenience or scientific mastery. The loss of religion has been a bad idea wherever it has been tried, and those suffering across Appalachia and the Rust Belt are some of its most obvious victims. By abandoning religion, specifically the Christianity which once provided meaning to these now missing relationships, the essential connection between individuals and communities and a higher purpose has been lost.  

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said all the way back in 1983, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Blue Laws didn’t hold off the effects of substance abuse, but the religious impulse that such laws represented were part of a way of seeing life and the world, one in which we weren’t just reduced to being cogs or animals or sexual expressions. The Christianity that the world has rejected offers the hope that the world so desperately needs. 

Sep 23, 2022
Belarus Cracks Down on Religious Groups
01:06

According to Christianity Today, Belarus is cracking down on religious dissent. The new policies come from an earlier case when a Pentecostal group wasn’t allowed to meet together without registering with the government but also wasn’t allowed to register since there were only 13 people. When the group appealed the decision, they received unexpected support from the United Nations. Eager to avoid further embarrassment, Belarus is now taking steps to prevent minority faiths from getting outside aid. 

Of course, dictatorships are never keen on those who refuse to march to the state’s drum, especially religious dissenters. As Francis Schaeffer once argued, no state that claims total authority can tolerate those who recognize a power higher than itself. Thus, conflict between religion and dictatorship is inevitable.  

Which is why religious liberty should never be reduced to a special pleading by quirky groups to practice their hobbies. It makes possible the essential freedom to dissent from those who hold the strings of power. 

Sep 22, 2022
Is the New Atheism Dead?
05:42

Though it’s not always clear when a movement is over, there are many indicators that suggest this is the case of the “New Atheism,” a cultural wave that rose in the 2000s and aggressively attacked religion in the guise of scientific rationalism. Despite the name, the New Atheism wasn’t really new, at least not in the sense of presenting new arguments. Instead, leveraging the global shock of 9/11, New Atheists pushed an anti-religious mood along with a vision of a society free from the cobwebs of religion, defined by scientific inquiry, free speech, and a morality not built on God or religious traditions. 

In 1996, prominent New Atheist Richard Dawkins articulated this mood in his acceptance speech for the “Humanist of the Year” Award: “I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils,” he said, “comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.” There was a commercial aspect to the New Atheism, with bumper stickers and T-shirts carrying well-worn slogans, such as one coined by Victor Stenger: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”  

Though, at the time, it grew into somewhat of a cultural force and platformed a group of minor celebrities, the New Atheism now seems to have run out of steam. Divided by progressive politics and haunted by the obnoxious tone of many of its own founders, the movement is being devoured by other ideologies. Concepts like freedom of expression, scientific realism, and morality without God have all met their antitheses, often in clashes featuring the New Atheists themselves.  

One watershed moment was a conflict over the role of science. Just last year, the American Humanist Association revoked Richard Dawkins’ “Humanist of the Year” award for his long history of offensive tweets. For example, Dawkins told women who experience sexual harassment to “stop whining” and parents of babies with Down syndrome to “abort it and try again.” These tweets were among the cringeworthy, but the one that completed Dawkins’ long transformation from champion of free thought to persona non grata, at least for the American Humanist Association, questioned gender ideology: “In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.”  

The New Atheist commitment to seeking truth via the objectivity of science has collided with a new ideology that deifies the subjective sense of self. Ironically, this is the kind of religious dogmatism Dawkins and other New Atheists always accused organized religions of promoting, only less scientific. 

New Atheism has been further undermined by a cultural shift in censorship and tolerance for freedom of expression. Organized religion, New Atheists claimed, suppressed dissent. Only by enthroning secularism could we remove the fear of speaking or hearing the truth, even when truth is shocking and offensive. As it turned out, religion’s retreat only left a secular progressivism to censor and suppress at will.  

In 2017, for example, The End of Faith author Sam Harris ignited a firestorm when he interviewed political scientist Charles Murray. Just a month earlier, a violent mob had shouted Murray down at Middlebury College, injuring moderator Dr. Allison Stanger as the two tried to reach the exit. Harris defended Murray, arguing his research was unfairly maligned as racist and he should be allowed to speak. In retaliation, Ezra Klein published a piece in Vox that landed Harris on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch Headlines,” while in Salon Émile P. Torres accused Harris and the New Atheists of “merging with the far right.”  

That same year, Richard Dawkins was barred from speaking at UC Berkeley for his comments about radical Islam, not by Christians or Muslims but by progressives. Turns out that freedom of expression wasn’t faring as predicted in a post-religious world. 

In addition to their own jarring polemics and personal misfires, the New Atheists failed to realize that religion, especially Christianity, was the proverbial branch upon which they were sitting. For example, the freedom of expression depends on a number of assumptions, that there is objective truth, that it can be discovered, that it is accessible to people regardless of race or class, that belief should be free instead of coerced, that people have innate value, and that because of this value they should not be silenced. Every one of these ideas assumes the kind of world described in the Bible and mediated across centuries of Christian thought. Not one of these assumptions can be grounded in a purposeless world that is the product of only natural causes and processes 

Maybe that’s what led Dawkins, just a few years ago, to warn against celebrating the decline of Christianity across the world. Turns out that all of the efforts that he and the other New Atheists extended to root out organized religion have left him with “a fear of finding something worse.”  

Today’s Breakpoint was coauthored by Kasey Leander. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to colsoncenter.org. 

Sep 22, 2022
The Cost of Raising Children
58

Last month the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal responded to the claim that the average American family spends an estimated $300,000 to raise a child.  

Of course kids are expensive, they conceded, but “that isn’t the way to look at it.” Seeing children only in terms of cost is a mistake. “Whatever children cost to raise,” the editors concluded, “they are a priceless vote of confidence in the future.”  

They’re right. It’s not that kids don’t take massive investments of time and energy. They do. But kids are investments. And the returns are incredible, though rarely easy.  

Parents should be thoughtful about how and when to embark on the journey, but children are a gift, not a burden. They are image bearers, not luxury goods. To think about kids only in terms of how they impact our happiness or our wallets is to completely miss the point. The most important relationships don’t always make life easier, but they do make it better.  

Sep 21, 2022
No, Kids Don’t Cost That Much: Cultural Priorities and Parenting Sticker Shock
04:47

Grocery store remarks can reveal a lot about a culture. Just ask any mother or father of more than 1.7 children about the comments that strangers somehow feel free to make about their unfashionably large broods. “You know what causes that, right?” “Are you done?” “What are you—Catholic?” Comedian Jim Gaffigan, who has five children, jokes that people who see him in public with his family sometimes remark, “Well, that’s one way to live your life!” 

These comments reveal what more and more data are also showing. A lower percentage of Westerners, including Americans, are embarking on parenthood than ever before. However, these comments also betray how we think about children: as burdens, impositions on freedom, or so very, very expensive that only the wealthy can afford them.    

It doesn’t help how often media outlets stoke fears that children will eat you out of house and home. For example, a recent Wall Street Journal article grimly reported: “It Now Costs $300,000 to Raise a Child.” I wonder how many parents read the headline and panicked or at least scratched their head at this summary of a Brookings Institution study. 

The cost of raising kids varies widely, depending on variables such as where you live, what you drive, how you educate your children, and how much you spend on household extras and vacations. Still, given that the median U.S. household income is about $68,000, any middle-class family of five not living under a bridge should be proof enough that something is askew with the numbers reported in the Wall Street Journal 

For starters, the numbers are not itemized, and the article initially gestures toward inflation, rising food costs, the pandemic, and supply chain hiccups, as if those are the main things driving up the cost of parenting. To put it mildly, this was misleading. Another breakdown by Josh Zumbrun, also in the Wall Street Journal, revealed that “housing and child care” are the actual main expenses. 

For the average family (an elusive statistical entity with 1.7 kids), housing and childcare are supposed to account for over half the annual cost of children under age six. But, anyone who grew up sleeping in bunkbeds and wearing hand-me-downs knows that housing expenses are highly negotiable. Jim Gaffigan’s family of seven famously lived in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City 

The other cost, childcare, is something not all families employ. As Zumbrun writes, many families simply do not incur this expense, “because a parent, extended family or some combination provides the care.” Historically, this arrangement was the norm.  

Of course, many married couples simply cannot afford to live on a single income. It can be necessary for both parents to work, but it is worth considering how often it is taken for granted that childcare is an expense. Back in 2018, The New York Times asked millennials why they’re having so few children: 61% of those who’ve had fewer kids than they would like cited the cost of childcare.  

There are other factors as well. For example, “gender equality” also emerged as a major theme in the 2018 study, meaning that, all things being equal, women are often choosing careers ahead of children. As the authors wrote: “Women have more agency over their lives and many feel that motherhood has become more of a choice.” While we can rejoice that women have more options in life, it should give us pause when parents see the decision to have kids as a lifestyle choice. 

Among respondents who said they didn’t want kids, the number one reason was a desire for “more leisure time.” One young woman may have spoken for many when she said she planned to forego children in order to travel, focus on her job, get a master’s degree, and play with her cats. 

None of this directly makes children more expensive for those who choose to have them, but it does raise the perceived opportunity cost, which makes inflated numbers like those in the Wall Street Journal seem more believable. When fewer people on average are starting families and more people than ever are choosing self-expression as a life goal, it creates a kind of cultural feedback loop that makes having children seem not only less affordable, but less normal.    

That context helps explain where the grocery store remarks come from. Making family a central goal in life, one worthy of personal sacrifice, is certainly counter cultural, but it’s just not as expensive as it’s made out to be. And even if were, it’s an investment with incredible returns. 

Today’s Breakpoint was coauthored by Shane Morris. To learn more about the Colson Center, go to colsoncenter.org 

Sep 21, 2022
Warsaw’s Defiant Jewish Doctors
01:00

Earlier this year, two professors at Tufts University rediscovered a book buried deep in their library. It was called Maladie de Famine or The Disease of Starvation. The story behind this scientific research is stunning.  

During the Nazi occupation of Poland, hundreds of thousands of Jews were detained in the Warsaw Ghetto, deprived of food and subject to mass executions. Jewish doctors disobeyed their Nazi captors and recorded the effects of starvation on their own bodies as a testimony against the atrocities. Their work eventually shaped the Geneva Conventions of 1949, when the starving of civilians became a war crime.  

Why did these doctors do this? One answer is that they believed there was meaning to life and death, and therefore to their work. Former Harvard chaplain D. Elton Trueblood said, A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.”  

Sep 20, 2022
Answering Pro-Abortion Misinformation
05:32

As mid-term elections loom, both pro-abortion candidates and the Democratic party — not always for the same reason — have been working to advance abortion “rights” and access as a central issue in November. Increasingly, three common myths are touted by abortion advocates and pro-abortion media sources: (1) that abortion is healthcare, (2) that ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages will be treated as abortion in a post-Roe society, and (3) that the abortion pill is safe 

To counter these myths (as well as a few others), the American Association for Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) has launched a campaign to put fact sheets into the hands of medical professionals. This information is vital not only to prevent patients from being misled but also as a public statement of solidarity for pro-life doctors and nurses.  

A few days before the campaign’s launch, the pro-abortion American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology threatened to revoke the certification of pro-life OB-GYNs, for disseminating what they called misinformation about “reproductive health care, contraception, abortion, and OB-GYN practices.” In essence, the board is saying that any OB-GYN that disagrees with their stance on elective abortion could lose their license to practice. As Alexandra DeSanctis, co-author of Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing, wrote recently in National Review, the vagueness of the board’s claims regarding its version of “misinformation” is nothing other than “veiled intimidation.” This is why the work of AAPLOG and all pro-lifers in correcting the oft-repeating myths of healthcare is so vital.  

In stark contrast to AAPLOG’s fact sheet, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has its own, and it directly states, “Abortion is essential health care.” Sometimes all it takes to misrepresent truth is an adjective or, as in this case, a missing adjective. While in rare and tragic situations, a sick preborn child can put the mother’s life at risk, that kind of essential healthcare does not justify the vast majority of abortions that are “elective.” OB-GYNs are trained to recognize when life-giving medical intervention is necessary for a pregnant mother. In these heartbreaking cases, medical professionals work to save the mother. In elective abortions, medical professionals work to kill the child.  

Adding the word “elective to “abortion” tells the truth about the completely different situation in which a decision is made to end the life of a preborn child who is not endangering the mother’s physical health. That is not healthcare. And, according to AAPLOG, 93% of OB/GYNs do not provide elective abortions. Most enter the field to help women care for preborn babies — not take their lives — and they are able to tell the difference. 

A second myth addressed by the AAPLOG fact sheet is that “women with ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages will not receive the care they need.” Each of these situations is categorically different from elective abortion. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. In these cases, the baby will not survive no matter what the doctors do. In fact, up until July, Planned Parenthood’s website explicitly stated that treatment for ectopic pregnancy was not equivalent to an abortion. That statement was removed when it became a convenient talking point. As DeSanctis has written, none of the legislation in any of the 50 states eliminates care for ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages. Doctors who would refuse care for an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage are misinterpreting their state’s laws, and to claim otherwise is patently false.  

A third myth that the AAPLOG fact sheet repudiates is that “chemical abortions are a safe and convenient option for women.” Last December, the Food and Drug Administration extended their pandemic policy that mail-order chemical abortions be made available without requiring a patient to meet with a medical professional in person. And recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated that it plans to find ways to protect access to chemical abortions.  

Even if there were not the ethical problem of taking a human life, abortion medication is meant to be used before 10 weeks of pregnancy. If a woman is not required to see a medical professional, there is no way to confirm how far long the pregnancy is.  

Everyone who cares about building a culture of life should be clear on the facts about abortion and women’s health. AAPLOG’s website includes counters to six other abortion myths. And, Alexandra DeSanctis will be speaking at the next Lighthouse Voices series on her book, “Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Our Culture and Disadvantages Women.” Join us at 7 p.m. (Central time) on October 4th either live (if you live near Holland, Michigan) or on livestream. You can register for free by visiting focusonthefamily.org/lighthouse-voices

Sep 20, 2022
Killing to Save Money
01:11

Anytime that doctor-assisted death is legalized, what begins as a so-called “right” to die soon devolves into a duty to die. For example, defenders of Canada’s expansive policy of Medical Aid in Dying frequently claim that its supposed safeguards will prevent a simple cost-benefit analysis when it comes to deciding who should live and who should die.  

However, the truth has slipped out a few times now. Back in 2017, the publicly funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation cited a report that Medical Aid in Dying could result in “substantial savings across Canada’s health-care system” to the tune of $136.8 million a year. Those “savings” happen when high-cost patients are put to death.  

Aaron Trachtenberg, author of the report, said it frankly: “In a resource-limited health care system, anytime we roll out a large intervention ….  cost has to be a part of that discussion. It’s just the reality of working in a system of finite resources. 

And that’s why decisions about life and death should never be put into “systems of finite resources.” Putting a price tag on what is priceless cheapens it. And human lives are priceless.  

Sep 19, 2022
Oberlin College and the Critical Theory Mood
06:09

In November 2016, a student at Oberlin College in Ohio attempted to steal two bottles of wine from Gibson Bakery. The owner confronted and then chased the student down the street. He was arrested and later pleaded guilty to shoplifting. Recently, nearly six years after the incident, a judge ordered Oberlin College to pay more than $35 million in damages to the bakery.  

How did just two bottles of wine become so expensive?  

The student who shoplifted is black. The shop owners are white. That was enough to start an uproar on the Oberlin College campus. The story is an example of a culture that is in a critical theory mood 

The day after the incident, Oberlin students started to protest the treatment of the accused outside of Gibson’s Bakery. Soon after that, the Oberlin student senate passed a resolution that called for Oberlin College to “officially condemn Gibson’s Bakery” as a racist institution. Professors  got involved, passing out fliers and encouraging students to join the protest. The college then severed longstanding catering contracts with the bakery.  

Neither the protestors nor the school ever claimed the student had not shoplifted but, in their public statements, the fact that he did was conveniently ignored. This allowed them to turn the shoplifter, the store owner, and even the bakery into symbols that served a narrative they were telling. In a recorded audio, one student protester yells, “Shoplifting, the stuff on the surface, does not matter. This runs so much deeper.” 

It is not uncommon for any discussion of critical theory, in any of its forms, to be dismissed. After all, critical theory, we are told, is an academic theory that few people have studied. That, of course, is true. Few people have studied the original source materials for this formalized theory. 

This dismissal not only ignores that many of those who dismiss concerns about critical theory are those mostly actively advocating its core ideas, it misunderstands the way that ideas work within a culture. 

If you happen to be listening to this commentary on radio, you have two people to thank: German physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, who discovered radio waves in the 1880s and Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian engineer who invented wireless radio communication in the 1890s. However, whether you knew these names before now and regardless of how well you understand how radio waves work, it is still quite possible to conceptualize radio and to hear my voice.  

Worldviews often work like this. A person does not have to fully understand an idea before being shaped by it. When Oberlin College faculty and administration determined, in the face of the evidence, that the white bakery owners were guilty and the student was not, they were applying a critical theory lens to the situation and interpreting the facts accordingly. When the Oberlin College student said that the shoplifting did not matter because of deeper issues at play, the student was parroting a critical theory way of thinking about the world, in which every interaction must be understood and explained by the demographic groupings of the people involved. Moral status is awarded based on these groupings, not on actions. Certain groups are oppressed, and others are oppressors. End of story. 

Far from being “too complicated” of a theory to infect culture, critical theory offers a simplistic substitute for the actual complexities of life and people. We cannot determine a person’s character by tallying their list of demographic features or applying assumptions of privilege. Individuals are not stereotypes, but critical theory reduces them to such. No one need be able to pronounce multisyllabic academic jargon used by critical theorists to be infected by this mood. We simply are infected by it. 

A few months ago, a friend told me of something that points to the level of cultural infection. She had asked a friend of hers, a junior high teacher, how many students in that class identified as LGBTQ. The answer, offered immediately in a sort of “don’t you know this” tone, was, “Oh, all of them do.”  

All of them?” my friend replied. “Are they sexually active?” 

“Not at all,” the teacher replied. “But none of them want to be straight or cis.” 

Ideas that have infected college students, academics, and junior highers should not be so easily dismissed. The first way to counter infectious cultural moods is not to share that mood. Intentionally, and especially with our own kids, we must talk about and treat every human being as essentially valuable as image bearers of God, and as equally fallible because of their common descent from Adam and Eve. These are essential truths about the world and people and are far better ideas than the ones assumed by the critical theory mood.   

Ideas are especially dangerous when assumed, as C.S. Lewis once put it, so we must also not allow the bad ideas to go unchallenged, lest they become normalized.  

Finally, within a critical theory framework, in both its academic theory and cultural mood forms, there is no possibility of forgiveness or redemption. In a Christian vision of God and people, there is. In Christ, there is solid ground for forgiveness (He first forgave us) and for finding redemption (He has taken the punishment for our guilt). So, in Christ, we not only counter bad ideas, we point to a better way.  

Sep 19, 2022
Parents Engaging Locally, Lila Rose Debating Dr. Phil, and Oberlin College in a "Critical Theory Mood"
01:05:57
John and Maria discuss that parents who are engaged in community organizations or events can promote Christian morality, and even have a redemptive influence, without being deemed Christian nationalists. Afterwards, they point out how Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life organization Live Action, powerfully debated with Dr. Phil and other audience members on the Dr. Phil show. They conclude with how the story of the lawsuit against Oberlin College shows the “critical theory mood” of our culture.
Sep 16, 2022
The Trend of “Quiet Quitting”
01:03

A new workplace trend, called “Quiet Quitting,” isn’t about quitting your job but about how hard you work while there. It’s about rejecting “the idea of going above and beyond,” said one influencer. “You’re still performing your duties but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.” 

There’s been so much upheaval in the economy and the workforce lately, and Christians can point to a better way: God designed humans to work, but not for work’s sake or even consumption’s sake. Work is a way we image God, making the world all it can be.  

And God also gave the gift of rest, baking the Sabbath into the creation and even modeling it for us. It’s almost as if God knew that after the fall, humans would be tempted to make work an idol. (Hint: He did know.) 

What “quiet quitting” misses is that it’s not about whether or not to “go above and beyond.” It’s about whether our work has purpose, not as an end in and of itself, but as an act of worship, excellence, and love of neighbor. 

Sep 16, 2022
Remembering Rodney Stark
05:40

It’s tempting to think that secularized academics are too intellectual to ever come to the kind of “childlike faith” that Jesus described, or that, if they ever were to trust Christ, they’d have to abandon their academic pursuits. However, like once-liberal theologian Thomas Oden or once-radical feminist English professor Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, the case of Rodney Stark suggests otherwise. Dr. Stark’s research and reading, specifically about the impact of Christianity in history, was part of what moved him to become a committed believer. 

Stark was born in North Dakota in 1934. Oddly enough, he played high school football with Alvin Plantinga, the great Christian philosopher. After a stint in the army, he studied journalism in college, graduating in 1959. Once, during his early career as a reporter, he covered a meeting of the Oakland Spacecraft Club where the speaker claimed to have visited Mars, Venus, and the moon in a flying saucer. After Stark reported the story straight, with no sarcasm or snide comments, he was assigned all of the odd stories that came along. 

Stark’s ability to treat people’s beliefs seriously and recognize that, at least for them, these beliefs are plausible, was a key element in his decision to shift from journalism to sociology. In 1972, after completing his graduate work at the University of California-Berkley, he was hired as a professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington. 

Stark focused his research on why people were religious. How did they understand their faith? What did they get out of it? How did they live it out? From this focus, Stark developed a theory of conversion that emphasized social relationships, felt needs, and personal choice. In essence, Stark concluded that conversion was a rational choice, based on the expectation that one would receive more from the religion than it would cost to join it.  

He was among the first sociologists to recognize that competition between religious groups increased the overall religiosity of a community. In other words, a religious group with a monopoly tends to get lazy and neglect meeting needs and conducting outreach. Stark was also critical of the standard academic view that secularization was an inevitable result of modernization. Instead, he argued this idea was wildly wrong because sociologists misunderstood religion and failed to account for religious revivals and innovation. 

His book The Rise of Christianity was published in 1996. In it, Stark argued that the incredible growth and spread of Christianity were because it offered more to people than any of its competitors. In particular, Stark argued that the rapid growth of the Church was, in large part, due to how Christians treated women. This, especially compared to the pagan treatment of women, led to more conversions, which led to the faith being spread through social networks. Also, prohibitions of abortion and infanticide led to an organic growth of the Church, and how Christians responded to persecution and plague led to a growth in credibility. The Rise of Christianity was so groundbreaking that it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. 

After this, Stark focused his work on the history of Christianity. After writing two books on the historical impact of monotheism — first One True God in 2001 and then For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch Hunts, and the End of Slavery in 2003, Stark wrote what may be his greatest book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, in 2005.  

In 2004, the year before The Victory of Reason was published, Stark commented, “I have trouble with faith. I’m not proud of this. I don’t think it makes me an intellectual. I would believe if I could, and I may be able to before it’s over.” The Victory of Reason first brought Dr. Stark to the attention of Chuck Colson, who was astounded that a self-professed agnostic sociologist was clear-eyed and honest enough to recognize and highlight the effects of Christianity on the world. Chuck featured The Victory of Reason on Breakpoint and included it in the Centurions Program (now known as the Colson Fellows). 

After the commentary aired, Rodney Stark contacted Chuck Colson, and thanked him for the kind words. He also told Colson that he had come to faith in Christ, which he publicly announced in 2007. 

In 2004, Stark became the distinguished professor of the social sciences at Baylor University, as well as the co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion and founding editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. Although Baylor is a Baptist school, Stark preferred to call himself an “independent Christian” and continued to produce important and sometimes controversial books on Christianity, history, and culture. 

Throughout his career, Stark was an irascible critic of political and religious biases in the academic world, especially in his own field of sociology. His intellectual brilliance is attested by his groundbreaking work, and his intellectual honesty and integrity by his faith, a faith he studied for many years. 

Sep 16, 2022
Is Pregnancy More Dangerous Than Abortion?
01:11

One of the most sensational claims of abortion advocates is that “pregnancy is more dangerous than legalized abortion.” This argument is largely based on a 2012 study by Elizabeth Raymond and David A. Grimes in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.  However, as James Studnicki and Tessa Longbons described recently in National Review, this claim is "demonstrably false." 

By its own admission, the Raymond and Grimes study underreported maternal deaths associated with abortion. While deaths involving pregnancy and childbirth are subject to national data collection in the United States, no consistent metric exists for reporting deaths related to abortion. In other words, the data sets Raymond and Grimes used compared apples and oranges and “should have rendered the paper’s conclusions invalid.” In fact, multiple other studies reach the opposite conclusion. In Finland, for example, researchers found that mortality after abortion is three times higher than childbirth.  

Much of the so-called “conventional wisdom” on abortion is invalid and treats pregnancy itself like a disease, unborn children as a pathogen, and abortion as a cure. None of which could be farther from the truth.  

Sep 15, 2022
Science Never Just “Says”...
05:12

Science is supposed to be objective, an undeniable source for truth not subject to fads or fashion. The phrases “scientists say” or “the science is settled” is supposed to inspire hushed awe and open ears. Scientists are supposed to serve as arbiters of truth, at least on questions within their fields of expertise, able to settle disputes and sort fact from fiction.

Many progressives, especially, employ the phrase “the science says” to silence disagreement about everything from climate policy to gender ideology. “The science,” at least in certain circles, is an authority appealed to in order to end debate and dismiss critics of favored policies. Increasingly, the theory that science is a neutral arbiter or source of truth looks shaky, especially when scientific publications openly announce their commitment to ideology over evidence.

Bell Curve author Charles Murray recently tweeted an editorial published by the peer-reviewed journal, Nature Human Behaviour. Murray (who is no stranger to what happens to those who publish politically incorrect findings) highlighted a section in which the editors announced they will be censoring scientific results that do not conform to a favored political narrative. Specifically, the editors reserved the right to amend, refuse, or retract “[c]ontent that is premised upon the assumption of inherent biological, social, or cultural superiority or inferiority of one human group over another based on race, ethnicity, national or social origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, political or other beliefs, age, disease, [or] (dis)ability …”

They also reserved the right to censor content that “undermines — or could be reasonably perceived to undermine — the rights and dignities of an individual or human group on the basis of” any of these categories, as well as to refuse submissions that are “exclusionary of a diversity of voices …”

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how language this sweeping could be used. For instance, studies that find children do best in homes with their biological mother and father could be “reasonably perceived” by the editors of Nature Human Behaviour to suggest the “inherent inferiority” of same-sex parents. Research that finds female athletes are disadvantaged when competing against biological men could “undermine ... the rights and dignities” of transgender opponents. A study that finds little girls do better in societies that don’t practice female genital mutilation could be censored for its “assumption of inherent … cultural superiority.”

As Murray tweeted, “It is hard to exaggerate the scientific insanity this represents.” Even psychologist and science author Steven Pinker, no friend of Christians or religious conservatives, slammed the journal, tweeting: “Nature Human Behavior [sic] is no longer a peer-reviewed scientific journal but an enforcer of a political creed … (how do we know articles have been vetted for truth rather than political correctness)?”

It’s a good question, and one more people should be asking. Increasingly, the scientific enterprise itself is looking shaky, not only because of political correctness but because the practices on which science depends — peer review and replication — are breaking down.

Consider an analysis published in the journal Science last year in which behavioral economists at the University of California found that the least reliable studies are the ones other scientists cite the most. This team analyzed over 20,000 papers in some of the top psychology, economy, and science journals, and found that “studies that failed to replicate since their publication were on average 153 times more likely to be cited” than studies that did — mostly because their findings were more “interesting.” And this problem was found to be worst in leading journals Nature and Science.

The takeaway here is not that science is bad. On the contrary, science is a gift of God, made possible in how He made the world and His image bearers. Science has made the world immeasurably richer, and the world arguably owes a debt for these riches to Christian assumptions and pioneers. However, scientists and science editors are human and just as vulnerable to bad ideas and dangerous ideologies as other humans.

Reform can happen within a field of knowledge. Thus, science can regain its authority as a source of truth and public good, rather than propaganda. Christians in the sciences have an especially important role to play, as voices protesting ideologically loaded conclusions and as examples of integrity and objectivity. Until that reform happens, anything announced with “the science says,” especially on intensely politically charged issues, should be greeted with suspicion. As Pinker said, we have a right to know whether their claims “have been vetted for truth rather than political correctness.”

Sep 15, 2022
UN (Finally) Condemns China’s Treatment of Uyghurs
01:10

Recently (and finally), the United Nations has released a report condemning China’s treatment of Uyghurs. Given China’s clout within the UN, its strenuous PR and lobbying campaigns, and its ability to intimidate scholars and witnesses, the report’s release was delayed for months.  

Finally, in the final few minutes of UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s term, the report was released. The report strongly condemned China’s actions and called for “urgent attention” from the UN, validating years of warnings by watchdogs, observers, and activists worldwide.  

This one report by itself may not change the terrible situation on the ground for the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province, but nothing will change without first telling the truth. As one article in the Associated Press noted, “That the report was released was in some ways as important as its contents.” 

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, was himself a witness to the internment of untold millions in the former USSR. He put it this way, “The simple step of a simple courageous man is not to partake in falsehood.… One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.” 

Sep 14, 2022
Is Yeshiva University Religious? And Other Questions About Freedom...
05:14

Religious liberty is a human right. So why are American courts so confused?  

In recent months, American courts have continued to grapple with the size, scope, and even the definition of religious freedom. For Christians who believe that religious liberty for all is a public good, there’s good news and bad news. 

The good news includes the decision from the Fifth Circuit two weeks ago in the case of Franciscan Alliance, a group of Catholic hospitals and doctors that sued the federal government in 2016. Rules issued from the Biden Administration would have forced doctors within Franciscan Alliance to perform so-called “transition surgeries” on patients with gender dysphoria, as well as provide abortions for patients who requested them. Lawyers for the hospital system argued that these procedures are violations of the oath doctors take to “do no harm” to their patients, and therefore a violation of the doctors’ religious freedom. Thankfully, the Fifth Circuit respected Supreme Court precedent and ruled in favor of Franciscan Alliance.  

The bad news includes a case out of New York, in which a trial court ruled that Yeshiva University, a Jewish school in New York City, must allow an LGBTQ club to establish on campus. The university argued the club’s mission openly violated the school’s religious beliefs about sexuality. In a particularly bizarre ruling, a judge sided with the LGBTQ club by reasoning that Yeshiva University is not a religious institution. “Yeshiva” is the Hebrew word for “a school that studies the Talmud,” or ancient rabbinic writings on Scripture. Still, the judge cited Yeshiva University’s charter, which refers to the school as an “educational institution,” as evidence that the school therefore cannot be religious.  

The question at the heart of each of these cases is the same: What does it mean to be religious? 

Though it is good news for everyone, doctors and patients, that Franciscan Alliance will not be forced to mutilate bodies in the name of “transgender medicine,” the judge in this case ruled explicitly that the government could not violate these doctors’ religious beliefs. It is not good news that the reality that men and women are different is being denied, or that bodies are being mutilated and called “healthcare,” or that opposing being involved is reduced to a “religious belief.” In the same way, the idea that we should not take the life of a child in or out of a mother’s womb should be obvious, not reduced to merely “religious.” 

In one sense, every law is religious in the sense that they are predicated on some view of the universe, human nature, and morality. They assume that certain things ought to be done and others ought not to be done. Everything we do, including where we work, what we value, and how we raise our kids, is built upon moral beliefs about the world, whether Christian or not. Even if we don’t always act consistently with those beliefs, religious liberty ensures the right to call upon these views inside and outside of Church, synagogue, mosque, or Twitter.  

In our culture, however, certain views are designated “religious” and others are not. Therefore, the “religious” views are considered biased exceptions to be tolerated. In fact, progressive judges and administrations often deem policy positions they don’t like as “religious” as a way of suggesting they should not be taken seriously in the public square. In other words, taking innocent human life and mutilating healthy bodies are presented as the “obviously right” views, and opposing these horrors is dismissed as “religious.”  

All of which says a lot about the moral status of our culture. Further, it misunderstands the meaning of “religious” and leads to obvious violations of religious liberty. Christian doctors within the Franciscan Alliance cannot leave their worldviews at the operating room door. Yeshiva University doesn’t stop being religious when it educates. In fact, it educates because it is religious.  

The Supreme Court, at least currently, recognizes this reality, but some lower courts do not. Thus, the absurd ruling that claims Yeshiva University is not religious because it educates, or the one in Colorado which held that a Christian school chaplain wasn’t in a “religious position,” or the lower court ruling from a few years ago that attempted to force a group of Catholic nuns to pay for abortion and contraception.  

In such a conflicted time, Christians must, more and more, live like Christians. We must compellingly demonstrate that the resurrected Christ we worship in one building one morning a week shapes how we live and act in any other building every other day of the week. And we continue to defend religious liberty as a public good for all people. 

About this, the U.S. Constitution is clear. Hopefully, our nation’s courts will gain clarity too. 

Sep 14, 2022
Gorbachev’s Death Reminds Us Death Comes to All
01:04

Recently, the world learned of the death of Mikhail Gorbachev. While living to age 91 is an achievement for anyone, it’s a historical exception for a dictator to live 30 years past his downfall. Gorbachev did, having survived from when the first waves of American pop culture entered his homeland decades ago to when those same waves receded in renewed hostility. 

Gorbachev’s legacy is, to say the least, complicated. His former subjects in Eastern Europe will likely shed few tears, his former enemies in the West have praised that he chose peace in the face of imperial collapse, and his fellow Russians mourn his role in their nation’s lost status on the world stage. The last leader of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was once one of two most powerful men in the world. He died without the acclaim and power he once commanded. 

His death reminds us that no matter how great, death comes to us all. We do not control the timing nor manner of our demise. All of that is in God’s hands. We can only strive to live lives worth remembering and emulating. 

Sep 13, 2022
Queen Elizabeth II’s Life of Faithfulness
05:50

The Queen has died 

When those words were heard and repeated, over and over last Thursday, people around the world knew immediately which queen. In fact, few are alive today who can remember a time when she was not on Britain’s throne. She lived to 96, not only the longest reigning monarch in British history but the second longest reigning monarch in all of history, surpassed only by King Louis XIV of France, the “Sun King.” Among the many anecdotes that put her life in historical context, Elizabeth II was queen for a full third of the existence of the United States of America as a nation 

When Elizabeth ascended to power, Winston Churchill was the prime minister. Just two days before she died, in a final act of royal duty, Elizabeth received a 15th person into that high office. When she began her rule in 1952, there was a British Empire, and not just in name. Though every nation within the empire would gain independence, she remained head of state of a dozen of them, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other smaller countries around the world. 

Elizabeth’s historic tenure as queen might have never happened, except for a domestic turmoil that has never quite seemed to leave the House of Windsor alone. Her father, George VI, assumed the throne only because her uncle abdicated it for an illicit romance. Her sister’s temperament did not, shall we say, “fit” her royal duties. Her eldest son, now King Charles III, entered a loveless marriage in the midst of his own extramarital affairs, while her second son ruined his place in the world by falling in with Jeffrey Epstein. Her grandson Prince Harry is full of bitter words and accusations about the royal family. 

In this way, the royal family was a reflection of changes seen across the Western world during the Queen’s reign. Marriage rates in the U.K. have dropped by double digits in the last few decades, and divorces have increased by several orders of magnitude. While the Britain she inherited in her youth famously stood up for liberty and democracy against tyranny, corporate and government powers often enforce conformity and silence. Weekly church attendance in Britain has dropped to less than a million each week in a population of nearly 70 million. Add in technological change, war, globalization, populism, the rise and fall of global powers, and it may be that the Queen’s most remarkable achievement was preserving the monarchy as a legitimate institution amidst the flux and chaos of the last few decades.  

As one who could, as Kipling once put it, “walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch,” she played the part of elegant empress, with an impish sense of humor and a delightfully ordinary demeanor. As such, Queen Elizabeth was, in many ways, an always-relevant anachronism. She was an incarnation of G.K. Chesterton’s call for a “democracy of the dead” or C.S. Lewis’ warning against “chronological snobbery.” In an age that confuses change as progress, her life was a reminder that certain truths and duties do not change with the times—eternals that are not subject to our whims or imaginations—but are revealed, at least in part, through the accumulated wisdom of the ages. 

In fact, “duty” is the word most commonly used to describe Elizabeth II, as if she inherited her father’s sense of it along with the throne. As Bloomberg’s Adrian Woolridge noted on Twitter, “The Queen grasped Edmund Burke’s great dictum that, for a true conservative, the point of change is to stay the same, at least in the things that really matter. Monarchy is a restraint on modernity or it is nothing.” 

She was barely an adult when she declared, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” Years later, she reflected back on that promise, “When I was 21, I pledged my life to the service of our people, and I asked for God's help to make good that vow. Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret, or retract, one word of it.” 

There are few contentions more despised today than the idea that our rights must be balanced by our duties, but Elizabeth thought of the crown as a calling, a part of something greater than herself. How she carried out those duties in an ever-changing world points to a commitment that goes beyond tradition or even the monarchy. As she put it herself, monarchs do not lead troops into battle or rule from on high anymore. So, she committed to lead by serving, which is of course the way of Jesus, who said the greatest among us are servants. In many of her annual Christmas radio messages, she pointed to Christ as the One she sought to follow and emulate. Leading by serving is one of the things that the New Testament calls the “fruit” of faith. 

Having reached the end of her era, it’s difficult to imagine what the monarchy will become. As Jake Meador from Mere Orthodoxy observed, “After she and Benedict XVI pass, I think European Christendom will be conclusively gone from this world. Something else will come and God will continue to work. But the loss is still immense.”  

Indeed, it is, but what makes a person “great” has not changed. Around the world, followers of Christ are living faithful lives, committed to what God has called them to, in truth and service. Their stage may not be as global or their mistakes as public, but their lives point to the Sovereign who sits on the throne of heaven and earth and whose kingdom shall have no end. That faithfulness is, in God’s economy, greatness.  

Sep 13, 2022
Hope Always for Those With Suicidal Thoughts
01:10

Last Saturday was World Suicide Prevention Day, a time to remember that suicide is a growing problem. In the U.S., it increased by 30% from 2000-2018, and that was before COVID. In 2019, it was the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 

Christians aren’t excluded. LifeWay research has shown that 32% of Protestant church-going respondents had a family member or “close acquaintance” die by suicide.  

Because of this great need, Colson Educators has teamed with Dr. Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency room physician and chief of hospital medical staff, to offer a free online course called Hope Always, based on the title of his book Hope Always: How to Be a Force for Life in a Culture of Suicide. This course, which you can take for free at any time, will help you know how to talk with loved ones about the difficult topic of suicide. It offers scientifically grounded information with biblically based theology to start a conversation about mental health and how the Church can offer light and hope.  

Go to courses.colsoneducation.org/hopealways to register for this course today. 

Sep 12, 2022
Creating Organs Cannot Be at the Expense of Human Embryos
05:07

Recently, an impressive development in embryology was reported by the Israeli Weizmann Institute of Science. Using only stem cells, without the presence of sperm, eggs, or even a womb, researchers successfully created functioning mouse embryos, complete with beating hearts, blood circulation, brain tissue and rudimentary digestive systems. Carolyn Johnson in The Washington Post described the discovery as “a fascinating, potentially fraught realm of science that could one day be used to create replacement organs for humans.” 

For the more than 100,000 people currently waiting for a life-saving organ donation, that kind of breakthrough would indeed seem like a miracle. However, since scientists are still years away from creating human organs in a lab for the purpose of transplant, the technology raises serious ethical questions, none of which should be taken lightly.  

One of these questions is, in fact, an old one. Do the promises of embryonic stem cell research justify it? While some stem cells can be harvested from a variety of non-embryonic sources such as bone marrow, others are harvested from so-called “unused” embryos that have been donated to science. The lives of these tiny, undeveloped human beings are taken in the process. 

For context, the research conducted by the Weizmann Institute uses embryonic stem cells. Though, for the time being, this implies only embryonic stem cells harvested from mice, the move to human research would involve the harvesting of stem cells from human embryos and involve tissue derived from already living human beings. 

The Christian stance on when life begins is the same as the science. Human life begins at conception, and every single human life is worthy of protection. If we would not take the life of a born child in our research for a cure for some medical condition, neither the anonymity of an embryo nor the confines of a laboratory justify doing the same thing in the process of embryonic stem cell research.  

Science is a process of trial and error, but we should never employ “trial and error” with the lives of thousands of human beings, in particular human beings who cannot consent to our actions. A rule of thumb is this. If you wouldn’t try an experiment on an adult or small child, don’t do it to human embryos at any stage.  

The breakthrough at the Weizmann Institute, however, takes this old debate a step further. On one hand, lead researcher Dr. Jacob Hanna was quick to clarify that the goal is not to make complete, living organisms of mice or any other species. “We are really facing difficulties making organs,” he said, “and in order to make stem cells become organs, we need to learn how the embryo does that.” 

Given the history of science, including the last chapter involving breathless promises of what embryonic stem cell research would bring, the grandiose predictions of scientists should be taken with at least a grain of salt. The process of growing organs for mice, for example, involved the creation of entire embryos. Should the technology be perfected in mice, what ethical or legal limits are there to prevent the creation of synthetic human embryos for the purpose of harvesting their organs? 

Our first concern should be what these embryos would be created for. The answer is, inevitably, “science,” devoid of any consideration for human purpose, relationships, worth, or dignity as equal members of the human species. All societies that treat people as a means of scientific advancement, instead of infinitely valuable ends in-and-of themselves, have a track record of perpetrating atrocities.  

A second concern is what these embryos would be deprived of. Though not all do, every human should enter the world with the love and commitment of their biological mom and dad. The very design of human development suggests this, and societies have long recognized that those born without these relationships have had something priceless taken from them. Creating children from cloning or stem cells intentionally makes them orphans, ripping them from the vital context of parental relationship. It is a grave injustice. 

Bringing children into the world as a product of pure science without the possibility of relationship with their biological parents or relatives is enough an ethical consideration to oppose such research, but we should also consider the implications of recklessly creating humans for future experimentation and of dismantling them to see how their components work.  

Science is, in many ways, blind to what should be ethical bright lines. Creating organs for transplant in order to save lives is a worthy goal. But such work should only proceed in an ethical manner, one which does not require the death of other distinct, valuable, human beings. Unfortunately, such ideas have not shaped the society we live in today. 

Sep 12, 2022
The Death of Queen Elizabeth II, Blue Laws and Despair, and False Narratives About the Religious Right
01:11:24

John and Maria discuss the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth II and her longstanding sense of service to her nation. Afterwards, they stress the correlation—not the causation—between deaths of despair and decline in blue laws, laws against commerce on Sunday. They end by touching on commentaries from this week, in particular one highlighting the rebuttal of a false narrative that the religious right was founded in racism.

Sep 09, 2022
Queen Elizabeth II Saw the Crown as a Calling
01:12

Yesterday, after the world had learned that her family had been called to her side, Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch in British history, died at age 96. It’s simply impossible to articulate just how much the world, Britain, the British Empire, Western civilization, and the monarchy changed during her reign. 

Many Americans were fascinated by her and the royal family, as demonstrated in the popularity of shows like The Crown. She seemed to navigate a changing world by not changing, something that at times stabilized and at other times infuriated the British people. 

Perhaps the most consistent features of her tenure, which seemed out of step with the modern world, were her sense of duty and her consistent expression of faith and religious observance. Her annual Christmas messages reflected theology that was mostly orthodox and a faith in Jesus Christ that seemed personal. Convinced that Divine Providence had brought her to the throne, she seemed to see the crown as a calling and not an entitlement. In both of these things, her death marks the end of an era. 

Sep 09, 2022
Was the Religious Right Founded on Racism?
05:01

A few weeks back, Twitter banned a user for violent language. The offending tweet was, “I will out sword drill any Christian man.” For anyone not familiar with evangelical subculture, a “sword drill” has nothing to do with blades. It’s a game to see who can find a particular Bible passage first. Had the protectors of Twitter taken the time to investigate or, even better, had some Christians on their staff to ask, they may have spared themselves the ridicule which rightfully followed.  

Unfortunately, it’s a habit of academic and media circles to either not understand or not take evangelicalism’s claims for itself at face value. Sexual ethics, we are told, are novelties, due more to patriarchy than anything Jesus taught. The priority that evangelicals place on the home, family, and gender norms is more the product of 20th-century cowboy movies than any enduring truths about men and women. And, most commonly, political involvement by conservative Christians is nothing more than a naked grasp for power and maintaining the status quo.  

Recently, a handful of political commentators have claimed that the rise of the so-called Religious Right was rooted more in racism than in concern for the unborn or the spiritual fate of our nation. Though conservative Christians claim that the 1970’s-era increase in political action was birthed in opposition to the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and removal of prayer and Christian symbols in public schools, it was really about segregation. White Christians did not care about saving the lives of unborn children as much as they wanted to make sure their kids did not have to attend school with African Americans. 

This contention is now part of most formal analyses of evangelical culture, including from mainline and progressive Christianity. As one recent book put it, “In the end…what changed their mind wasn’t abortion or school prayer, but tax-exempt status for segregated schools.”  

Jonathan Whitehead, writing at The Gospel Coalition, dates this story to a book published in 2006 which claimed that conservative Christians got into politics in response to the 1975 action by the IRS against the (overtly) segregationist policies of Bob Jones University, a view the school later recanted. 

Whitehead goes on to argue that this supposed smoking gun turns out, in reality, to be an urban legend. Rather than being agitated that the IRS had attacked segregationism, conservative Christians found that the Feds were using the situation with Bob Jones University as a pretext to move against other religious schools that weren’t segregationist. This was at a time when school choice and homeschooling were far from established options, and anyone who did not comply with state schools was suspect. 

The segregation narrative fails in other ways, as well, most notably in timing. One of the first political action groups expressly formed by evangelicals in 1972 supported Democratic Senator McGovern’s ultimately failed presidential campaign. Christians, especially Roman Catholics, were already organizing for political action in the wake of Roe in 1973, and evangelical standard bearers like Christianity Today were talking about abortion before Roe and speaking out against segregation even earlier than that. 

In the end, the racist history rumor is an example of “nut-picking,” when the worst-case example of a vast movement is held up as normative while any example to the contrary is ignored. It only contributes to our culture’s increasingly uncivil discourse but is convenient for rhetorical purposes. Throughout his career, the late, great Michael Cromartie declared that there needed to be a dramatic improvement in the relationship and understanding between secularly minded Americans and their religious neighbors. “We’re like an anthropological project for them,” he once said, summarizing the approach of secular elites to religious believers as “We’ll go study these people, because I’ve never met one.” Without any first-hand knowledge about the intricacies of Christian culture, or at times, having an axe to grind for being raised evangelical, too many are quick to assign the worst of motives to Christian actions and words. 

Billions of people rely on the professionalism of journalists and academics to discover and share the truth. The truth is never served by a convenient story that happens to neatly coincide with the popular narratives of the day. If pundits and professors are going to continue to regain any authority to speak into our lives, they’ve got to do better.  

Sep 09, 2022
UW Ignores Misrepresentation of Puberty Blockers’ Research
01:06

Recently the University of Washington published research into whether hormones and puberty blockers improve the mental health of kids with gender dysphoria. According to the PR team for the university, pretty much every media outlet that covered the study, and the study’s authors themselves, the answer was yes. 

Except it wasn’t. The numbers actually revealed no difference between kids’ mental health before taking hormones and after a year of the treatment. At both moments in time, kids were suffering from dramatic mental health problems. If anything, the study suggested that kids who did not start taking the medications got a little worse. 

The university refused to officially respond when an independent journalist challenged their conclusions—though the study’s authors admitted their findings had been misrepresented. Internal emails showed the university’s communications team wasn’t concerned the story was not accurate. They liked that it was popular. 

Among the casualties of the politicizing of scientific research is public trust in our institutions. Still, the most vulnerable casualties are the kids. 

Sep 08, 2022
Is Religion the Opium of the People, or the Ladder?
05:35

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature,” wrote Karl Marx, “…the opium of the people.” Decades of often painful historical experience has proven his observation both right and wrong. Believing in God does ease pain and suffering of faithful followers, but he was wrong in thinking that religion, especially Christianity, leaves them with nowhere else to go from there.  

A recent article in The Economist put it this way: “Religious belief really does seem to draw the sting of poverty.” Although there is a correlation between poverty and decreased mental health, the article highlighted German sociologist Dr. Jana Berkessel’s recent findings that religion significantly mitigates this effect.  

A variety of similar studies confirm this. Regular attendance at religious services consistently correlates with longer life spans, stronger immune systems, and lower blood pressure, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, and suicide. Kids raised in religious households have a lower incidence of drug addiction, delinquency, and incarceration. They’re more likely to graduate high school. In short, the nearly unanimous scientific consensus is that religious belief is good for you.  

Of course, Marx’s point was that these benefits only serve to keep people content in their chains and to keep them distracted so much by the next world that they do nothing to change this one. Many critics today take the critique even further. Religion, especially Christianity, has not only been used to pacify people in their oppression but is the very source of it. 

Of course, the charge that Christianity has been co-opted, corrupted, and weaponized to justify all kinds of abuse, conquest, and enslavement, is undeniable. At the same time, it’s also undeniable that Christianity has been a global force for the kinds of goods now sopervasive, it’s hard to even imagine the world without them. Many of the rights and principles we consider to be naturally occurring features of the world only came to be by the influence of Christianity. 

In the ancient pagan world, violence, rape, infant exposure, and prostitution were rules, not exceptions. Almost immediately, Christianity began to revolutionize pagan ethics, particularly in its view of the poor and the outcast. Roman Emperor Julian famously wrote that when the “impious Galileans support not only their poor, but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.”  

To a world with no reason to believe in the equality of all people, Christianity taught that “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” This belief was grounded in the Christian view of the human person, which had no parallel in the ancient world and which created an explosion of literacy, social mobility, and human rights that we now take for granted in the modern world.  

Christianity’s unique contributions in humanizing the modern world are yet another reason to not simply lump all “religious beliefs” into the one blanket category. All religions are simply not the same, not in substance nor impact.  

Economist Robin Grier, for example, conducted a cross-national survey of 63 formerly European colonies. She found that, across the board, Protestant Christianity, in particular, was “positively and significantly correlated with real GDP growth,” and that “the level of Protestantism is significantly related to real per capita income levels.” A National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) paper found that only certain religious beliefs—notably beliefs about heaven, hell, and an afterlife—are linked with economic growth. In other words, it’s not just about having a “religion,” but about what your religion teaches.  

Consider Africa. A recent paper from NBER analyzed educational outcomes among religious children. Though Africa is becoming increasingly religious across the board, the paper found that in many countries, “primary school completion for Christians was more than double that of Muslims or Africans adhering to local religions.” Christian communities far outpace others when it comes to intergenerational educational growth.  

Writing in 1843, Karl Marx couldn’t have anticipated how thoroughly science would analyze his claims about religion. He’d likely have been among the modern theorists surprised that the world is becoming more religious, not less. As one writer with The Brookings Institution put it, “While weak state structures collapse and aid agencies switch priorities, one group of actors persist against all odds: religious institutions.”  

Of course, this isn’t why anyone should believe the truth claims of Christianity. They should be believed if they are true. At the same time, the fact that Christian belief has been an educational, social, and economic ladder for millions suggests these beliefs ought to be taken seriously. 

Sep 08, 2022
Yelp Is Misleading Pregnant Women
01:12

Hope Resource Center, a Christian crisis pregnancy center in Knoxville, Tennessee, offers free pregnancy tests, well-women exams, STD testing, and ultrasounds. If you search for Hope Resource Center on Yelp, a “consumer notice” pops up with a warning: “Crisis Pregnancy Centers typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.”  

Last week, Yelp announced that these notices will appear at the top of listings for every crisis pregnancy center—even when they don’t apply. 

If Yelp truly were worried about women’s access to “real” medical care during pregnancy, they’d put a consumer notice above every Planned Parenthood listing. A few years ago, Live Action found that fewer than 5% of Planned Parenthood facilities in the country actually offer prenatal care, even though Planned Parenthood openly pretends and advertises otherwise. 

It’s these practices by Planned Parenthood that make crisis pregnancy centers so necessary in the first place. Women—especially those in crisis pregnancies—deserve accurate information and actual care, which they can’t find from Planned Parenthood or, for that matter, on Yelp. 

Sep 07, 2022
Parents or the State: What Kuyper Can Teach Us About Managing Social Media
05:18

The Institute for Family Studies has published a list of legal and policy recommendations to protect teens from the dangers of social media. Among the recommendations are age-verification laws, parental consent requirements, and shutting down social media platforms at night for teens. Other nations have already attempted to restrict young people’s access to technology. For example, a couple of years ago, France banned cell phone use in schools up to age 15.  

Monitoring teens’ engagement with social media should be a no-brainer. Anyone still not convinced that something needs to be done need only consider the teens on TikTok exhibiting Tourette-like tics, not to mention the rapid onset gender dysphoria crisis initiated within social media communities 

However, the fact that government may now be the last line of defense in providing some boundaries for social media means that the other lines have failed. Most notably, families have failed to protect children from that which threatens them the most. 

This is a modern-day application of one of the most helpful ideas of Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, who lived at the turn of the 20th century. Kuyper has jokingly been called the Colson Center’s “patron saint.” Near the end of his life, Chuck Colson described how influential Kuyper’s thought was to his own, specifically in understanding how Christians were called to interact with and influence the culture around them.  

Christians could best influence society, according to Kuyper, through the sphere of our family, the basic building block of society. During his lifetime, Kuyper worked across various spheres of culture, not only writing as a theologian but founding a university, leading a newspaper, and eventually becoming prime minister. Throughout his various careers, Kuyper proposed and championed a concept called “sphere sovereignty.”  

“Spheres,” as Kuyper understood them, are the social groupings, or domains, that keep society running. He saw them as interlocking “cogs” that work together. In his message at the inauguration of the Free University in the Netherlands, he explained that each sphere—such as science, art, business, government, and family—has “its own law of life” and “its own head” or leadership. Ultimately, Christ is sovereign over all of life. His most famous quote is, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human life of which Christ, Who is Sovereign of all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”  It is Christ who moves “the wheels to turn as they are destined to turn. Not to oppress life nor to bind freedom, but to make possible a free exercise of life for and in each of these spheres, is not this a beckoning ideal for every noble State Sovereign? [or leader].” 

His idea, that the duty of the head of a state is to facilitate “free exercise of life,” reveals that, in many ways, Kuyper lived in a time period similar to ours—a time when people were calling for revolution. Kuyper was so uncomfortable with this lawless approach that he called his political party the “Anti-Revolutionary Party.” According to the author Michael Wagenman, Kuyper believed, "Human beings are called to responsible human agency in which 'the course of our historic development may be altered only through gradual change in a lawful way.' But this is accomplished through responsible reforms rather than outright revolution that seeks to usher in a manufactured utopia."

If the language of ushering in a “manufactured utopia” doesn’t sound familiar, just search for “antiracist” and “revolution” on Twitter. The crisis in the state, Kuyper believed, revealed a crisis of family. 

Kuyper saw family leadership as “responsible for the good order in the family,” rather than the “head of the state.” Government should only step in if parents did not do their job. He insisted that “the central government may only take on and carry out what is not (and for so long as it is not) properly taken care of in the smaller spheres of life.”  

If government control of the good order of the family has to occur, it should be only temporary. Thus, the government can incentivize good family order, such as tax deductions for college saving plans, but a secular government controlling family life can get weird fast, such as removing a child seeking a transgender identity from a Christian family’s home. It’s one of the reasons Christians should recognize and champion parental rights.  

Coming back to the topic of teens and social media, we can say that restricting their access to social media is a good idea. But this is the job of the family, not the government. When families fare well, society fares well. That’s those cogs of spheres working together well. A society is only as virtuous as its families. 

This month, if the Colson Center has helped you understand the sphere of the family better—if it’s helped your thinking to be big enough for this world and for living in your place in it, would you consider giving a gift of any amount? Go to colsoncenter.org/september. 

Sep 07, 2022
The Little Sisters of the Poor: Heroes or Villains?
01:03

Recently The New Yorker profiled a nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. The piece described, in admirable terms, the Catholic nuns’ reputation for treating the elderly with dignity and compassion, as well as the Little Sisters’ founder, a French nun known for personally taking in the homeless. 

Such behavior is not strange for followers of Jesus. What is strange is The New Yorker’s about-face. Not long ago, the magazine covered the Little Sisters for a very different reason. Writing about the nuns’ lawsuit against the federal government’s Obamacare mandate, which would have forced them to pay for contraception and abortion, The New Yorker called the nuns “irrationally passionate.” There was not a word about the Little Sisters’ love for the elderly or their courageous founder. Instead, reporters suggested they didn’t care about women.  

In a secular society, Christ followers will sometimes be loved and sometimes subjected to baseless accusations. That’s OK. We were told this would happen. Our job is to keep loving our neighbors while never compromising our convictions. 

Sep 06, 2022
The Teen Mental Health Crisis: How Do We Respond?
04:56

Teen mental health has never been this bad.  

As New York Times journalists Michael Barbaro and Matt Richtel discussed last week on The Daily podcast, we’re facing an unprecedented crisis in teen mental health. Mere decades ago, the major threats to the health and well-being of young people in the West were nearly all external, such as illness, car accidents, risky sexual behavior, alcohol, or smoking. Today, the greatest threats to the health and well-being of young people are internal. As Richtel reported, in 2019, 13% of all adolescents reported having a major depressive episode, a 60% increase from 2007. Teen suicide rates, which had been stable for nearly a decade prior to 2007, “leapt nearly 60% by 2018.” In 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced,  “Mental health disorders have surpassed physical conditions as the most common reasons children have impairments and limitations.”  

The factors behind this tsunami of depression, anxiety, and self-harm are many, one of which is the internet. In 2017, Dr. Jean Twenge of San Diego State University noted that the spike in adolescent mental health problems reached a crescendo in 2012. That year, the percentage of Americans who owned smartphones surpassed 50%. Exposing developing brains to an overwhelming amount of social information, she argued, was contributing to a massive, unprecedented uptick in mental health issues.  

On one hand, social media has brought the near constant experience of social comparison to the developing minds of 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds.  On the other hand, the sheer amount of panicked, hyperbolized, and truly frightening headlines a student must navigate is unprecedented in human history. We might forgive students who are convinced the world is completely out of control. 

Richtel and Barbaro also noted other factors in the podcast. For example, the average age for the onset of puberty has become earlier and earlier since the 1980s, especially for girls. Experts are unsure as to exactly why this is the case, but there are plenty of correlations having to do with early exposure to sexually explicit material, fatherlessness, and family breakdown. Whatever the cause, the impact is real.  

In the face of this exploding mental health crisis among young people, the demand for care is outpacing the number of trained counselors and psychologists. Pediatricians and emergency rooms have become first responders. As Richtel observed, Every night, in emergency rooms across the country, there are at least 1,000 young people spending the night waiting in a room to get to the next level of care where they can be helped.”  

More and more frequently, medication is seen as the only answer. While an important tool, Ritchie notes why that is far from adequate. “We are prescribing medications in the absence of dealing with… fundamental structural changes that we have not addressed as a society.” 

In every generation, followers of Christ have seen protecting and caring for vulnerable children as a crucial part of their calling. Today, children are vulnerable to radically changing social conditions, harmful ideas about their minds and bodies, the loss of institutions crucial to their health and well-being, and a barrage of bad news.  

 The first step in fulfilling our calling is, in the words of my friend Dr. Matthew Sleeth, to Hope Always. Children need the truth about life and the world, about themselves and God, and we can give it to them. Of course, parents must limit and help guide children in their digital interactions, as nearly all experts recognize. But this is not merely a crisis of media: It’s a crisis of meaninglessness. That’s one reason a Harvard psychologist writing in Scientific American argued that “Psychiatry needs to get right with God.”  

To that end, we’ve developed a new Colson Center Educators course taught by Dr. Matthew Sleeth to equip parents, pastors, and educators, with the tools to meet the current crisis.  

Also, tonight, is the latest in our Lighthouse Voices series. “Despair, Mental Health, and the Crisis of Meaning: How Christians Can Speak Life to a Lost Culture” is a live event featuring Dr. Ryan Burkhart of Colorado Christian University. To register for the live event in Holland, Michigan, or the livestream, visit Colsoncenter.org. 

Christians have an obligation to care. When we see the brokenness of the world around us, we are to imitate the work of Christ. In His name, we can be a force for good in our lifetimes, and, God willing, reverse the tide.  

Sep 06, 2022
What the Trend of Sterilization Reveals
01:05

Fertility is a gift, not a problem. 

According to an NPR report, more women are seeking sterilization. For example, at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital in Montana, more women in their twenties and thirties are asking not for their tubes to be tied—a reversible procedure—but to be removed, a permanent procedure.  

This is another sign that women’s fertility has been largely pathologized, treated as a bug rather than a feature of being a woman. It’s as if a woman’s body is presumed better when more like a man’s—without the ability to bear children... somehow in the name of “women’s rights.” 

But studies cited in the article suggest these women may regret their decision. Dr. Kavita Arora, the chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Ethics, described a patient: “She wanted to have autonomous control over her body, and this was her way of ensuring she was the person who got to make the decisions.”  

Rather than practice sexual self-restraint, the patient’s desire for “control” led her to deny the potential of motherhood.  

Sep 05, 2022
Your Work Matters: A Message From Chuck Colson
03:53

On this Labor Day, here are some important ideas from Chuck Colson on the importance of work.  

Americans are rethinking work, at least in the sense of employment.  While there are many factors behind what has been called “The Great Resignation,” “The Great Quit,” and “The Great Reshuffle,” we shouldn’t underestimate the connection between how people see work and our culture-wide crisis of meaninglessness. 

 Christian ethicist Oliver O’Donovan has written:  

"In work we make a difference to the world, not merely the kind of difference that any event must make … but a purposeful difference. In work we not only affect things; we effect things….  To work well is to bring intelligence and love to bear upon the grain of our worldly material, whether that is inert stuff, living beings or abstract relations of things."

In other words, our work, whether physical labor or intellectual pursuits, matters. Here is a recording of Chuck Colson, from many years ago, explaining a Christian vision of human work. 

"In American society, most of us spend more of our waking hours at our jobs than in any other activity. While that may or may not be a positive commentary on our culture, it’s a fact that’s got to be considered by churches and ministries seeking to equip Christians to live faithfully. Yet, in our work cultures today, most of us have been trained to separate our faith lives from our work lives. The chasm between the two worlds disturbs us, signaling that something is wrong. And this comes at a time when the single most common demographic among people in the church is work, and at a time when the culture of that workplace is most foreign to our faith.   

For years we’ve lived with the belief that the real work of God’s kingdom was done by missionaries and members of the clergy. Others work to make money to support the 'real work.' Yet, Scripture insists that our work is good. The ancient Greeks thought of work as a curse; Christianity gave meaning to work. Work, for the Christian, is a calling. After all, Jesus grew up with the callused hands of a carpenter, and the very fact that He worked gives dignity to our work. The Reformation, as I wrote with Jack Eckerd in Why America Doesn’t Work, 'struck at society’s dualistic view of work. Just as they saw the church comprised of all the people of God, not just the clergy, so the Reformers saw all work—sacred and secular, intellectual and manual—as a way of serving God.'  

Work embraced as a calling expresses the glory of God, and it’s part of—very literally—following Jesus. Through our work God provides for us and for our families, contributes to the common good, and also gives us a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. He has given us work as the way to fulfill His mandate to us as humans—to take dominion over the world he has created. As we work, we extend God’s reign and influence as his agents or stewards.  

And the way that we take that dominion, confronting the challenges and difficulties that “go with the job,” is, in itself, our witness to the reality of God and our faith in Christ. Excellence in our calling, which the Bible calls for, makes the most powerful witness for us in the workplace. Sure, we could wait for those who are seekers and skeptics to come into our church buildings, but the vast majority never will. We could wait for them to seek out a pastor, but most don’t know any.  

Now more than ever the “indigenous believers,” those Christians already in the mission fields of accounting, sales, software, construction, and other honorable vocations, need to be equipped to work with integrity and thus share their faith in actions as well as words."

That was Chuck Colson. I hope that this Labor Day can be a sabbath from your work today.  

Sep 05, 2022
Mental Health Crisis Among Youth, the Church & Public Education, and Battles for Religious Liberty
01:12:33

John and Maria focus in on the factors contributing to the remarkable rise in mental health issues for young people, including the crisis of authority that results from the barrage of information online. Afterwards, they discuss how the Church has always led in innovative education and must continue to do so. They end on a recent win and two losses for religious liberty in the lower courts.

Sep 02, 2022
One Year for the Taliban in Afghanistan
01:12

It’s been a year since the U.S. military’s disastrous pullout from Afghanistan left allies, colleagues, and up to 1,000 American citizens there to fend for themselves. Though the new Taliban government promised to respect human rights, especially the rights of women, it’s turned out as many expected.  

Universities and primary schools are open to women, but girls over age 11 are locked out of secondary schools, women are only permitted to work in education and health, must keep their faces covered, and must be accompanied by a male guardian for long-distance travel. And, swift and cruel punishments for breaking these rules also have returned. 

Though the Taliban deny it, a division is growing between a political wing that wants better relations with the outside world (and therefore wants to relax restrictions on women) and clerics in Kandahar who, like the Ayatollahs in Iran, dictate policy on the ground.  

We often hear that all worldviews are equal, all religions the same, and we shouldn’t impose our values on anyone else. The truth is that our ideas about the world and human beings have real consequences and real victims. 

Sep 02, 2022
Keep the Church in School
04:54

Three days before the first day of school in Columbus, Ohio, the teachers’ union went on strike, leaving 47,000 students with nowhere to go. School board officials promised that schooling would move forward “online,” but on what was supposed to be the first day, the website suffered hours-long outages. It was chaos. 

Even as this teachers’ strike was brewing, a new school, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Columbus, was preparing to open its doors for the first time. Westside Christian School will serve kindergarteners through second graders this year, using Sunday school classrooms and the gym inside a local Baptist church. Thanks to funding from donors and Ohio’s school voucher program, which allows kids who live in failing school districts to use their tax dollars for private schooling, students can attend Westside Christian School without paying tuition 

This is just one example of the kind of creativity that has animated Christians all over the country for decades now, with the goal of offering different and better educational options for families. While some consider the idea that Christians are involved in education, especially public education, controversial, it didn’t use to be. In a filmed conversation a few years ago, I asked Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi, a philosopher who has studied the historic impact of Christianity on the world, why Christians should engage in educational work, especially in a pluralist society like ours. His answer was that Christianity is education.  

The Christian account of reality, from creation in Genesis to the New Creation in Revelation, is the true story of the world. The biblical mandate to tell that story to everyone, rich or poor or clergy or not, is the foundation of the entire Western world’s concept of universal schooling.  

For example, a chief complaint of the Reformers was that Rome kept a tight rein on education and learning, most notably in limiting Bible translations to Latin. The Reformers’ view that everyone should hear God’s Word led to Bibles in a common language and widespread education for those previously left out. The ability for everyone to read God’s Word for him- or herself led to the dramatic expansion of literacy and learning, not to mention commerce.  

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church was also a great champion of education, founding universities and parochial schools everywhere the Church expanded. That’s because of the fundamental view that all Christians share: that God has revealed Himself and wants to be known. Therefore, learning is a high calling of being human. 

A few hundred years after the Reformation, the American founders established public education as the right and duty of every citizen. Thomas Jefferson even suggested that an uneducated citizenry would neither flourish nor long be able to self-govern. Unfortunately, public education was isolated from religious faith long ago and therefore untethered from its moral foundation. Today, most people, including Christians, think of education as a secular arena. Religion, we’re told, should be kept personal, private, and above all, outside the classroom. 

This bad idea has had real consequences. Far from neutral on issues of religion and morality, public schools instead push dangerous religious and political ideologies, like critical race theory, and harmful, irrational ideas about sex and gender. Administrative costs have ballooned while teachers strike over salary demands.  

Many American schools aren’t even succeeding in the basics. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education found that almost 20% of American high school graduates could not read. In many communities, that number is far higher. Lockdowns and Zoom classrooms made parents more aware of these things, and so now in many communities, public school enrollment is in a free fall. In contrast, private, Christian school enrollment has gone up, and a record number of households are homeschooling. 

This is a moment for Christians to love our neighbors through education, like our forebears did. We do this by pressing public schools to do better and by providing as many other options as possible, and by making those options financially and otherwise feasible. We should also advocate for new school choice policies, like the one just implemented in Arizona which allows parents to use their own tax money for the schooling that’s best for their kids. 

There’s a lot that we can do, and when we do it, we give good gifts to the world. While grown-ups stalk picket lines, there are real kids who need a real education right now. The Church has always been more than up to the task. 

Sep 02, 2022
Stacey Abrams, the Bible, and Abortion Rights
01:00

Recently, in a speech at a Georgia church, rising progressive star Stacey Abrams, after noting that her parents had been pastors, declared, “I was trained to read and understand the Bible, and I will tell you this, there is nothing about the decision to eliminate access to abortion care that is grounded in anything other than cruelty and meanness.” 

However, the way the Bible speaks of preborn children eliminates abortion as a moral option. In Psalm 139, the psalmist declares, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The Prophet Jeremiah was told by God, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” And in one of the most beautiful moments in Holy Scripture, John the Baptist, still in Elizabeth’s womb, leapt when in the presence of Jesus, still in Mary’s womb. 

Test everything, the Scripture says. Especially those who claim to speak for God. 

Sep 01, 2022
How the Church (and the State) Failed Abigail Martinez
05:07

Recently, at The Celebration of America’s Promise to Parents event, hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, Abigail Martinez, a grieving mother, shared a story that every single parent, pastor, and lawmaker in America needs to hear. Abigail’s daughter Yaeli began to struggle with depression when she was in the 8th grade. Without communication with her mother, Yaeli was quickly funneled by personnel at her school towards the LGBTQ group, and then to an outside psychologist. Soon, Yaeli was being led by these adults towards a “social transition,” going by the name “Andrew” and increasingly presenting as a boy. All the while, she was urged to keep the details hidden from her family. 

Once she caught wind, Abigail protested both the secrecy and the strategy of this counseling, urging the counselors to instead look into underlying issues of Yaeli’s mental health. Instead, she was told that by refusing to call her daughter by her new name and pronouns, she was the problem. If anything happened to Yaeli, the school said, it would be Abigail’s fault. 

From that moment on, the system boxed her out at every turn. When Yaeli was 16, the school psychologist urged the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services to intervene, arguing that because her mom was “unsupportive” of her social transition, Yaeli would be better off living elsewhere. Yaeli was moved to a group home, where she started taking cross-sex hormones. Abigail was only allowed to see her daughter for one hour each week, supervised, and strictly warned not to bring up anything relating to her daughter’s transition, including their Christian faith. If she did, her visitation rights would be revoked. 

 “If we keep [Yaeli] out of your home,” Abigail remembered being told, “she [will] have more chance to survive. She’s not going to try to commit suicide.” 

Instead, all the while, Yaeli’s mental health continued to decline. The testosterone caused her constant pain, for which a doctor prescribed CBD oil. “She was taking the [cross-sex] hormones; she was not happy,” her mother said. “She changed her name, [but] was not happy, she adopted a dog because that was going to make her happy. None of it, everything that they’ve done, didn’t work.” 

At age 19, having moved out of the group home and pursued her new identity for about three years, Yaeli took her own life. As Abigail later told The Daily Signal, “I don’t want any parent to go through this, because this pain never goes away. … You breathe and you can feel the pain.” 

It’s hard to imagine a tragedy like this could happen. It’s hard to believe that a parent could lose custody to the state, simply for holding to a child’s biological sex. What’s not hard to imagine is that Yaeli Martinez will not be the last victim of these bad ideas, indoctrinated by state power.

Local governments like Los Angeles County aggressively promote the doctrine of “gender-affirming care,” even if it means tearing a family apart. On a state level, one California senator has proposed a bill empowering courts to remove children, not just from California residents, but from anyone who travels to the state and whose children claim their parents do not support them in their gender identity or sexual orientation choices. A similar case recently unfolded in Ohio, where a county prosecutor charged a couple with “abuse and neglect” for seeking counseling instead of transition for their daughter. And in Michigan, it is very likely that a ballot initiative will be taken to the voters this November utilizing the language of “reproductive freedom” to usurp parental rights in similar ways.

Through these laws, the state perpetuates grave evil. In the case of Yaeli Martinez, the silence of her church was even more tragic. When at the state-assigned group home, Yaeli repeatedly asked her mother when a pastor or youth leader might come visit. She had felt close to these leaders and was eager to see them. “[They] know I’m here, right?” Abigail remembered her daughter asking. 

As Abigail said, “I asked them. I gave them the address.” But they never visited. Not Abigail. Not Yaeli. No public support from the pulpit. No private support either. Abigail Martinez has walked this path all alone. 

In this, Abigail was the victim of a church culture designed around making people feel good and dodging difficult issues. Shame on them. Yaeli Martinez will not be the last teenager in crisis.

That’s why I’m grateful for churches that, with truth and grace, do show up for parents in need. Nobody wants this culture war over sex and gender, but we didn’t choose this moment. To oppose state-sponsored trans ideology in law and in school is a necessary act of love.  

No child should be harmed by state-sponsored lies. No parent should go through what Abigail Martinez went through. And absolutely no parent should go through what Abigail Martinez went through alone.

 

Sep 01, 2022
The Attack on Salman Rushdie
01:11

Earlier this month, British-Indian author Salman Rushdie was brutally attacked at an event in upstate New York. In 1989, Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses so enraged Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini that he issued a global kill-order, or fatwa, on the author, his editors, and publishers.   

Though Khomeini died later that year, fatwas cannot be revoked posthumously. So, Rushdie went into hiding, appearing later only under heavy security. Eventually, many in the West simply forgot about it. 

Shia extremists did not.  

This tell us something about how differently the secular West and radical Islam sees the world, and how short our cultural memory is compared with theirs. And, at stake is more than a contest of memory. In the Western world, we’ve been secularized to think of religion as a privatized matter of preference. We therefore underestimate the power that religious convictions wield, including the power that our secular religious convictions hold over our own hearts, minds, and culture.  

All of which is an opportunity for Christians to show and live a better way, one that sees God, history, people, and the world so differently. 

Aug 31, 2022
In Canada, Euthanasia for “Mature” Minors?
04:51

In 2016, Canada legalized euthanasia through the euphemistically titled Medical Aid in Dying (or MAiD). Since passing, the number of Canadians who either “enthusiastically” or “cautiously” support the practice has risen slightly from 75% to 80%. The response from communities representing those with disabilities, however, has remained consistently opposed. Their fears, that Canada’s end-of-life policies would prove to be only the cliff edge of a moral abyss, have proven to be largely accurate.  

As Maria Cheng of the Associated Press has reported, Canada “arguably has the most permissive euthanasia rules [in the world.]” Just last year, over 10,000 lives were legally taken, an increase of a third from the year before. Patients can request aid in dying without informing family members and for any reason, including, beginning in 2023, mental health issues and not just physical suffering. Doctors, as well as nurse practitioners, can raise the topic of euthanasia with any patient and are not required to first exhaust all other treatment options. Though the government keeps track of yearly deaths by euthanasia, it does not have a commission to review troubling cases, a practice used by other permissive nations like Belgium and the Netherlands.  

Next year, euthanasia will likely be extended to so-called “mature” minors. At a time when so many efforts are being made toward suicide prevention among teenagers, they will be taught that death is an acceptable way out of mental anguish. Horrific. 

The deadly cocktail of adverse incentives, little accountability, and ineffective “safeguards” have led to a context in which, as AP’s Cheng wrote, Some disabled Canadians have decided to be killed in the face of mounting bills. .… Other disabled people say the easy availability of euthanasia has led to unsettling and sometimes frightening discussions.”  

The worst impact of this slope Canada is sliding down could be a perversion of the word “care.” For example, one Canadian armed forces veteran was outraged after a healthcare worker raised the possibility of assisted death as a “treatment” option for his PTSD.  Alan Nichols was a 61-year-old man who was hospitalized in 2019 over fears he might be suicidal. “Within a month,” Cheng described, “Nichols submitted a request to be euthanized and he was killed, despite concerns raised by his family and a nurse practitioner.” The only physical health condition listed on Nichol’s form of consent was hearing loss. According to his brother Gary, “Alan was basically put to death.” 

Stories like these are shocking, but we can’t say we were not warned by nearly every disability group in Canada, observers from the UN, and even the American Medical Association. When it comes to euthanasia and doctor-assisted death, abuses and loopholes are not anomalies. They are inevitabilities of a system that operates from a cheapened view of human value and a redefined understanding of healthcare.  

The AMA’s official opinion makes clear, “Euthanasia is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” Particularly in a single-payer health care system like Canada’s, the decision of who lives and who dies will inevitably be influenced by crass factors such as money, access to medical resources, and arbitrary decisions about what constitutes “quality of life.”  

Against such cultural headwinds, mere “consent” is not enough. In fact, whenever and wherever it is legalized, the so-called “right” to die soon becomes a perceived “duty to die.” Patients consistently report making decisions about not wanting to be “a burden” on friends or family, or because they are convinced, as law and disability professor Theresia Degener described, “a life with disability is automatically less worth living and that in some cases, death is preferable.”  

Euthanasia is at odds with any civilized vision of human value. As Alan Nichols’ sister-in-law said, “Somebody needs to take responsibility so that it never happens to another family. I am terrified of my husband or another relative being put in the hospital and somehow getting these (euthanasia) forms in their hand.” 

Let’s pray the rest of the world learns from Canada’s terrible example and in nation after nation the lid of this Pandora’s box will be slammed shut.  

Aug 31, 2022
The Lord’s Prayer and Student Debt
01:03

Last week President Biden announced a plan to cancel student debt, about $330 billion worth. The cost to taxpayers could be as high as half a trillion dollars 

My friend Dan Darling joked on Twitter that youth pastors just received the gift of a great sermon illustration, but some have actually defended the policy (which even former Obama advisors have criticized) by pointing to Jesus words in the Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…” 

For example, an editorial in TIME argues that when Christ prayed these words in the Garden, He was referring to the Old Testament “Year of Jubilee,” in which debts were canceled every 50 years. So, mass debt forgiveness, conclude the authors, comes from Moses not Marx.  

OK, I’m lost. Is it now suddenly OK to impose Old Testament laws on America? Which ones? All of them? It’s so strange after hearing over and over that when it comes to things such as sexual morality, the Bible is not clear; but when it comes to debt policy, it is... 

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus was not talking about economic debts. Both His words and the Year of Jubilee in Israel point to the forgiveness of a debt far greater than college loans: our sin. That debt was paid in full by His blood, not by moving tax dollars around.  

Aug 30, 2022
“The Whisper Method” Recycles Old, Bad Ideas
04:26

A new “manifestation trend” called “The Whisper Method” has gone viral on TikTok. If the word salad in that sentence is new to you, “manifestation” is the practice of focused, intense thinking about what you want until you get it. The practice is grounded in New Age philosophy and seems to re-emerge every few years in some new form. The “Whisper Method” is the latest manifestation of manifestation, and TikTok is where it is all happening. 

The “Whisper Method” involves thinking of what you really want and identifying who can give it to you. Then, you are to imagine whispering instructions into that person’s ear, such as, “You’re going to give me that promotion.” Or, “You’re going to fall in love with me.” If you really believe (and whisper), then eventually you shall receive.  

We’ve seen this kind of thing before. Years ago, Oprah popularized “The Secret,” a philosophy that if people put “positive thoughts and vibes”’ into the universe, they’d get positive results back. In other words, if we send out energy claiming a bigger bank account, a smaller waist, or a better parking spot during Christmas, we’ll get those things. 

From a motivation standpoint, it’s easy to understand how something like The Secret or The Whisper Method gains traction. It involves little work with big rewards. Beneath the irrationality and geographic specificity (these strategies aren’t very popular in war-torn areas or regions inflicted by famine), there is a truth. The human imagination is incredibly powerful.  

In a 2006 episode of Oprah, she described “The Secret” this way: “What you focus on gets bigger.” Short of the weird metaphysical claims to be able to “manifest” new objective realities, Oprah was not entirely off base. God created humans with creative ability. We cannot create out of nothing, or ex nihilo, like God did, but humans are unique among creation in our ability to make something out of the world around us. Thus, humans invent and build and improve and innovate. And, in Psalm 37, we are told that if we “delight” ourselves “in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart,” though that has more to do with God first giving us rightly ordered desires once He is our ultimate delight.  

Various studies have demonstrated that athletes who routinely imagine themselves performing well often develop a measurable competitive edge. However, even the most imaginative and sincere visualization techniques cannot magically bend reality. Thus, researchers believe that visualizing strong athletic performance is a way of practicing the sport. Not to mention, that any athletic improvements served by visualizations are in addition to actually physically practicing the sport. 

The Whisper Method isn’t about training for a good performance or searching our hearts and motives to make sure they align with the will of God. The Whisper Method is about the illusion of control. It assumes that internal focus can determine external realities. This desire for control is nothing new, nor has The Whisper Method shifted from changing our own actions in place of manipulating the actions of others. In that way, The Whisper Method reflects the cultural ethos that other people are primarily objects to be used in service to our own ends. 

We didn’t make the world, and we’re not in charge of it. God did, and He is. We’re not to worry ourselves over controlling it but instead are to “cast all our anxieties on Him.” If we are going to “whisper,” it should be in prayer to the God who made us and loves us. 

In honest prayer, our hearts are taught what they truly desire. In prayer, we place those desires at the feet of our Heavenly Father, ask Him to conform them and us to His will, trusting that everything He does will be for our good. All of which makes prayer the opposite of The Whisper Method, which only pretends that we can control the world and assumes that our strategies for controlling it are fully informed and perfectly wise, as if we have the faintest idea of what’s really best for us. We don’t. 

In his book on prayer, Pastor Tim Keller wrote that “God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything He knew.” Thank goodness we don’t live in a world where our wishing, or our “whispering,” makes it so.

Aug 30, 2022
A New Anti-Conversion Law in India
01:15

A new law in a northern state of India imposes up to 10 years in jail time for so-called “forced,” or “mass” conversions … meaning more than one person at a time. It also casts suspicion on those influenced by Christian social services like health, education, and charity, which often appeal to those trapped in Hindu’s marginalized lower castes. 

India’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but laws like this reflect how rapidly the ruling party’s push for Hindu Nationalism has changed things for Christians in that country. 

But efforts to restrict the gospel rarely work. As one local bishop put it...  

Anybody who converts to Christianity is doing so from a strong unflinching personal following of Jesus Christ and very much as a personal conscious decision of divine attraction to Jesus Christ, God’s love, compassion, forgiveness, justice and truth. His death we celebrate in love, His Resurrection from the dead we profess with living faith, His coming in glory we await with unwavering hope. This personal experience makes them embrace Christianity.  

Amen. That’s why faith in Christ has survived so many attempts to stamp it out. 

Aug 29, 2022
Dobbs, “Due Process,” and the “Deeply Rooted” Test
04:43

The Dobbs decision is the most significant Supreme Court decision of our lifetime, and it’s already been cited in another legal case.  

Recently, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall requested that a federal district court remove an injunction against a ban on medical intervention for youth seeking a transgender identity. He wrote: “But no one—adult or child—has a right to transitioning treatments that is deeply rooted in our Nation’s history and tradition.” 

His words are based on language from Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in the recent Dobbs case. Alito argued that abortion cannot be found in the Constitution, nor has it ever been “deeply rooted” in the history and traditions of the American people. 

Roe v. Wade, which was overturned by the Dobbs decision, was part of a series of Supreme Court decisions that “discovered” new constitutional rights based on little more than the whims of the sitting Justices. Commonly, in the use of the “substantive due process doctrine,” earlier Supreme Courts invoked a so-called “right to privacy,” as they did in Roe v. Wade. While there’s little more American than the right to be left alone, the Court misconstrued this reasonable desire for privacy to mean the “right” to kill children in the womb. 

“Substantive due process” is supposedly based on the 14th Amendment’s due process clause. Proponents of the doctrine contend that, even if a right isn’t explicitly recognized in the Constitution, the rights that are explicit cast “penumbras”—or shadows—which suggest the existence of other, unenumerated rights that the Supreme Court should protect. If this sounds like a stretch, that’s because it is, not least because the due process clause is about just that—lawful process, not substantive rights.  

The notion of “substantive due process” is often a pretext for judges to affirm current social norms with little more than passing reference to the Bill of Rights. So, what was never historically a right could be deemed one simply by finding a way to rationalize it with reference to some other right in the Constitution. Instead of rights finding root in the constitutional text or in who we always are as human beings, they become based on shifting cultural norms, as easily created as denied. As Justice Thomas pointed out in his concurrent opinion in the Dobbs decision, substantive due process is “legal fiction.” Thus, he questioned the Court’s power to “divine new rights.”  

While substantive due process has been used to cause harm, it’s also been used to support good decisions, for example the ruling on interracial marriage in the case of Loving v. Virginia. However, the Court also based Loving v. Virginia on another part of the 14th Amendment, the equal protection clause, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, among other things. In other words, the victory for interracial marriage was a recognition of reality, that all human beings, of whatever race or ethnicity, are fundamentally equal and therefore should not be treated differently. The call for a right to gender transition, however, is a rejection of reality, arguing that maleness and femaleness are illusory or ancillary to who and what we are. 

In the current application of the “deeply rooted” test in Alabama, parents demanded a right to experimental medical treatments for their children seeking a transgender identity. They argued that “enduring American tradition” makes them, and not the state of Alabama, primarily responsible for “nurturing and caring for their children.” In that sense, they are right. Parents rank higher than the state when it comes to childcare, but what these parents are demanding is the opposite of nurturing and caring. And in too many cases, government officials are usurping parental rights in promoting gender transitions to children, against their parent’s wishes. 

American tradition recognizes a right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children and even to make medical decisions for them, but it has never recognized a right of parents to cause their kids harm by radically altering their bodies in ways that render them permanently sterile and perpetually dependent on medical interventions. This is something radically new, not deeply rooted in American tradition and history, at best social experimentation.  

We can expect more cases in which the “deeply rooted” language of Dobbs is cited. Lower courts, taking the Supreme Court’s cue, should be reluctant to strike down democratically enacted laws based on newly minted theories of unenumerated rights. In the meantime, Christians must continue to point to the reality of human nature, including the good of our bodies as male and female, and most of all, to the Source of our actual rights: our Creator. 

Aug 29, 2022
Christians in the Public Square, Proposed Title IX Changes, and Why Women are Leaving the Church
01:02:57

In response to a recent op-ed at Christianity Today, Maria and John insist that Christians can and should be involved in the public square, particularly in the schools. One clear reason is the proposed regulations reinterpreting Title IX. These regulations would remove parental rights from parents whose kids are drawn to radical gender ideology, making the schools conduits to transgender treatments. Maria and John then move to a discussion of the “why” behind a new stat showing that women are leaving the Church.

Aug 26, 2022
The Church Is Essential in a Season of Deconstructing Faith
01:05

Next month, the Colson Center is offering a short course entitled “The Essential Church: Why Christians (and the World) Still Need the Church.”  

It’s a timely message, especially given a recent shift in Church demographics. Christianity Today reported that younger women are, for the first time, less likely to go to church than men...  not because more men are now attending church, but because more women are deconstructing their faith, and more likely to identify as “nones.” 

Battered by church controversies and scandals, and shaped by cultural messages, women are increasingly heading for the exit. In doing so, they are rejecting a faith that, in the words of my colleague Glenn Sunshine, has done “more to improve the status of women than any other historical force.” The Church is meant to enable and empower men and women to live as image bearers, according to God’s design.  

Simply put, the Church is essential, and that’s the topic of our upcoming short course, hosted by Dr. Tim Padgett and featuring Peter Leithart, Collin Hansen, and Glenn Sunshine. Christians need to know why. Go to colsoncenter.org/August to learn more. 

Aug 26, 2022
Max’s Hearts Reach Ukraine
04:40

Frequent readers and listeners of Breakpoint know about Max. The grandson of Chuck Colson and subject of a book called Dancing With Max, authored by Emily Colson (Chuck’s daughter and Colson Center board member), Max is a remarkable young man who has autism. The last few years have been difficult for Emily and Max, especially since the COVID lockdowns disrupted their routines and canceled their helpers. The last few years were particularly hard on full-time caretakers. 

And yet, in the middle of the challenges and disruptions of the last few years, God gave Max a ministry of encouraging and blessing others, a ministry now reaching people whose lives have been disrupted by war.  

Here’s how Emily Colson described this remarkable story in a recent email: 

We didn’t have a plan: We had a prayer. “How can we be a blessing to others?” 

More than two years later, God continues to answer that prayer beyond what we could ask or imagine, bringing hope around the world.  Even into a war zone.  

It was COVID shutdown 2020 when Max began to hand-paint colorful heart yard signs and deliver them around our community. Max wasn’t an artist: Autism had made fine motor a lifelong challenge. God often uses the most unlikely individuals to accomplish His purposes so that the story is unmistakably His.  

Our dining room became a workspace with plastic wrap stretched across the table and paint dripping into places that won’t be found for another decade. Our home began to look as if we’d invited Jackson Pollock to dinner. It was there, in the ache and loss and isolation of shutdown, that Max would paint his joy-filled hearts.   

Max has given away more than 250 heart yard signs now, and he is still painting. The hearts have made it onto note cards, 36,000 cards in circulation so far, with all proceeds going to charity. His hearts grace the front of shirts, each one packaged with a message of God’s love and the value of every life. With every shirt purchased a duplicate is given to a life-affirming charity. And a “heart exhibit” is traveling to different gallery locations, telling the story of what only God can do. Of how He can multiply blessings.  

As incredible as all of that is, there’s now another chapter to this story, which began when Emily’s friend April sent her a message. 

She’d been watching the war break out in Ukraine on live television. She prayed, and God pressed an idea into her heart like a hot wax seal: Send Max’s hearts to Ukraine.  

Our church leapt at the idea. Our printer, Spectrum Designs, a company employing the most amazing team of individuals with autism, jumped just as quickly, printing the first 1,000 shirts. A team of highly caffeinated volunteers began folding and packaging each shirt with a message of God’s love and hope—all translated into Ukrainian.  

But…where would we send these?  Who would receive and distribute these shirts in Ukraine? 

That answer began 50 years ago, in the brokenness of Watergate. My dad, Chuck Colson, served as Special Counsel to President Nixon... When my dad was released from prison he founded Prison Fellowship ministries, which became the largest prison ministry in the world, reaching millions of people in the darkest places around the globe with the hope and love of Jesus Christ.  

Even reaching Ukraine.  

The ministry he founded 50 years ago through the brokenness of Watergate would carry his grandson’s hearts, born of the brokenness of COVID, to bring hope to those in a war zone on the other side of the world.  

James Ackerman, president of Prison Fellowship USA, traveled to Romania... and (with) a team of ministry leaders and volunteers carried the shirts and other supplies deep into Ukraine, delivering them to children of prisoners, and to people in a Ukrainian refugee center. 

Emily received a photo of one little boy who was holding Max’s picture, and wearing a shirt printed with Max’s hearts and the words, “Beloved by God.”  Both of his parents were killed in the war. As Emily said, 

When I saw this little boy’s face, I cried for days... God cares. He aches for the brokenness of this world. He is close to this little boy, just as He is close to Max. God was even leaning over Max’s shoulder as he began to paint, knowing He would carry these hearts—and His hope—around the world.  

You can learn how to join Max and Emily in their mission at www.heartbymax.com 

Aug 26, 2022
The Targeting of Ukrainian Priests
01:05

According to Ian Lovett in The Wall Street Journal, “Dozens of priests from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the country’s largest denomination, have been kidnapped or killed since the (Russian) invasion began.”  

Some have been tortured, accused of stirring up anti-Russian sentiment. Those allowed to return to their congregations bear scars and missing teeth. Some never return at all. 

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s split from Russian Orthodoxy in 2019 provides the political motivation for Russia to target its members. The Russian church, under Patriarch Kirill, has supported the war, arguing that it has “metaphysical significance.”  

He may be right, though not in the way he believes. By targeting Ukrainian believers, Russia adds to the ranks of those who suffer, not just for Ukraine, but for Christ.  

Father Ioann Burdin, a Russian Orthodox priest who has publicly opposed the invasion, wrote in February, “Russian soldiers are killing their brothers and sisters in Christ…. We can’t shamefully cover our eyes and call… evil good.”  

Aug 25, 2022
Biden Administration Issues Title IX Regulations: Parental Rights at Stake
05:04

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Education announced new regulations regarding Title IX, which is designed to ensure and protect access for women and girls in education. These new rules are 700 pages long and are being trumpeted by organizations such as the National Education Association as a victory for victims of sexual harassment and clarification of discrimination based on sex. However, what is meant by “sex” will be a disaster for women. 

The massive document is infected with the presumptions of transgender ideology, specifically that “sex” includes “gender identity,” ignoring the biological reality of sex. Not only will these rules limit our daughters’ opportunities to participate in sports and lead to dangerous violations of their privacy, but they will erase parental rights and free speech in favor of state-centered authority. There is a limited time to speak into these regulations before they are instituted. 

In 1972, Title IX was enacted to provide equal access to education and athletics for girls and women. Recent reinterpretations of sex threaten the good goals of Title IX by turning reality on its head. In a recent meeting of ministry leaders, Vernadette Broyles, general counsel and president of the non-profit law firm, Child & Parental Rights Campaign, explained three major implications of this regulation.  

The first concern has to do with the removal of parental rights. Minors who decide to transition at school will be supported by the schools and led into the process of “social transition,” including using preferred pronouns, without requiring the consent of parents. It’s Broyles’ belief that this will “weaponize” government agencies like Child Protective Services and channel these children to “gender-affirming” counselors and clinics, eliminating the influence of parents in the process. This is already happening in some states, such as California. 

A second and primary concern is the remarkable damage that will be done to children’s bodies and emotions by encouraging and furthering social experimentation. For example, in July, the FDA announced that puberty blockers, which activists claim are harmless, can cause brain swelling and vision loss. Their long-term cognitive effects are still being studied. We also know that cross-sex hormones cause permanent sterilization. And of course, that doesn’t even get into what happens when things go “right” with the devastating permanent injuries caused by so-called “gender-affirmation” or “sex-reassignment” surgeries.  

Finally, Broyles spoke of the scandal intrinsic to girls having no private spaces in locker rooms or on school trips, and the heartbreaking irony of women and girls’ losing place to male athletes, all under the banner of Title IX.  

Even if your state has already acted, as some have, to protect parental rights and girls’ opportunities in sports, these rules will challenge state legislation at the federal level. 

So, what can be done? Every American has the opportunity to submit comments on these new rules before September 12. Through bureaucracy, the Biden administration has skirted the legislative process and accountability to elected representatives as it did with the mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding insurance supporting “transgender medicine.”   

When contacting Congressional Representatives and Senators about legislation, it is acceptable to use a copied script. In this situation, however, comments must be submitted through the Federal Register, the online journal that publishes the federal government’s rules and regulations. Rather than a Senate staffer tallying positions for or against a bill, staffers associated with the Register look for unique comments. If thousands of people flood the Register with the same script, that repeated comment would be counted as only one. 

So, please comment, in your own voice, laying out your specific concerns with these regulations. The Child & Parental Rights Campaign has provided multiple prompts—not scripts—to assist you in registering a comment. There are “comment starter letters” for parents, educators, and community religious leaders. In your comment, tell a unique story or specify your concerns for your daughter, son, grandchild, or school. If you have a psychological or medical background, refer to that expertise in explaining your perspective. If you have a law degree, use your legal training to explain the issues with these regulations. Express your concerns, not only for parental rights and potential harm to children, but also implications this will have for freedom of religion and speech, especially for teachers. 

Please, flood the Federal Register with unique comments before September 12. Visit the Child & Parental Rights Campaign website for resources, links, and prompts 

The future of our children may depend on it. 

Aug 25, 2022
James Webb Telescope Highlights Tech at Its Best
01:06

Last month the world got its first look at new photographs of deep space from NASA’s James Webb telescope. The level of detail in the photos was staggering and beautiful, revealing stars, “Cosmic Cliffs,” and ultraviolet radiation from the birth of new stars.  

Christians should approach new technologies with care. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. At the same time, this new telescope is an inspiring example of what humans can do because of how God made us. Technology can enable us to know and appreciate God’s world and to better tend the garden of creation. It also enables us to fight God’s design or try to control it as if we were God.  

This telescope is a remarkable achievement, involving years of insight, ingenuity, and perseverance, which are God-given virtues. The fruit of this work rightly elicits awe and should drive us to study and admire a vast and mysterious universe. And it points us to the God who made it all. 

Technology that leads us to appreciate creation, grow in wonder, and learn more about it is a true gift.   

Aug 24, 2022
When the Weight of “Choice” Is Too Heavy
04:15

Regular listeners to the weekly Breakpoint This Week podcast know that my co-host Maria and I are fans of the reality competition show Alone. Ten wilderness experts are dropped in the middle of nowhere, usually a place that is cold and full of bears, forced to fend for themselves. Whoever stays the longest wins.  

In the latest season, a military veteran with strong survival skills and extensive experience overseas seemed poised to win. Instead, he called it quits just a few weeks in. In an interview afterwards, he explained, “When I was in the military and separated from family, I didn’t have a choice. Out here... I had that opportunity to get on the radio or the phone and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to go back to where I’m comfortable.’” In other words, having the choice to go home made staying much harder. 

According to conventional wisdom, at least the kind accepted in this cultural moment, the opposite should have been true. More control and more choices are supposed to bring easier and more satisfying lives. 

That misconception is, in fact, a feature of life since modernism. For most of human history, humans held no illusions of being masters of their own fate. Writing back in 1976, American sociologist Peter Berger identified what changed, especially for Westerners. Because of the dramatic progress brought by science and technology, humans in the modern period began to believe that the world would eventually be fully understood. And if understood, it could also be mastered, as well. 

“What previously was experienced as fate now becomes an arena of choices,” Berger wrote. “In principle, there is the assumption that all human problems can be converted into technical problems… the world becomes ever more ‘makeable.’” 

A mark of our late postmodern era is the obsession with having choices. The higher the stakes, the more acute is the illusion of freedom. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy described this impulse in his now overturned Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, when he wrote that “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.” In his view, the “freedom of choice” extends to even choosing what is real. Is it any wonder that people now believe that choice extends beyond sexual behavior to sexual identity? 

However, if happiness truly comes from the control made possible through infinite choices and the ability to “make the world,” why did the military officer competing on Alone find the opposite to be true? Why did his freedom of choice turn out to be too much of a burden? Why do so many studies show that we are less happy than ever? 

The postmodern assertion that we can “make the world” exploits a weakness inherent to our fallen humanness and especially acute today. We struggle to delay gratification. We might fool ourselves into thinking that we can, in fact, define our existence or choose our gender. We may think our decision about whether to stay married or whether to bring an unborn child to birth is based on deep reflections. However, because we can, we tend to choose comfort now at the expense of flourishing later. If we have the option, we call the producers and tap out.  

Justice Kennedy was wrong. No matter how many choices we have, we cannot remake the world. Everywhere we turn, we butt up against the limits of creation. According to a Christian worldview, this is actually good news. God created the world with limits: physical and moral laws, bodies, certain geographic locations and times in history, and not other ones. He gives us specific parents and siblings and children, whose specific needs constantly impose limits on our choices.  

Even if, in modernity and postmodernity, such limits are anathema, to be resisted and fought against with all the science and technology we can muster, true freedom is found by recognizing and resting in God’s good limits, both physical and moral. If God is good, then the limits He imposes are not burdens. They’re blessings.

Aug 24, 2022
We Can’t Lead With Racism
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President Biden called the recent killings of Muslim men in New Mexico “hateful attacks,” implying they were hate crimes against the Muslim community. Less subtly, the mayor of Albuquerque commented: “violence against members of our community based on race or religion will not be tolerated.”  

Then the police arrested a Muslim man who, according to NPR, frequented the same mosque as his victims (though he was Sunni and three of his victims were Shia) 

This is what happens in a culture infected by a critical theory “mood.” Reduce everything to sex, power, and race, and as the adage goes, to a hammer everything looks like a nail.  

Assuming racism without facts provokes suspicions among groups and keeps us from seeing others in God’s image. In the end, people are judged by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character or, even worse, the content of their character is assumed because of the color of skin. 

Aug 23, 2022
Monkeypox: How the Feeble Response Endangers Public Health
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The last few years have felt like a real-life version of the popular board game “Pandemic,” in which players cooperate to contain the spread of infectious, often imaginary diseases. The latest disease to grab real-world headlines sports a name that sounds like it came straight out of this board game: monkeypox. Our nation’s response to this new outbreak has been far from a winning strategy, mainly because some public health officials have been more focused on sexual politics than protecting public health. 

Monkeypox is rarely fatal but reportedly excruciating. It is “overwhelmingly” transmitted by sexual contact between men. According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine and reported by NBC News, 95% of monkeypox cases have so far occurred in the “gay community,” and evidence strongly suggests that behaviors distinctive to that community are primarily responsible for spreading the virus.  

The public health response to monkeypox, which many are now describing as a complete disaster, has been largely shaped by officials who are unwilling to offend gay rights activists. Despite more than 6,000 cases reported nationwide, a figure The New York Times says is probably low, major cities like New York and San Francisco have hesitated to make clear exactly how the disease spreads, or to urge those primarily at risk to stop spreading it.  

In June, as The Washington Post described, officials in San Francisco stood by as “thousands of gay men clad in leather, latex—and often much less—descended on the city for an annual kink and fetish festival.’” According to the Post,  

"Even after the city had just declared the monkeypox outbreak striking its gay community a health emergency—one day after the World Health Organization urged men to sleep with fewer men to reduce transmission—San Francisco public health officials made no attempt to rein in festivities or warn attendees to have less sex."

Officials in New York, Chicago, and other metro areas were also “avoiding calls for sexual restraint.” Why? Well because they were “wary of further stigmatizing same-sex intimacy” and wanted to limit “government intrusion into the bedroom.” 

“Officials and activists who spent decades on the front lines of the battle against HIV/AIDS,” the Post article continued, “say they have learned it is futile to tell people to have less sex.” 

There has, at least, been some pushback to this suicidal public health strategy. Gay sex columnist and polyamory advocate Dan Savage slammed cities that refused to tell the truth, saying “It was devaluing gay men’s lives and health” not to warn them. And writing in The Atlantic this month, Jim Downs argued that it’s not homophobia to warn gay men to be careful: “Public-health officials don’t need to tiptoe around how monkeypox is currently being transmitted.” 

Along with an incompetent rollout of vaccines and medications, which The New York Times’ Daily podcast blamed for the crisis, these muted warnings may prove to be too little, too late in preventing more patients from suffering this painful and humiliating illness. Against the backdrop of two years of COVID lockdowns, mask mandates, mandatory quarantines, and “two weeks to stop the spread,” the display of political priorities is breathtakingly hypocritical.  

While even the World Health Organization urges gay men to temporarily curb their lifestyle for the sake of safety, many American officials practically begged for an outbreak, afraid to place any limits on the expression of politically favored sexual identities. Doing so, they claim, threatens to revive the “stigma” and “homophobia” our culture has so successfully suppressed.  

In an echo of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, the disease itself is treated as discriminatory, as if it’s unfair of the monkeypox virus to target gay men. The solution, many seem to believe, is to let it tear through the gay population unchecked as if sexual tolerance and progressive attitudes can make up for bad public health policy. 

In the end, all these sick men point to a sick worldview, one that would rather sacrifice people’s wellbeing than treat them as moral agents capable of choice, whose actions have consequences. Monkeypox is only the latest damaging effect of this broken view of people and sex, but as long as our country is willing to play games with pandemics and people’s lives, it won’t be the last.  

 

 

Aug 23, 2022
When Everyone Becomes “Toxic”
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This month in The Atlantic, writer Kaitlyn Tiffany described a conflict with a friend over which Lorde album was best. A slammed door signaled the end of the relationship, and a text to Tiffany’s boyfriend described her as “toxic.”  

“I had rarely heard [the word] used offline, and then only semi-ironically, or in regard to people who were objectively terrible,” she wrote. “I had never had to consider whether it was a word that could be applied to me.” 

The story epitomizes the relational crises that face our culture. Of course, there are plenty of situations that require boundaries, distance, and healthy confrontation. But our culture-wide turn inward, which prioritizes one’s own sense of self over everything else can escalate conflict quickly.  

Next comes an accusation of “toxicity,” which tends to lack specificity or meaning. Missing are three virtues: humility (an awareness that all is not centered on us), resilience (the courage to face challenges rather than avoid them), and forgiveness (the expression of grace for the good of the other).  

Without these things, there’s no way forward. 

Aug 22, 2022
Called to Be Faithful in the Here and Now
04:25

Perhaps the strongest antidote for optimism or for misplaced faith in our fellow man is watching the news. Of course, much of the media we consume is voyeuristic, so in a sort of supply-and-demand scenario, bad news makes headlines more than good news. At the same time, this is more than a problem of clickbait filling our newsfeeds. A series of events in recent years suggests that our cultural center cannot hold much longer. 

Not decades but just a few days ago, prominent novelist Salman Rushdie was stabbed, not in some “shady” part of the world, but in public at a lecture in upstate New York. Also, dogs in San Francisco are becoming hooked on meth. Apparently, human excrement is so common in public areas, pets have learned where to go for a quick high from the residue of addicted residents. Radical ideologies continue to dominate headlines, which few outside of ivory towers had heard of until a few years ago. They are now compulsory at some schools. And, those who challenge the new orthodoxy are often ostracized from what is an increasingly impolite society. Healthcare now involves practices that, until yesterday, would’ve rightly been considered abuse, including children having otherwise healthy organs turned inside out. 

Clearly, the state of our world is largely rotten. For some Christians, this indicates that the end is nigh. Particularly in the last century or so, many books and sermons have declared that we are living in the last days, so the best we can hope for is to go down fighting this increasingly fallen world. 

It’s easy to forget in all these headlines that things have been bad before, in some ways even worse than today. In that time and place, God called His people to keep the faith, commit to the tasks at hand, and steward the time they were given by remaining faithful. Sometimes they won against the forces of darkness and death. Sometimes they lost. Either way, their calling remained the same, and God’s Kingdom marched on. 

William Wilberforce was among those followers of Christ who faced down great obstacles. He deserves all of the recognition he receives as an archetype for faithful Christian engagement in the world. Eventually, because of his efforts, he won a long battle over the entrenched power of slavery in the British Empire, what he called one of the great aims that God had set before Him. But none of it happened in a day.  

Wilberforce began his fight against human bondage in the late 1780s, but he did not see the fruit of his work for decades. The slave trade wasn’t banned until 1807 across the British Empire and was not fully brought to an end until 1833, just days before he died. How often must he have wondered at his impossible task? How often did he consider giving up? 

Closer to our own time and less well known is a story out of Russia. Detailed in a new book by Matthew Heise, The Gates of Hell: An Untold Story of Faith and Perseverance in the Early Soviet Union tells of the trials of Lutheran Christians living under the newly founded Communist tyranny. The book is encouraging and heartbreaking at the same time. The constant determination of these Christians to be faithful to their Lord in the midst of some of the 20th century’s most intense persecution is encouraging. Yet, by all earthly terms, their resistance absolutely failed. They fought to retain their freedom and their faith, but few managed to even retain their lives.  

They had no way to know their story’s end—that all were wiped out by atheist totalitarianism. Regardless, they were faithful to the end. 

Our task is no different. We don’t know if ours is a Wilberforce moment, when the enduring faithfulness of God’s people standing athwart the tides of history will push this world back to reality. Or if this is a Russian Lutheran moment: We will lose our lives in our quest to be faithful. What we do know is that Christ has called us to this time and this place. As Gandalf said to Frodo, when he wondered why he should have to live in such times, being meant to be here and now “is a very encouraging thought.” 

So, whatever comes, great victories or the full evaporation of progress, our task is the same: faithfulness, not success. 

 

Aug 22, 2022
A Special Talk With Professor Carl Trueman
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In this special episode of Breakpoint This Week, John talks with theologian and professor Carl Trueman about the challenges that affect us in this cultural moment. They discuss how technological advances have placed a “burden of self-creation” on us, influencing transgenderism, transhumanism, and artificial intelligence but also the loss of meaning and cultural institutions like the family.

Aug 19, 2022
Thanks to the Church, Religious Liberty Was Founded
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Christians are often accused of “forcing our faith on others.” But the idea that we shouldn’t do that comes from the Church. 

Early Christians were persecuted because they refused to cater their faith to imperial power. Across Rome, people could worship whatever god(s) they wished, as long as their worship did not preclude the empire, the emperor, and the Roman gods.  

When Constantine the Great granted toleration with the Edict of Milan in 313, a new level of freedom extended not only to Christians but, with a few restrictions for public order, to others as well. Even when Christianity became the “official” faith of the empire, pagan worship remained legal. 

Of course, Christians have not always recognized religious freedom for others, but the fact remains, it came from the Church. This month, for a gift of any amount, join a Breakpoint online course called The Essential Church: Why the World (and Christians) Still Need the Body of Christ, featuring Drs. Timothy Padgett, Glenn Sunshine, and Peter Leithart as well as Collin Hansen. Go to colsoncenter.org/August 

Aug 19, 2022
Artificial Intelligence Is Not the Same as Artificial Consciousness
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In June, a Google employee who claimed the company had created a sentient artificial intelligence bot was placed on administrative leave. Blake Lemoine, part of Google’s Responsible AI (“artificial intelligence”) program, had been interacting with a language AI known as “Language Model for Dialogue Applications,” or LaMDA. When the algorithm began talking about rights and personhood, Lemoine decided his superiors and eventually the public needed to know. To him, it was clear the program had become “sentient,” with the ability to feel, think, and experience life like a human.  

Google denied the claim (which is exactly what they would do, isn’t it?). “There was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it),” said a spokesperson.  The Atlantic’s Stephen Marche agreed: “The fact that LaMDA in particular has been the center of attention is, frankly, a little quaint…. Convincing chatbots are far from groundbreaking tech at this point.”  

True, but they are the plot of a thousand science fiction novels. So, the question remains, is a truly “sentient” AI even possible? How could code develop the capacity for feelings, experiences, or intentionality? Even if our best algorithms can one day perfectly mirror the behavior of people, would they be conscious?  

How one answers such questions depends on one’s anthropology. What are people? Are we merely “computers made of flesh?” Or is there something more to us than the sum of our parts, a true ghost in the machine? A true ghost in the shell?  

These kinds of questions about humans and the things that humans make reflect what philosopher David Chalmers has called “the hard problem of consciousness.” In every age, even if strictly material evidence for the soul remains elusive, people have sensed that personhood, willpower, and first-person subjective experiences mean something. Christians are among those who believe that we are more than the “stuff” of our bodies, though Christians, unlike others, would be quick to add, but not less. There is something to us and the world that goes beyond the physical because there is a non-material, eternal God behind it all. 

Christians also hold that there are qualitative differences between people and algorithms, between life and non-living things like rocks and stars, between image bearers and other living creatures. Though much about sentience and consciousness remains a mystery, personhood rests on the solid metaphysical ground of a personal and powerful Creator. 

Materialists have a much harder problem declaring such distinctions. By denying the existence of anything other than the physical “stuff” of the universe, they don’t merely erase the substance of certain aspects of the human experience such as good, evil, purpose, and free will: There’s no real grounding for thinking of a “person” as unique, different, or valuable.  

According to philosopher Thomas Metzinger, for example, in a conversation with Sam Harris, none of us “ever was or had a self.” Take brain surgery, Metzinger says. You peel back the skull and realize that there is only tissue, tissue made of the exact same components as everything else in the universe. Thus, he concludes, the concept of an individual “person” is meaningless, a purely linguistic construct designed to make sense of phenomena that aren’t there.  

That kind of straightforward claim, though shocking to most people, is consistent within a purely materialist worldview. What quickly becomes inconsistent are claims of ethical norms or proper authority in a world without “persons.” In a world without a why or an ought, there’s only is, which tends to be the prerogative of the powerful, a fact that Harris and Metzinger candidly acknowledge.  

In a materialist world, any computational program could potentially become “sentient” simply by sufficiently mirroring (and even surpassing) human neurology. After all, in this worldview, there’s no qualitative difference between people and robots, only degrees of complexity. This line of thinking, however, quickly collapses into dissonance. Are we really prepared to look at the ones and zeros of our computer programs the same way we look at a newborn baby? Are we prepared to extend human rights and privileges to our machines and programs? 

In Marvel’s 2015 film Avengers: Age of Ultron, lightning from Thor’s hammer hits a synthetic body programmed with an AI algorithm. A new hero, Vision, comes to life and helps save the day. It’s one of the more entertaining movie scenes to wrestle with questions of life and consciousness. 

Even in the Marvel universe, no one would believe that a mere AI algorithm, even one designed by Tony Stark, could be sentient, no matter how sophisticated it was. In order to get to consciousness, there needed to be a “secret sauce,” in this case lightning from a Nordic hammer or power from an Infinity Stone. In the same way, as stunning as advances in artificial intelligence are, a consciousness that is truly human requires a spark of the Divine.  

Aug 19, 2022
The Cost of Being Less Social
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The cultural crisis of loneliness is more acute than ever, partly due to factors like technology, and COVID-related protocols. And one researcher has identified another factor that should not be overlooked: isolation by choice.  

Time spent talking to other people, Dr. Jeffrey A. Hall has argued, has declined steadily for nearly 30 years. What’s behind this trend?  

Self-care regimes focus on cultivation of a mindful, inwardly focused life,” he wrote. “There are increasing efforts to cut out other people in the name of removing toxicity. And all these tendencies are pushed forward by frictionless technologies that remove social obligations to leave home, talk to others and engage in our community.” 

In response, Hall suggests that we develop a “social regimen that trains our atrophied muscles, even if there is some short-term discomfort, and even if it means encountering people with disagreeable or uninteresting opinions.” It doesn’t sound complicated, but it won’t be easy in a culture that rewards the opposite. There is simply no substitute for real relationships, with real people.   

Aug 18, 2022
Much of the World Reversing Course on Treating Kids with Gender Dysphoria
05:03

Though we tend to think that Europe is less “Christian” than the United States, in some ways, that’s not true. Certainly, per capita, church attendance is lower throughout most of Europe than it is here, and religious Americans enjoy certain political freedoms that Europeans do not. However, on at least two major social issues, America has, for a while now, been more extreme than Europe. 

In the case of abortion, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs reversed nearly 50 years in which Roe v. Wade kept states from passing meaningful abortion restrictions. States are now free to set their own rules on abortion and many are actually coming into line with the vast majority of European countries restricting abortion to the earliest weeks of pregnancy. America has long been a more progressive (and dangerous) place when it comes to the preborn. 

Another issue in which America remains extreme and dangerously out of step with the rest of the Western world is childhood gender “transitions.” This became more apparent last month when Britain’s National Health Service closed its largest and most influential center for childhood gender “treatment.”  

Writing recently at Common Sense, Lisa Selin Davis chronicled the last days of the Tavistock clinic, which was shuttered after its “gender-affirming” treatment methods came under serious scrutiny. Thousands of children have been treated at Tavistock which, in the last 10 years, had seen a 4,000% increase in referrals for girls alone. The vast majority of younger patients were prescribed puberty blockers, drugs that are now known to cause brain swelling and vision loss. 

During the clinic’s heyday, numerous voices raised the alarm about its gung-ho approach to altering children’s bodies. Mental healthcare employees like Sonia Appleby and Sue Evans, both of whom worked at the clinic, warned that vulnerable minors were being rushed through transition without efforts to properly discern other mental health issues they may have had. Keira Bell, a young woman who received treatment at Tavistock, won a lawsuit in 2020 that temporarily halted referrals for puberty-blockers in children under 16. Bell is just one of a rapidly growing community of “de-transitioners” who were fast-tracked through medical transitions only to regret them later. 

For Tavistock, the final straw came when respected physician Dr. Hilary Cass concluded that the clinic’s approach to gender dysphoria in minors had no convincing evidence to back its claims of effectiveness or safety. As she put it, there is “a lack of consensus and open discussion about the nature of gender dysphoria and therefore about the appropriate clinical response.”  

Following her recommendation last month, the NHS permanently shut down the clinic. “In effect,” wrote Davis, Britain has rebuked “the common American medical approach” of “gender affirming care…. There will be no more top-down, one-size-fits-all transitioning for kids with gender dysphoria in the UK.” 

And then last week, as The Times of London reported, around 1,000 families are expected to join a lawsuit filed against the Tavistock clinic for rushing their children into life-altering puberty blockers. 

Other European countries are also pumping the brakes on these sexual experiments on children. Davis pointed to “uber-progressive” countries like Sweden and Finland that have pushed back “firmly and unapologetically” against such interventions. The American approach, on the other hand, is now “at odds with a growing consensus in the West to exercise extreme caution when it comes to transitioning young people.”  

In fact, despite absence of evidence for benefits and real evidence of harm, medical establishments in the U.S. and both state and federal government powers are doubling down on so-called “affirming” treatments, calling puberty blockers “safe and reversible.” Groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics not only endorse chemical interventions but actively work to block state bans that would protect kids from them.  

All critics of runaway gender ideology, but especially Christians, have an urgent duty to speak up against our nation’s dangerous experiments on children. All who love to look to Europe as a model for progress need to pay close attention to Europe’s reversal on childhood gender interventions. Together, we should consider that progress in this area means taking a big step (or several) back from the edge of the abyss.  

The closing of Tavistock and the impending lawsuit are powerful reminders that there is nothing inevitable about the triumph of bad ideas. They can be challenged. They can even be toppled. Protecting their would-be victims is all the motivation needed. A quick glance across the pond should dispel us of our doom and gloom and inspire us to take a stand.   

Aug 18, 2022
U.K. Mayoral Candidate Loses Job for View on Marriage
01:01

Pleas for tolerance and inclusion are often pretext for intolerance and exclusion. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet. This is the Point.  

“If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get one.” Remember that one? These days it ought to say, “If you don’t like gay marriage, kiss your job goodbye.”  

At least that’s what happened to U.K. mayoral candidate Maureen Martin last month. Martin published a campaign leaflet describing her views, including that “natural marriage between a man and a woman” is the “building block for a successful society, and the safest environment for raising children.” 

LGBTQ activists swiftly complained that this was “hate speech” and got Martin fired from her day job at a housing association. Notice, she said nothing about gay people or same-sex marriage. All she did was state fundamental truths about the importance of man-woman marriage to society—truths central to her Christian faith and shared by millions.  

Still, like Martin, Christians must speak the truths that get us in trouble and show any way we can that God’s idea of family is the best idea. 

Aug 17, 2022
How Christianity Created the Hospital
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Far from being an otherworldly religion, Christianity teaches both the importance and goodness of life in this world. In fact, from Jesus’ healing ministry to the work of modern missionary doctors, a consistent feature of the work of the Church in the world has been to care for the sick and needy, and not just point them to the life to come. 

The early Church understood Jesus’ ministry to be a paradigm for their own work. So, just as Jesus set believers free from their bondage to sin, early Christians purchased slaves specifically to free them. Whereas Jesus used miraculous power to heal people from physical effects of the Fall, Christians used more ordinary tools to care for the sick and disabled. These activities are not merely good deeds in themselves but serve to advance the Kingdom. Though the Gospel is a message and must be proclaimed, the early Church saw works of mercy and preaching the Gospel as two sides of the same coin. 

The first major epidemic faced by the Church was the Antonine Plague (A.D. 166-189). In fear of their lives, the Romans threw the sick out of their homes to die in the streets. Galen, the most prominent physician of the age, knew he could neither heal its victims nor protect himself. So, he fled Rome to stay at his country estate. 

Recognizing that all persons were made in the image of God and that Jesus came to make all things new, body and soul, many Christians ran the other direction. They fought the Fall by tending to the sick, at risk (and often at the cost) of their own lives.  

Since even basic nursing care can make a significant difference during an epidemic, Christian action saved lives. Their courage and self-sacrifice contributed to the rapid growth of Christianity. For example, when Irenaeus arrived in Lyon from Asia Minor, there were very few Christians. By the time the plague ended, there were 200,000 believers in Lyon. 

The Plague of Cyprian, which took place the following century, was named after the bishop of Carthage who documented the epidemic. Dionysius of Alexandria, also a bishop, described what happened this way:  

At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treating unburied corpses as dirt... 

But, he continued... 

Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ. 

From the earliest centuries, Christians embraced the medical theories and practices of the day. Contrary to stereotypes, the early Church did not attribute illness to demons, though they did recognize demonization as a real phenomenon. The real difference between Christians and physicians of the day was the willingness to risk death in order to treat the sick, convinced that if they died it would only mean a transition to a better life. The physicians, on the other hand, fled. 

Christians also founded the first hospitals in history. By the late fourth century, there were hospitals in both the eastern and western halves of the empire. By the Central Middle Ages, hospitals and leprosaria (leprosy hospitals) could be found throughout most of the Christian world. When universities began granting medical degrees during the period, church-affiliated institutions continued to provide much of the care.  

By the 18th century, the medical field had become increasingly professionalized and separate from the clergy. Though monasteries still provided care for the poor and nursing was almost entirely in the hands of sisters and nuns, professional physicians increasingly handled medical issues for those who could afford to pay. Clergy attended to the dying and contributed to discussions of medical ethics but had few other responsibilities for the sick. 

However, medicine was an integral part of the modern mission movement of the 19th century. Because Christianity has always affirmed the importance of the body, hospitals soon followed wherever missionaries went. This is another way the Church has been essential throughout history.  

Many Christians and critics today are skeptical that the Church is essential or necessary in the modern world. It is. To learn how and why, please join the new online Breakpoint course The Essential Church: Why the World (and Christians) Still Need the Body of Christ. Hosted by Colson Center theologian-in-residence Dr. Timothy Padgett, the course will feature thought leaders Dr. Peter Leithart, Dr. Glenn Sunshine, and Collin Hansen. Go to colsoncenter.org/August. 

Aug 17, 2022
The Divorce Risk by Marital “Age”
01:06

A recent article in Fatherly summed up the risk of divorce by married years. Years 1 to 2 are “high risk.” Years 9 to 15 go down to “low.” By years 15 to 20, the risk rises again to “average.” 

“Newlyweds and old married couples,” concluded the article, “can never get too comfortable.”  

The numbers don’t lie, but the danger of studies like this is portraying divorce as something that just happens because of “falling out of love” or something like that. The truth about marriage is, thankfully, more complicated.  

Couples committed enough to fight for their marriage stand a good chance of making it. Eighty percent of couples who participated in Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored Marriage Intensive are still together two years later.  

It also matters what we believe about marriage. As of 2019, divorce in America had reached a 50-year low, but that’s because fewer Americans are getting married at all. So, the ones who marry tend to believe there’s something to it. 

And there is, which is why when it comes to marriage and the health of our society, none of us should be comfortable. 

Aug 16, 2022
What the U of Michigan Med Students Missed...
04:29

Canceling a speaker is run-of-the-mill these days. So, when a university “cancels the cancellation,” it’s worth noting.  

Dr. Kristin Collier is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and director of the school’s Program on Health, Spirituality and Religion. She was a natural choice to give the keynote address at the school’s white coat ceremony for incoming students. The Gold Humanism Honor Society selects speakers “who are exemplars of compassionate patient care and who serve as role models, mentors, and leaders in medicine.” 

A group of 300 students protested because of Collier’s pro-life views. “We demand that UM stands in solidarity with us and selects a speaker whose values align with institutional policies, students, and the broader medical community,” they wrote in an anonymous letter. 

Rather than bow to the pressure, as so many school officials have done in recent years, medical school dean Marschall Runge defended the choice of Collier and the school’s commitment to freedom of expression. “Our values speak about honoring the critical importance of diversity of personal thought and ideas,” he wrote in a statement. “We would not revoke a speaker because they have different personal ideas than others.” 

The handful of students who walked out during Dr. Collier’s address missed something special, an incredible speech that challenged students to rethink what medicine is and is for. 

“The risk of this education and the one that I fell into is that you can come out of medical school with a bio-reductionist, mechanistic view of people and ultimately of yourself. You can easily end up seeing your patients as just a bag of blood and bones or human life as just molecules in motion.”  

You are not technicians taking care of complex machines, but human beings taking care of other human beings. Let’s resist a view, of our patients and ourselves, that strips us of our humanity, and takes away from the very goal of why we went into this profession in the first place: to take care of human beings entrusted to our care in their moments of greatest need.”  

From there, Collier challenged these medical professionals in training to ask big questions about who they are and what they do, and to practice gratitude. It was a brilliant speech overshadowed by a fabricated and unnecessary controversy.  

Roughly half of all Americans share Dr. Collier’s views on abortion, which she did not address in her speech. As Dr. Vinay Prasad wrote in the blog Common Sense, “I do not share Dr. Collier’s faith or her views on abortion. But ultimately, the decision of students to walk out of the lecture because they disagree with the speaker on another topic has no limit.”   

Collier’s colleague, University of Michigan professor Scott Richard Lyons, wrote for Inside Higher Ed, 

If the academy brooks no dissent, how can knowledge advance? If differing opinions are treated as thought crimes, how much longer will thinkers want to work at our universities? If institutions of higher education do not protect free thought and speech, intellectual diversity, dissent… why should they exist at all? 

In fact, the University of Michigan’s Faculty Handbook states that “expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance” and should be protected.  Of course, most universities and organizations have similar statements but lack the courage to live by them.  

In contrast, Dr. Collier’s courage, grace under pressure, and dedication to professional excellence exemplify what’s required in a culture that forgets that free speech in a free society blesses everyone. Her kindness to those who walked out of their own white coat ceremony exemplifies how we must treat everyone, from those who reject that freedom to those still located inside the womb. In that moment, she lived out her advice to not see people as machines but as human beings. Especially for those entering a profession especially prone to cynicism and burnout, her address is worth watching in its entirety.  

Let’s pray there are many among that University of Michigan crowd who follow in Dr. Collier’s footsteps.  

Aug 16, 2022
Chesterton on Loving Neighbors
01:06

The second most important commandment, Jesus said, was to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Why our neighbor?  

Decades ago, G.K. Chesterton offered an explanation: 

“The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world…. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. 

“We make our friends; we make our enemies, but God makes our next door neighbor. Hence he comes to us clad in all the careless terrors of nature; he is as strange as the stars, as reckless and indifferent as the rain…. That is why the old religions and old scriptural language showed so sharp a wisdom when they spoke, not of one’s duty towards humanity, but of one’s duty towards one’s neighbor.”  

Of course, Jesus was the first to expand the word “neighbor” to beyond those with mere physical proximity to us. But by the same token, our literal neighbors matter too. 

They may not share our convictions, lifestyle, or worldview, but agreement is not a necessary prerequisite for love. So, our actual neighbor might be a great place to start. 

Aug 15, 2022
Why The Church Is Still Christ’s Plan A
04:46

Recently, the Colson Center announced an upcoming Breakpoint course entitled, The Essential Church: Why Christians (and the World) Still Need the Church.  

The responses we have received just to the title reveal a lot about where people are in regard to the Church.  

“Dear John, ‘What is the Church for?’ It used to be the Body of Christ. And the Bride of Christ. Being conformed into His Image. They were to ‘love one another.’ Despise is closer. ‘What is the Church for?’ Well . . . I have no clue anymore.” 

“The nutjobs and con artists have run people away: Get rid of them and maybe people might come back.” 

“I had to quit hanging out with other Christians so I could hang out with nice people again.” 

“What is the Church for? To psychologically abuse people, particularly children, with indoctrination into its religion of FEAR.” 

Some critiques of the Church are nothing more than personal grievances that they’ve elevated into blanket condemnations. Some critics didn’t appreciate learning the truth about their behaviors, beliefs, and lifestyles, which they then chose over Christ. Condemning the Church becomes an act of self-rationalization, not justice.  

Others, of course, have more legitimate complaints. Christians have not been there for them at crucial points in their lives and families. And far too often, the Church has imitated the world in its worst depravities, and then, rather than expose sin within its ranks, closed them, protecting the institution or its leaders from being held accountable.  

While there are times (like now) that Church scandals seem to add up, a recent joke turned meme on social media notes that, at least historically speaking, this is not really new. “There are two kinds of Paul’s epistles to the early Church,” the meme goes. “One is, ‘I always thank God for you and His unsearchable blessings in Christ.’ The other is, ‘Why can’t you sick weirdos be normal for just a minute?’”  

A great hymn of the 19th century tells a similar story. In “The Church’s One Foundation,” Samuel John Stone proclaims Christ to be the security and preserver of His Bride, despite its obvious brokenness. This verse in particular speaks volumes. 

Though with a scornful wonder  

Men see her sore oppressed,  

By schisms rent asunder,  

By heresies distressed,  

Yet saints their watch are keeping;  

Their cry goes up, “How long?”  

And soon the night of weeping  

Shall be the morn of song. 

These beautiful words describe the tension of life between Pentecost and the Second Coming, and underscore something hotly debated today, even among Christians. Despite the painful reality of sin’s enduring power in its members, the Church is essential, not only for Christians but for the entire world.  

Despite all these critiques—we could add so many more— Christians must see the Church as essential because Christ does. As a former colleague used to say, “the Church is Plan A, and there is no Plan B.” Jesus didn’t call us merely to embrace a set of theological proofs and wait for the end of the world. To be Christian is not just to believe in Him for personal forgiveness and meaning and then to live a moral life.  

When Christ saves us, He saves us into a movement, His Body, His redeemed people. Somehow, joining together with other frail saints is part of His plan to restore our hearts and minds, make all things new, and glorify the Father which is in heaven. We stick with the Church not because it is perfect, but because it is His plan.  

Because of this and the current confusion about the Church, we invite you to ponder with us what it means that the Church is essential, especially now when it does not always seem as if it is. For a gift of any amount this month, you can join this online course hosted by theologian-in-residence Dr. Timothy Padgett, and it will include thought leaders like Collin Hansen and Dr. Peter Leithart. To give and register for this course, please go to colsoncenter.org/August. 

After describing the church’s obvious faults, Stone then, in the very next verse of “The Church’s One Foundation,” proclaims this: 

The church shall never perish,  

Her dear Lord to defend  

To guide, sustain and cherish,  

Is with her to the end  

Though there be those that hate her,  

And false sons in her pale  

Against a foe or traitor,  

She ever shall prevail. 

Aug 15, 2022
Gender Clinic Shuts Down, Serena Williams Quits Tennis, & “Chosen Families”
01:12:36

John and Maria discuss the Tavistock centre (a gender clinic) in north London being forced to close due to multiple lawsuits. They also muse over Serena Williams' recent announcement to quit tennis so that she can focus on her family, particularly examining the way it's culturally framed as being a burden. Concluding by reflecting on a recent commentary, they talk about the ways that "chosen families" can never replace the responsibility and foundational importance of biological families.

Aug 12, 2022
Proposed California Bill Removes Parental Custody
01:08

A new California bill would require that youth receive so-called “gender affirming care” … even if it means removing them from the custody of their parents to do so.  If passed, SB 107 would, according to the California Family Council, “empower California courts to take ‘temporary emergency jurisdiction’ of children if they come to California for trans-drugs, surgery, or mental healthcare.”  

This would not only apply to parents and children who are California residents, but to children who travel to California from anywhere in the country. As one attorney put it, “SB 107 may be the most brazen assault on fundamental parental rights in the history of this state.” 

This bill is the culmination of destructive and backwards ideas: that gender affirmation means rejecting the body, that removing healthy organs is the right way to treat gender dysphoria, that “trans kids” are expressing an innate identity instead of a temporary experience, and that parents who question invasive procedures deserve to have their kids taken away from them.  

Ideas have consequences. If this bill becomes law, there will be many victims of these bad ideas.  

Aug 12, 2022
What Love Really Looks Like: The Man With No Memory
04:12

What would it be like to live only—and exclusively—in the present?  

Clive Wearing, a former musician for the BBC, is now the most famous amnesia patient in the world. In 1985, Clive suffered a severe fever that gave him both anterograde and retrograde amnesia. That means he can neither form new memories, nor recall most of his previous life. Instead, he lives his life thirty seconds at a time.  

Clive’s struggle has been well chronicled in two documentaries, the first produced in 1986 and the second in 2005. Clive retains some knowledge—he can play piano expertly, for example, and remembers that he is married—he doesn’t remember the wedding, his children, or his wife’s name. The dominant experience of Clive’s life, repeated hundreds of times a day, is of waking up from a coma for the very first time, without knowledge of who or where he is.  

“You are the first people I’ve spoken to in thirty years,” he repeatedly tells his interviewers.  

Clive’s story has inspired multiple publications of medical and psychological research, not to mention haunting existential questions. Who are we without our memories? What is life worth with no knowledge of the past and no ability to form new experiences from the present? Where is the hope for the future in this?  

While much has been written about Clive, the most powerful story lies with his wife, Deborah. The two had been married only a year when catastrophe struck. In the midst of her shock and grief, Deborah campaigned relentlessly to get Clive the care he needed. However, after seven years, she reached an impasse. A future with Clive seemed unbearable after years of the same questions, the same confusion, the same anguish.  

Deborah decided to leave and start a new life in America. She moved to New York, intent on resuming a career in the arts. She even tried new relationships. However, none of it worked.  

I wanted to be with someone else and have kids and a regular life. Yet how can you love somebody when you already love somebody? I loved Clive,” she wrote later in her book Forever Today.  

It was only after she returned to England, torn by what felt like the impossibility of life, that she found a future. It came from an unexpected source.  

“I’d reached the end of my tether, and I rang a friend and I asked her to pray for me,”  Deborah described years later.  

"She was the only Christian I knew, and as she was whispering away to God, I just felt this extraordinary power coming into me. And I knew that God was in my room. I just had this incredible sense that I was really, really loved … and that emptiness that I had been trying to fill all those years with relationships, with food, with alcohol, I was filled. "

That moment changed everything for Deborah. She discovered peace. Though God did not erase her suffering or Clive’s, suddenly their lives were imbued with purpose.  

In a scene from the 2005 documentary, standing in a London church, Deborah tells Clive about one of the last concerts he performed before the illness stole his memory: “It was so moving that everyone was in tears. That’s how good of a musical director you were.”  

At this, Clive is filled with emotion. Though he cannot remember the scene, or even the name of the woman describing it to him, he sensed her compassion.  “I’m amazed that you would say that,” he said. “I can’t think that.”  

“You were marvelous. You still are marvelous,” she replied and kissed him on the cheek.  

Where, in the entire modern arsenal of materialist evolution, self-help, and expressive individualism is love like that to be found? Much less explained. Each of these dominant theories that claim to explain so much only turns the search for love and purpose inward. In the end, as Augustine described, these eternal values become incurvatus in se, destructively turned in on themselves—no help in the face of serious struggle.  

True love, like what Deborah offers Clive, dignifies the other. It’s turned outward. Though he doesn’t recall her visits, when asked what he wants to do after Deborah leaves, Clive answers: “A gin and tonic I think, and a cigarette. Waiting for time to elude and disappear. And her arrival.”  

Aug 12, 2022
Depression and the Brain: Why There’s More To It
01:12

According to new research, the link between depression and “chemical imbalances” in the brain could be less settled than previously thought.  

A leading theory as psychiatrists Mark Horowitz and Joanna Moncrieff write, “Our study shows that this view is not supported by scientific evidence.”  

Related studies show, for example, that when people believe their depression is the result of mere brain chemistry, their self-confidence and ability to change plummet. Ironically, they also tend to feel more stigma, not less.  

Christians, of course, have nothing to fear from the insights of science. Findings like these matter. It confirms what a Christian worldview confirms: People are not merely their brains, nor are they at mercy of chemical forces. Thinking that everything about us is located in the brain is the inevitable conclusion of materialism, and an idea that has real consequences.  

Our brains are a big part of what we are, but they aren’t all of who we are. A worldview limited only to material components is too small for reality. That’s a conclusion that the science is beginning to support.  

Aug 11, 2022
Why “Chosen Families” Can Never Replace the Family
04:57

Particularly “in the L.G.B.T.Q. community, it’s not uncommon to find a substitute family, colloquially known as a chosen family,” Dani Blum recently wrote in an article in The New York Times. According to Blum, a “chosen family” refers to the “intense, intimate relationships … people form apart from their biological relatives; it is the kinship you create outside of a traditional family structure.”  

Chosen families are not a new phenomenon, nor are they exclusive to LGBTQ people. But in an age quick to write essential relationships off as “toxic,” they are increasingly common and consequential. 

Relationships were designed by God to be a gift of His common grace. Certain relationships, like the intimacy between a husband and wife or the bond between parents and children are distinct in purpose and unique in function, irreplaceable in their roles as building blocks of society. Friendship, from our deepest commitments to common neighborliness, is to be treasured. All of these relational arrangements are increasingly rare and disordered in a techno-driven culture, captive to utilitarian concern.  

And it is important to remember that Jesus taught of a tie that binds the redeemed beyond blood relation, secured by His blood. He asked in Matthew’s Gospel: Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Then, pointing to his disciples, he answered: “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. 

The Church then is a family in an even deeper sense of the word. It is the family that is chosen by God. It has the capacity to fill needs keenly felt by those whose home life has been broken, characterized by absence, abuse, or hostility. In fact, family is the only relationship employed in Scripture as an analogy for the Church, both in the sense of Christ’s relationship with us and our relationships with one another. 

The troubling thing about so-called “chosen families,” at least in our modern context, is what they are intended to replace. Rather than simply “expanding” the scope of family or letting friends step into a gap, we employ these relationships to shove away and replace our biological families.  

The harms of this are most evident to children, as decades of studies have shown with stunning clarity. Biological fathers and mothers each contribute things irreplaceable by any other relationship. Even in the case of adoption, the most redemptive of all arrangements, deep emotional wounds often remain that children must process. Adoption is a beautiful choice, made because something has gone wrong. Thus, adoption is among the family relationships employed by Scripture to describe how God loves and redeems us. 

In its glee over creating “family” out of any assorted collection of people, society has forgotten that the biological family is baked into the world by God’s intent. Family is no accident of history, no social construct that can be replaced. It is so woven into the fabric of biology that no society that has rejected it has survived. 

In fact, “chosen families” are already failing to meet people’s basic relational needs. As Joshua Coleman wrote in The Atlantic, “Studies on parental estrangement have grown rapidly in the past decade, perhaps reflecting the increasing number of families who are affected.” In one survey of mothers aged 65 to 75, one in 10 reported being estranged from an adult child. Some 62% reported contact less than once a month. 

Part of the beauty of biological families is that they are not chosen. In essence, they are built around obligation, a duty to the other, not merely as a means of self-fulfillment. By contrast, if we can opt into a group of friends, we can just as easily opt out.  

There are certainly cases in which family members are abusive, controlling, or in the true sense of an exhausted word, “toxic.” Still, the spirit of the age is one that teaches us to prefer the company of those who ask less of us. Will these “chosen” replacements endure the demands of life, illness, and aging?  

In such an age, the Church’s calling to be a family for those who have none matters all the more. Like the family, the Church is no social construct, but a reality baked into the world by the One who created it. He is the same One who included man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father in the design specs of humanity. Any society that tries to write these relational realities out of the story of the world will not fare well. 

Aug 11, 2022
Why Starbucks Is Closing Stores
01:11

In the face of record crime, Starbucks has announced the closure of 16 stores in five cities: Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.  

The reason, according to CEO Howard Schultz, is these cities have “abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental health,” leading retail partners to repeated concerns over “their own personal safety.”  

“Starbucks is a window into America,” he continued. “And we are facing things which the stores were not built for.”  Given Starbucks’ outspoken support for progressive candidates who lead these cities, it’s easy to think the coffee giant should sleep in the bed it helped to make. As the National Review reports, Starbucks “pledged over $100 million in social-justice grants” over the last few years, and individual stores are hubs for left-wing causes from trans rights to climate change.  

Basic law enforcement is about the reality of the human condition. When Proverbs says that “whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,” it goes for individuals and entire cities. 

Social justice is trendy, but at the end of the day, pushing hip causes is only possible where there’s actual justice.  

Aug 10, 2022
Preparing for School Means Asking Better Questions
05:17

This year, the familiar back-to-school windup includes a growing sense of trepidation for many parents. A host of faddish ideologies, and the ham-fisted ways of imposing them, adds to their worries (or at least should). Revised historicism, sex and gender ideologies, even the seemingly harmless Social and Emotional Learning are all expressions of Critical Theory in some form or fashion. 

Of course, many ideas out of accord with Christian teaching have been taught by schools, but these reject core realities of what it means to be human. Critical Theory in any form, whether established academic theory or mere cultural mood, categorizes people as members of particular groups and either awards or reduces social and moral merit based on those groups. This is something Christians must never do. As philosopher Douglas Groothuis writes in his analysis of the influence of Critical Theory in the U.S., “One’s fundamental identity is being made in the Divine Image; it is not found in race or gender or social class.” Many parents have begun to see that whenever that primary identity is dismissed, all manner of confusion sets in. 

Even so, this sort of thinking plays an outsized role in the rules and guidelines of our kids’ schools. Recently, a colleague of mine, while enrolling her daughters at a new school, was assured by the principal that the curriculum and policies were “ideologically neutral” with respect to transgenderism. Wisely, my colleague pressed further, and asked a clarifying question. “What would happen if one of my daughter’s classmates identified as trans? Would she be compelled to use their preferred pronoun?”  

The principal replied, “We’d want to make sure we respect the viewpoints of everybody, and so, yes, we’d ask your daughter to use the correct pronouns.”  

“What if she didn’t?” my colleague clarified.  

“In that case,” the principal conceded, “it would probably be grounds for a disciplinary conversation.” In other words, gender ideology wasn’t taught, it was enforced, and in such a way as to assume that the matter was already settled. 

That’s only one of a half dozen or more stories I have heard so far this year. Parents must research schools, both policies and personnel. Unfortunately, some administrators simply don’t have a grasp of how they will handle these issues. Even more find their hands tied by laws like Colorado’s Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination Act. By asking specific, sometimes uncomfortable questions, parents not only protect their own kids, they provide an opportunity for transparency, maybe even change. That protects everybody’s kids from bad ideas that threaten to overtake every element of their lives. 

A tremendous tool for parents is the Promise to America’s Parents, a project of the Alliance Defending Freedom, in partnership with other organizations such as the Family Policy Alliance and the Heritage Foundation. In addition to legal assistance for those facing discrimination based on their religious convictions, this project gives a roadmap and a toolkit for parents when it comes to education and healthcare.  

For example, did you know that “parents can regularly and proactively request in writing to… review the entirety of their child’s education records, including any files involving counseling on gender identity issues”? Also, according to a guide on transgender ideology in schools from the Minnesota Family Council, parents have the right to request the policies for locker and restrooms to know if students identifying as transgender are allowed to use the opposite sex’s changing rooms and toilet stalls. In addition, parents can review curriculum before it is delivered by teachers to their students.  

Explicit rights afforded to parents differ state by state. For example, only 25 states and D.C. require schools to inform parents whenever sexuality is being taught. And, 36 states and D.C. openly allow opt-out options for sexual education. ADF has a sample opt-out letter for parents and other letters to request notification for any issue or ideology with which they are concerned.  

And, of course, all of these concerns point back to a key premise too often forgotten. Parents are in charge of educating and protecting their children, not the state. More than ever, it is vital that parents take this right seriously. The Promise to America’s Parents is one way to do that. In fact, on Friday August 19, I will join ADF, the Heritage Foundation, and others for a Celebration of the Promise to America’s Parents. It will be livestreamed and absolutely free. Just visit adflegal.org/celebratethepromise to register. 

Truth doesn’t become falsehood because it’s unpopular. The hard thing to do is also the loving thing to do, and both kids and educators need to know the difference. 

Aug 10, 2022
U.K. Transgender Clinic Forced to Close
01:07

According to the BBC, the U.K.’s “only dedicated gender identity clinic” for youth has been ordered to shut down. The reason is not a lack of demand. In fact, referrals for “treatment” are 20 times higher than 10 years ago.  

Rather, the clinic has received wide criticism from an independent report of their practices. Former patient Kiera Bell, now 25, was prescribed puberty blockers at age 16. She underwent a double mastectomy at age 20. She has now changed her mind about the procedures and says that doctors “should have challenged” her thinking, especially at such a young age.  

A former consultant psychiatrist to the center agrees: Some children have got the double problem of living with the wrong treatment, and the original problems weren’t addressed—with complex problems like trauma, depression, large instances of autism.” 

While countries like the U.K. are questioning these wrongly named “gender affirmation” treatments, clinics, academics, and the executive branch of the government in the U.S. have only doubled down. We should stop now. The rising tide of those who are expressing regret is quickly becoming an ocean.  

Aug 09, 2022
How the Church Has Been Good for Women... and Other Ways It Is “Essential"
05:44

Throughout Church history, church attendance and overall religiosity have been higher among women than among men. That seems to be changing, especially for younger generations. According to new data, the long-existent church gender gap, which shows up in both religious affiliation and church attendance, has now flipped.  

However, the headline is not that more men are connecting with the Church. The story is that more women are disconnecting from the Church. 

A number of factors have contributed to this demographic shift, not least of which are recent scandals of sexual impropriety and abusive leadership among prominent pastors and Christian leaders. Also, education and ethnicity seem to play a significant role in the religious identification of millennial women. “Among white respondents,” a recent Christianity Today article summarized, “women are 9 percentage points more likely to say that they have no religious affiliation compared to white men,” but “there’s no real difference in the share of male and female nones among Black, Asian, and other racial groups.” 

Another factor, Dr. Abigail Favale argues in a new book The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory, is the rising influence of feminist thought, what she calls “the gender paradigm” in evangelical circles. Or as a colleague recently put it, describing the deconstruction process of a few of her friends, “It’s all about ‘resisting the patriarchy.” That kind of language points to the paradigm which Dr. Favale once herself subscribed. She now believes it to be incompatible with a Christian understanding of male and female, sex, and gender.  

Even so, the feminist paradigm has quite successfully framed Christianity and the Church as misogynist, patriarchal, and harmful for women. The same paradigm idealistically reframes pagan religions and cultures as being pro-woman, at least until Christianity gained prominence. This narrative, however, doesn’t match the historical realities. 

First, in contrast to ancient paganism, monotheism provided women with more freedom than polytheistic religions with goddesses did. In cultures dominated by the latter, women were limited to roles performed by the goddesses, and not always all of them. In fact, the “role” designated for many women by pagan religion was temple prostitute, a tool of men’s worship.  

In ancient Rome, women were permitted to engage in business, but their primary role was in the household. Men had public roles, but women engaged in domestic work were subservient to their father or husband. As in other historical periods, elite women had more options. However, the vast majority of women were seen as not much better than slaves. 

Twelve was the legal age for girls to marry in Rome. If not married by 20, women were generally marginalized. Though divorce was available to both men and women, husbands caused most divorces since women rarely had other financial means. Ex-wives and widows were often left destitute.  

In contrast, Christianity saw women as the spiritual and moral equal of men. Women and men shared the same created dignity, the same problem (sin), and the same solution, Jesus. As result, women in the Christian community had a higher status and more freedom than women in the broader Roman world. 

The Christian rejection of divorce and sexual double standards, and its insistence on strict monogamy reflected this. Further, women were given more choice about whom and whether to marry and tended to marry later than their Roman counterparts. While widows were encouraged to remarry, the Church provided aid for those who did not or could not. 

The Church also rejected abortion and infanticide as murder, meaning that women were not subjected to dangerous surgical procedures, and girls were not “discarded.” Thus, there were proportionately more women in the Christian community than in Roman society as a whole. 

Because of Christian attitudes and behavior toward women, more women converted to Christianity than men, and many men who converted did so under the influence of their wives. Eventually, Christianity transformed the status of women in the Roman world. Unfortunately, as Greek ideas were adopted within the Church, elements of pagan misogyny were as well. For example, some Church fathers placed blame for the Fall entirely on Eve and ignored the Apostle Paul’s putting the blame on Adam.  

Nonetheless, Christianity did more to improve the status of women than any other historical force. Even today, as the Gospel spreads around the Global South, the status and freedoms enjoyed by women are being raised. The treatment of women is just one example of how the Church has been an essential force for good in the world.  

There are others, even in an age that often labels the Church “non-essential.” Don’t buy it. This month, for a gift of any amount, the Colson Center’s theologian-in-residence, Dr. Timothy Padgett is hosting a course entitled “The Essential Church.” Be equipped theologically, biblically, socially, and culturally in the critical role of the Church, both in the past and today. Go to colsoncenter.org/August to sign up. 

Aug 09, 2022
Massachusetts Attorney General Deflects Blame in the Wrong Direction
01:12

Recently, two separate crisis pregnancy centers in Worcester, Massachusetts, were vandalized on the same night. Next to broken glass and spilled paint were the words “Jane’s Revenge,” the name of a group behind a number of similar attacks in recent months.  

Earlier that same week, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey warned the public of a group using “deceptive and coercive tactics,” but she wasn’t referring to the pro-abortion extremists threatening violence. She was warning of the crisis pregnancy centers themselves. Though her office has since condemned the violence, the bulk of its attention is still in all the wrong places: not the vandals, but the clinics offering help to women in crisis.  

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote that violence cannot conceal itself behind anything except lies, and lies have nothing to maintain them save violence.” 

In this case, the attorney general’s lie about pregnancy resource centers covers up the violence of abortion… and those using violence are allowing the attorney general to maintain the lie.  

Let’s pray that, by some miracle, Attorney General Healey focuses her office’s attention where it needs to be. 

Aug 08, 2022
Genocide in Nigeria
05:19

Back in May, 20 Nigerian Christians were brutally martyred by the Islamic militant group ISIS. In June, 40 more Christians died in Owo, Nigeria, in a terrorist attack against a church. Though it is not clear who is responsible for that attack, what is clear is that Christians continue to be severely persecuted in this West African nation. The persecution, which has been ongoing for years, is part of a long history of conflict with Islam. 

In 1953, Christians made up only 21.4% of the population in Nigeria. Today, about half of the country’s population, about 96 million people, are Christians. To put that number in perspective, Germany, the largest country in Europe, has a total population of less than 84 million. Much of the Christian growth in Nigeria has resulted from education efforts by Western missionaries, though the country has long had a Christian presence.  

Nigeria’s Christians live primarily in the southern, farming part of the country. They are mostly under attack by Islamists and the Muslim Fulani, who live mostly in the northern herding areas. They also face the threat of Boko Haram, a ruthless Islamist terrorist organization whose name literally means Western learning (boko) is prohibited (haram). 

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 to overthrow Nigeria’s government and impose strict sharia on the country. The group was relatively quiet until 2009, after which conflicts with police escalated. By December 2010, Boko Haram began a campaign of suicide bombings and attacks on churches and government buildings. In 2014, they began to attack schools. In one attack, 59 school boys were burned alive or shot. In another, 276 school girls were kidnapped. In both cases, the victims were Christians. Boko Haram has also conducted massacres in mosques that do not support their radical ideology. 

Also in 2014, Boko Haram pledged loyalty to ISIL. That loyalty ended in 2016, when ISIL ordered Boko Haram to stop attacking Muslims. Currently, there are three Islamist terrorist groups that originated with Boko Haram: Boko Haram proper, the Islamic State West African Province, and Ansaru, an al-Qaeda affiliate. All are engaged in terrorism, not only in Nigeria but also in surrounding countries, with much of it aimed at Christians. 

As dangerous as these explicitly Islamist groups are, the Fulani herdsmen are worse. Because the Fulani territory in north Nigeria is suffering from a long-term drought, the Fulani are moving south to access water. In the process, the herdsmen have been raiding and burning villages, slaughtering villagers, destroying crops, and engaging in a host of other atrocities in order to take the land for themselves and drive out Christians.  

President Muhammadu Buhari is a Fulani. Though he has attempted to address some of the economic issues that drive Fulani militancy, he has denied that religion plays any role in the conflict. He points out, for example, that Muslim villages have also been raided. Still, the vast majority of attacks have come against Christians, and the Fulani’s history of Islamic militancy dates back to the late 17th century.  

Though contemporary Fulani militancy reveals a struggle between nomadic herders and farmers going on for millennia, denying the religious dimensions of these attacks is pure propaganda. Christian villages are deliberately targeted, Christian houses and churches are burned, and Christians driven off or slaughtered.  

Although up-to-date numbers are hard to come by, between the Fulani and Boko Haram and its offshoots an average of 13 Christians per day were killed in Nigeria last year. That’s 372 per month or over 4,450 alone. In the last 12 years, 43,000 Christians have been killed by Islamic radicals in Nigeria. And these numbers do not include those injured, beaten, or driven from their homes.  

What has happened to Nigerian Christians meets the established international standards for genocide. 

Christians must not forget the spiritual aspects at the root of this conflict. God is moving and the Church is expanding across Africa. In 1900, there were just 9.64 million Christians on the continent; today there are over 692 million. It is not surprising to see Satan counterattacking by inspiring persecution.  

For our Nigerian brothers and sisters, we can fight on two fronts. First, we must continue to lobby our government on behalf of suffering Christians, asking our officials to put pressure on Nigeria to take more decisive action against Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen. Second, we must lobby Heaven, for both our persecuted brothers and sisters and their persecutors, praying that God’s kingdom would advance and win even the jihadis to Jesus. 

Aug 08, 2022
Medicaid Abortion Tourism, Al Qaeda, and Cannibalism?
01:12:56

John and Shane, standing in for Maria, examine the Biden’s administration executive order that Medicaid patients can travel across state lines for abortion. They also explain how the killing of an Al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan reminds us of not just the danger of extremist Islam in other nations such as Nigeria but also the threat of secularist states toward religious freedom. Musing on two recent commentaries, they discuss the cracks in Neo-Darwinism and the Gnostic basis of the topic of cannibalism in popular media.

Aug 06, 2022
When Offending Becomes a Crime
01:03

Recently, police in Hampshire, England, arrested a man for an unusual crime. Not vandalism, theft, or murder but, according to the arresting officer because “someone has been caused anxiety based on your social media post.” 

Setting aside the dubious and dangerous logic of involving the state in social media spats, appealing to emotion as a matter of justice is astonishing. So, I no longer have to prove wrong has been done, only that I feel a wrong has been done? 

All that’s left once a culture has rejected the idea of right and wrong is to grope for some moral foundation in nebulous ideas like “anxiety” and “offense.” Everyone’s inner voice becomes an unassailable authority, and the loudest outer voice must win. 

Common sense tells us that this is a disaster in the making, but without the common sense that there is common truth, there won’t be common justice. 

Aug 05, 2022
What Abortion Built
05:05

As America adjusts to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, including by enacting more laws in some states to protect unborn children, a higher number of women will likely bring their babies safely to birth. This is good news, including for those in unexpected and crisis pregnancies. Not only will more at-risk babies be saved, more women will be spared the violence and false promises of abortion. 

This will also mean that the efforts of pregnancy centers, adoption services, foster agencies, and other providers who generally care for struggling families must continue. In fact, by the grace of God, their work must increase. I have nothing but confidence that the Church is up to this task. 

And yet, as a pro-life leader recently put it, these could be the hardest days for the pro-life movement to date. The oft-repeated charge that Christians must “redouble our efforts” to care for women in crisis pregnancies in the wake of the Dobbs decision presumes that women who feel unprepared, ill-equipped, scared, and abandoned to deal with crisis pregnancies on their own is a given part of life in America in 2022. That should not be a given. It should be unacceptable to us.  In other words, the emergency before us isn’t only that women are facing crisis pregnancies, and often facing them alone, but our culture’s warped views of sex, marriage, children, and commitment. These bad ideas have set the stage for a world brimming with crisis pregnancies in the first place. 

This is another subtle way legalized abortion has poisoned our cultural imagination. As Ryan Anderson and Alexandra DeSanctis demonstrate in their profound new book, Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing, legalizing abortion—which then normalized and destigmatized abortion culturally—rewired American thought so deeply that we don’t even realize anymore when we’re accepting demands that we could—and should—refuse. 

Our work is not just to make abortion unthinkable. It is to make abandoning pregnant women unthinkable, to make derelict dads unthinkable, to make the fable of “sex without commitment” unthinkable. It is to re-catechize the world, and ourselves, about the true, un-severable relationship between sex, marriage, and babies. 

Legalized abortion has blinded us to that core truth. In her book Rethinking Sex, Washington Post columnist Christine Emba describes how legalized abortion and even normalized contraception were sold to women as indispensable tools of their liberation. In fact, they made possible the widespread cultural acceptance of a lie: that sex and babies have nothing to do with one another.  

“As contraception has become more mainstream and the risks of sex more diffuse,” Emba writes, “saying no can feel like less of an option for women: after all, what’s your excuse?” In other words, once abortion was legally on the table, it gave us leave to deconstruct sex to nothing more than a play for individual pleasure. That fundamental lie changed our worldview and thus our behavior 

However, rather than “liberate” women, it put more pressure on women to have sex without commitment and less pressure on men to commit. It allowed us to view and treat any children who result from our sexual activity as unexpected and unwanted consequences, rather than human beings with rightful claims on our protection and commitments. 

To be clear, none of this was ever true. We never actually separated sex from babies. We never changed the fact that kids and mothers need committed dads and husbands in order to thrive. Lies never have the power to change God’s design. They only teach us to pretend we can change reality. Crisis pregnancies and chronic absentee fatherhood are the fruit of these fictions, and women and children pay the price for these cultural fantasies.  

This is the house abortion built. It led us to see children as things—even burdens—instead of as image bearers. It put pressure on us that we were never meant to bear by pretending family building is fully in our own hands, not God’s. Legalized abortion normalized promiscuity, promoted fatherlessness, and secured a view of children so bereft of humanity that we won’t even call them children anymore. We employ euphemisms like “fetus” or “tissue,” but euphemisms don’t change reality, or the hard consequences of ignoring it. 

Yes, Christians must continue and even re-double our “pro-life” efforts inside crisis pregnancy centers. And we must continue and re-triple our pro-life efforts outside as well, advocating for healthy sexuality, biblical marriage, and a Christian vision of moms, dads, and children. This is how we finally suck the venom of legalized abortion out of our cultural imagination. 

 

 

Aug 05, 2022
How the “Respect for Marriage Act” Will Hurt Religious Liberty
01:12

Last week, more than 80 organizations—including the Colson Center, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Focus on the Family—sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The purpose was “to denounce . . . the so-called ‘Respect for Marriage Act, ‘in the strongest possible terms.”  

The letter outlined three problems with this legislation. 

First, the act would require recognition of any state definition of marriage, making possible options such as polygamous or open marriages. This would sacrifice the well-being of children for adult happiness.  

Second, the act sets up religious organizations and businesses to be sued for upholding that marriage is between a man and a woman. So, religious foster agencies, social service organizations, and other organizations and businesses contracted with the government could expect to be targeted.  

Third, this legislation could threaten the tax-exempt status of non-profits that believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.  

The so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” would establish and expand the wrongly decided Obergefell ruling. If you care about religious liberty and children, please contact your senator today. 

Resources: 

Call Your Senators About the Respect for Marriage Act>>   

Possible Script to Say to Senator’s Office About Marriage Act>> 

Letter From Coalition to Senate Minority Leader>> 

Aug 04, 2022
Cannibalism Now? Shock Value and the Value of Bodies
05:20

One of the iron laws of popcorn cinema, especially to score the coveted (but ever-more elusive) summer blockbuster status is that there must be sufficient shock value. And one of the iron laws of shock value is that it must always increase. Each new film must outdo the last one. 

Take the Jurassic Park series. In the first movie back in 1993, a mere five people were eaten by dinosaurs, all of whom were confined to a tiny island. Fast-forward a few inferior sequels, and a score or more people are gobbled by a host of mutant CGI dinos prowling the entire planet along with giant killer grasshoppers. The lesson is clear: Audiences had already been shocked by dinosaurs coming back to life, and they wanted more. The old thrill would no longer do.  

The more this iron law holds across pop culture, the more desensitized we become. Enter another rising entertainment genre more gruesome than dinosaurs eating people. People eating people.  

Writing recently in The New York Times, Alex Beggs documented a growing fascination with cannibalism. In the article, Beggs offered a long list of movies, TV shows, and novels in which characters eating one another is a central plot device. The novel A Certain Hunger is “about a restaurant critic with a taste for (male) human flesh.” The Showtime series Yellowjackets is “about a high school women’s soccer team stranded in the woods for a few months too many.” A new show on Hulu called Fresh is about “an underground human meat trade.” Raw is a film about “a vegetarian veterinary student whose taste for meat escalates,” and Bones and All is a movie about “a young love that becomes a lust for human consumption.”  

“Turns out,” wrote Beggs, “cannibalism has a time and a place,” and “that time is now.” 

What on earth is fueling a sudden fixation with perhaps the oldest and most unsettling of taboos? The writer of one show told the Times: “I feel like the unthinkable has become the thinkable, and cannibalism is very much squarely in the category of the unthinkable.” Another seemed to find the concept potentially appetizing, asking, “what portion of our revulsion to these things is a fear of the ecstasy of them?” 

When I first saw the headline for this New York Times story appear in my newsfeed, I thought it was a prank. Apparently, all of these books, movies, and TV shows about cannibalism point to a very real partially popular trend. Why?  

Perhaps, in a culture that has made virtues of deconstructing all moral boundaries and celebrating all desires, it is increasingly difficult to shock anyone. Shock value, after all, depends on some sense of what is right and wrong, and even more, what is normal. With sexual and gender identities multiplying daily and more and more people treating the human body as moldable clay without any underlying design or purpose, is it any wonder some are reimagining it as food? 

And why shouldn’t they, if human beings are only, as Christian author Glen Scrivener puts it, “mischievous apes?” Chimpanzees routinely kill and eat one another. If we are only advanced animals, it’s difficult to imagine why we humans should have a strong aversion to dining on each other, too. If our bodies are in no way sacred or made for a higher purpose, then not just every sexual appetite, but every appetite must be permissible. 

To be clear, I am not suggesting that we are on the cusp of a cannibal rights movement. I certainly hope we are not. The social aversion is extremely strong, as it should be, and has only been broken in a few times and places throughout history. Still, the current flirtations with people-eating in entertainment is a tell-tale sign of a culture that is losing all good aversions.  

Like those sub-par Jurassic Park sequels resorting to ever hungrier and bigger dinosaurs, our movies and stories reveal a lost creativity, leaving a culture that must constantly push boundaries. In particular, our gnostic age tends to push the boundaries of how characters think of and use their bodies, and the bodies of others. When it comes to sex, titles like Fifty Shades of Grey and Cuties have already put sadomasochism and the sexual exploitation of children on the menu. In such a culture, a side dish of cannibalism isn’t surprising.  

Those who find a worldview in which bodies have no purpose or boundaries a bit nauseating should wonder why. Christians can tell them, and offer the alternative: a worldview in which bodies are sacred, not only because they are part of what it means to be created in God’s image, but because God, Himself assumed a body and gave it for us. Interestingly, Christianity’s early critics alleged that the Lord’s Supper was a form of cannibalism. In fact, it was and is the ultimate reason that the human body is worthy of respect and honor, in the bedroom, at the movies, and even at the table.  

Aug 04, 2022
Pascal on Persuasion
01:02

Philosopher Blaise Pascal was best known for his so-called “wager” that believing in God is the smartest decision, even if you’re not sure God exists. What many don’t know is that Pascal was a pioneer in the psychology of persuasion. 

Heated disagreements are common in social media, writes Olivia Goldhill at Quartz. But Pascal suggested centuries ago that if you want to convince someone of your position, you don’t begin by telling them they’re wrong. You understand where they’re coming from, admit ways they’re right, but suggest they maybe haven’t seen the whole picture. 

“No one is offended at not seeing everything,’ wrote Pascal. “But [they don’t] like to be mistaken.” 

Another tip? Lead people to the answer, but let them discover it on their own. “People are generally better persuaded by reasons they have themselves discovered than by those from the minds of others.” 

These are great tips, especially for Christians, who are entrusted with the most important truths there are, and who are to speak those truths in love. 

 

Aug 03, 2022
Which Theory of Evolution? Toppling the Idol of “Settled Science”
04:51

In 1973, evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote that “nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.” Almost 50 years later, an increasing number of scientists are asking whether evolution makes any sense in light of what we now know from biology. 

A recent long-form essay in The Guardian signals just how urgent the problem has become for the most dominant theory in the history of the sciences. In it, author Stephen Buranyi, gives voice to a growing number of scientists who think it’s time for a “new theory of evolution.”  

For a long time, descent with slight modifications and natural selection have been “the basic” (and I’d add, unchallengeable) “story of evolution.” Organisms change, and those that survive pass on traits. Though massaged a bit to incorporate the discovery of DNA, the theory of evolution by natural selection has dominated for 150 years, especially in biology. The “drive to survive” is credited as the creative force behind all the artistry and engineering we see in nature.  

“The problem,” writes Buranyi, is that “according to a growing number of scientists,” this basic story is “absurdly crude and misleading.” For one thing, Darwinian evolution assumes much of what it needs to explain. For instance, consider the origin of light-sensitive cells that rearranged to become the first eye, or the blood vessels that became the first placenta. How did these things originate? According to one University of Indiana biologist, “we still do not have a good answer. The classic idea of gradual change, one happy accident at a time,” he says, “has so far fallen flat.” 

This scientific doubt about Darwin has been simmering for a while. In 2014, an article in the journal Nature, jointly authored by eight scientists from diverse fields, argued that evolutionary theory was in need of a serious rethink. They called their proposed rethink the “Extended Evolutionary Synthesis,” and a year later, the Royal Society in London held a conference to discuss it.  

Along with Darwinian blind spots like the origin of the eye, the Extended Synthesis seeks to deal with the discovery of epigenetics, an emerging field that studies the inherited traits not mediated by DNA. Then there are the rapid mutations that evade natural selection, a fossil record that appears to move in “short concentrated bursts” (or “explosions”), and something called “plasticity,” which is the ability we now know living things have to adapt physically to their environments in a single generation without genetically evolving. 

All of these discoveries—some recent, others long ignored by mainstream biology—challenge natural selection as the “grand theory” of life. All of them hint that living things are greater marvels and mysteries than we ever imagined. And, unsurprisingly, all of these discoveries have been controversial. 

The Guardian article described how Royal Society scientists and Nobel laureates alike boycotted the conference, attacking the extended synthesis as “irritating” and “disgraceful,” and its proponents as “revolutionaries.”  As Gerd Müller, head of the department of theoretical biology at the University of Vienna helpfully explained, “Parts of the modern synthesis are deeply ingrained in the whole scientific community, in funding networks, positions, professorships. It’s a whole industry.” 

Such resistance isn’t too surprising for anyone who’s been paying attention. Any challenges to the established theory of life’s origins, whether from Bible-believing scientists or intelligent design theorists, have long been dismissed as religion in a lab coat. 

The habit of fixing upon a dogma and calling it “settled science” is just bad science that stunts our understanding of the world. It is a kind of idolatry that places “science” in the seat of God, appoints certain scientists as priests capable of giving answers no fallible human can offer, and feigns certainty where real questions remain. The great irony is that this image of scientist-as-infallible-priest makes them seem like the caricature of medieval monks charging their hero Galileo with heresy for his dissent from the consensus. 

As challenges to Darwin mount, we should be able to articulate why “settled science” makes such a poor god. And we should encourage the science and the scientists challenging this old theory-turned-dogma, and holding it to its own standards. After all, if Darwinian evolution is as unfit as it now seems, it shouldn’t survive.  

Aug 03, 2022
Parents of Transgender-Desiring Kids Must Play the Long Game
01:10

In a recent article at The Gospel Coalition, writer Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra tells the story of a Christian family with a teen who once identified as transgender.  

“I started to associate womanhood with being sexualized,” says Grace, now age 16. Peers, teachers, counselors, and—above all—social media circles guided Grace towards a strong case of rapid onset gender dysphoria. She stopped wearing feminine clothing and asked her parents to refer to her as “they/them.”  

This is the moment that many parents fear. These parents prayed hard, stayed true, and remembered the long game. “They built their relationships with her,” writes Zylstra. “They drew boundaries around how she could express herself. They took her to counseling and to church.”  Eventually, Grace began to feel comfortable as a girl again.  

In a culture where nearly 1 in 5 of Gen Z calls themselves “LGBT,” the story of Grace and her family is worth reading. At a time when so many are tempted to despair, it does not offer a quick fix. But it does offer truth, love, and hope. 

Aug 02, 2022
The Marijuana Emergency
04:54

In early March 2021, the U.S. Senate’s Caucus on International Narcotics Control released a report on the increasing potency of marijuana products available on the market. At the time, America was just a year into the pandemic and related lockdowns, so marijuana policy was not front and center on everyone’s mind. It should have been. In fact, the findings contained in the report can be described as shocking. A more creative, but just as accurate, title for this 58-page report would be “This Isn’t Your Grandpa’s Weed.” 

Included in the findings, the THC levels in marijuana products are soaring. THC is the psychoactive chemical that gives pot users a high, and reportedly provides relief from pain and nausea. In recent years, high-potency products have become more common. In 1990, the average concentration of THC in a marijuana plant was 4%. By 2012, it had tripled to 12%. Today, some products on the market have THC levels as high as 90%.  

These increasing levels come even though a 2020 NIH study found that pain relief benefits of marijuana require THC levels no higher than 5% and that marijuana with higher THC levels might even be less effective in fighting pain. Setting aside the consistent political reality that legalizing medical marijuana is always intended to lead to the legalizing of recreational marijuana—even if legitimate pain patients need medical marijuana, they do not need THC levels of 90%. 

And yet, marijuana policies are clearly headed in a direction that does not align with what we now know. Most U.S. states allow marijuana use in some capacity. The only two states in the country with a cap on THC levels and high-potency products are Vermont and California, where the cap is 60%. Right now, Ohio’s legislature is considering a bill to cap THC levels at 90%. At that level, what is the point? 

While the political posturing continues, a dystopian reality born of the marijuana revolution is unfolding outside statehouses. Doctors and emergency rooms across the country have sounded the alarm on the spike in psychosis, suicidal ideation, actual suicide, schizophrenia, and addiction-like behavior they have seen among young people using high-potency marijuana. 

In June, The New York Times reported the story of a teenage girl who could not stop fainting and throwing up after becoming functionally addicted to vaping high-potency pot. A doctor at the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s hospital has reported an explosion in the number of young cannabis users experiencing “hallucinations and trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality.” And increased marijuana use also poses secondary dangers such as more deadly traffic accidents, more poisonings of young people who mistake edibles for candy, and a worsening opioid crisis, which many doctors believe is directly correlated with marijuana legalization.  

Lawmakers in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana 10 years ago, are now trying to apply brakes to this runaway train. Last year, the state legislature passed a bill mandating that coroners test THC levels when someone under 25 suffers a “non-natural death.” According to one state senator, “Since legalization in Colorado, the regulatory framework has failed to keep up with the evolution of the new products….  The industry has changed, and we need to catch up with those changes.” Unfortunately, “catching up with changes” is not generally a “strength” of government. 

The Church, however, can play a redemptive role. American Christians have a responsibility to advocate for policies that benefit our neighbors’ welfare and against policies that hurt them. Marijuana should be no different. The 30-billion dollar marijuana industry has been incredibly deft in crafting messaging that makes anyone opposed to legalizing weed seem “uncool” or “behind the times.”  

So, it is essential to understand that today’s weed is far ahead of the times. We are far removed from the Cheech and Chong days. This stuff is dangerous, particularly for young people. Christians should be highly motivated to not let this cat out of the bag wherever it has not yet been loosed and to minister to people where it has, including in addiction recovery centers and other healthcare settings.  

Christians have a legacy of running into the plague when everyone else is running away. Marijuana legalization has reached plague status. It is time to head in.  

Aug 02, 2022
Go Ahead, Lawmakers: Make Dads Pay
01:07

Earlier in July, an Ohio Democratic state senator thought she was taking a courageous stand against the Supreme Court’s overruling of Roe v. Wade. She introduced a bill that would allow pregnant women to file civil lawsuits against the men who got them pregnant. Those men could then be on the hook for up to $5,000 in damages. 

The senator, an outspoken abortion supporter, said she wrote the bill to counteract Ohio’s “draconian” abortion restrictions. However, instead of making a statement for abortion, the bill is more of a solution for abortion and an endorsement of marriage. After all, the idea that men should take responsibility for the babies they make isn’t revolutionary... or at least it shouldn’t be. In a Christian vision, sex and babies go together and shouldn’t be separated. So, God established a way to hold them together: Cultures around the world call this arrangement “marriage.”  

In fact, $5,000 is a pretty sad settlement. It won’t pay for a baby, much less a wedding budget. But hey, if lawmakers want to dis-incentivize men abandoning their children, I’m all for it. 

 

Aug 01, 2022
No Civilization Without Restraint: Wise Words From 1939
05:41

It is not normal or healthy for a culture to talk about sex this much. From Pride month to education to companies telegraphing their commitments to inclusion and diversity, to just about every commercial, movie, or TV show produced today, sexual identity is treated as if it is central to human identity, human purpose, and human happiness. And this vision of life and the world is especially force-fed to children, who are essentially subjects of our social experimentations. 

If the energy spent talking about sex is disproportionate, it’s important to know there were some who saw this coming. The best example is Oxford sociologist J.D. Unwin. In 1939, Unwin published a landmark book summarizing his research. Sex and Culturewas a look at 80 tribes and six historical civilizations over the course of five millennia, through the lens of a single question: Does a culture’s ideas of sexual liberation predict its success or collapse?  

Unwin’s findings were overwhelming: 

Just as societies have advanced [and] then faded away into a state of general decrepitude, so in each of them has marriage first previously changed from a temporary affair based on mutual consent to a lifelong association of one man with one woman, and then turned back to a loose union or to polygamy.  

What’s more, Unwin concluded,  

The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs. 

Unwin saw a pattern behind societies that unraveled. If three consecutive generations abandoned sexual restraint built around the protections of marriage and fidelity, they collapsed.  

Simply put, sexuality is essential for survival. However, sexuality is such a powerful force, it must be controlled or else it can destroy a future rather than secure it. Wrongly ordered sexuality is devastating for both individuals and entire societies. 

Unwin’s conclusions can be boiled down to a single issue. Are people living for the future, with the ability to delay gratification, or are they focusing only on the here and now? When a culture fails to restrain its sexual instincts, people think less about securing the future and instead compromise the stability, productivity, and the well-being of the next generation in the pursuit of sexual pleasure.  

Unwin claims that he had no moral or ideological axe to grind in this research. “I make no opinion about rightness or wrongness,” he wrote. But his work is nevertheless profound, as are his conclusions, which we seem to be living out in real time.  

According to Pew Research, almost 90% of children lived with two married parents in 1960. By 2008 that number had dropped to just 64%. Over the same period, the percentage of kids born to unmarried women rose from 5% to 41%.There is really no question of how this impacts children. Studies show that teens from single-parent or blended families are 300% more likely to need psychological assistance, twice as likely to drop out of high school, and more likely to commit suicide. They end up with less college education and lower-paying jobs than their parents and are more likely to get divorced themselves.  

This is not because children from non-traditional homes have less potential or less value. Nor do stable two-parent families guarantee outcomes for children. Statistics do not determine the future of an individual, but they can identify the future of a society. On a civilizational level, the future is a matter of math.  

The early days of the sexual revolution reframed the morality of sexual behavior, but today it’s gone further, undermining the already fragile identity in the rising generation, fraying it in the various directions of the ever-growing acronym of sexual identities. Anywhere from 1 in 5 to nearly 40% of young people identify as LGBTQ today. Or, in the case of one junior high class in the Northeast I heard of recently, “all of them do.” 

Christian faithfulness in this cultural moment must involve the protection of children and a commitment to the future of society. At the very least, that means speaking up, especially when it is unpopular to do so. Along the way, we will have to reject the “inevitability thesis,” the notion that all is lost and that things will only get worse so nothing we do matters. With courage and unconditional love for our neighbor, we continue to speak the truth.  

And we will need to remind ourselves and each other of something that should be obvious but is not: The ideas and behavior of the late sexual revolution are not normal. Nor is our fascination and focus on sexuality as the central defining factor in human existence and value.  

Human sexuality is not some arbitrary construct like a speed limit. It is as much a part of the fabric of life as gravity. We may deny that, but we will not avoid the pain of hitting the ground if we do.  

Aug 01, 2022
The Senates Role in The Respect for Marriage Act, and Government Subsidized Birth and Day Care?
01:04:54

John and Maria share about a coalition of organizations that sent a letter to the Senate Minority Leader with concerns about the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act.” Afterward, they discuss whether government and businesses should provide subsidies for birth and childcare. They finish with the harm in our society’s quest for infinite options. 

 

Jul 30, 2022
Laws Rest on a Moral Vision, Religious or Not
01:08

Some abortion proponents claim that by overturning Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court elevated evangelical and Catholic morality, and violated what’s known as the establishment clause found in the First Amendment. 

The establishment clause, however, was never meant to exclude citizens from voting their consciences or seeking their vision of the common good. It was never intended to keep morality out of our lawmaking. In fact, every law reflects some moral vision, whether or not the vision is labeled secular or religious. Are our laws against murder and theft somehow unconstitutional because they echo the morality of the Bible?  

Think of all the other laws that violate the establishment clause if these critics are right: the abolition of slavery, criminal justice reform, workers’ rights, etc. Even the bankruptcy code is rooted in a uniquely biblical understanding about the rights of debtors, economic justice, and redemption.  

Thomas Jefferson wrote that the rights to life and liberty are “endowed by [our] Creator.” Should we set aside the entire American project because the Declaration of Independence violates the establishment clause? No, because without it, there wouldn’t be an establishment clause.  

 

Jul 29, 2022
Why Truth Matters
05:15

So many of the cultural debates that rage around us and captivate our attentions result from dueling definitions of truth. All ideas have consequences, especially our ideas about truth. It matters greatly whether truth even exists, whether truth can be known, and how we should think about those who reject truth. 

Fifty years ago, in his landmark discussion of the flow of Western history, Francis Schaeffer offered what he called “a simple but profound rule” about truth: “If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.”  

Even a brief look at the half century since he wrote reveals how right he was. Because of the loss of belief in the existence of truth, our cultural conversations become more fractured and disconnected, our willingness to hear one another out seems to diminish by the day, and corporate, political, and other cultural activists readily work to impose their views on everyone else. And, who’s to say that they’re wrong if nothing is truly right? 

Like Schaeffer, Chuck Colson would often appeal to the idea of “true truth,” the idea that truth exists independently of people and our clashing opinions. At least in theory, this provided a means to check who is right and who is wrong. Having abandoned the idea of the reality of truth and our ability to know it, we didn’t find the sort of freedom and tolerance promised. Instead, we gained chaos, conflict, and coercion. “Truth” belongs to those with the social power to decide. 

In recent years, many Christians have either abandoned or deprioritized the notion of truth, elevating personal experience over what God has revealed about Himself and His world. Years ago, Chuck Colson warned in his book The Faith that Christians must not give up on the idea of truth nor downplay its importance, even in an attempt to gain a wider hearing. Christianity matters precisely because it is true. If it isn’t true, it doesn’t matter. Here’s Chuck:  

Why does truth matter so much? Because the Church simply can’t be the Church without being on the side of truth. Jesus came as the champion of the truth and of those on the side of the truth. Without understanding this, the Church cannot even present the Gospel. Without truth, it resorts to therapy and has patients, not disciples.  

Much of Christianity’s retreat from the truth or tempering of our witness in the West has been motivated by good intentions—not to offend or be judgmental, the desire to feel more personally connected to God and to make Christianity more relevant and culturally acceptable. The history of Christianity, including the faith’s surge in the Third World today, shows the reverse to be the case. While we always want to be sensitive to other cultures, we cannot be co-opted by them. 

The early Christians who treated plague victims certainly weren’t embracing the pagan culture. Nor were they trying to make Christianity more relevant and win over the hearts of an empire; they were simply carrying out the truth of their faith—that every person is made in the image of God and therefore possesses dignity. The task of this generation—as it will be in every generation—is to understand Christianity as a complete view of the world and humankind’s place in it, that is, as the truth. If Christianity is not the truth, it is nothing, and our faith mere sentimentality. 

Next Thursday, the Colson Center is hosting a conversation on truth with Lee Strobel, author of the classic The Case for Christ and Brett Kunkle, founder of president of MAVEN, an organization committed to communicating truth to the next generation. This conversation is the focus of the third annual Great Lakes Symposium on Christian Worldview to be held on August 4, at the beautiful Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor, Michigan. During the event, I will be pressing that truth matters, Brett will discuss how we can regain confidence in the idea of truth in this skeptical age, and Lee Strobel will be presenting the case for truth. 

Attendance in-person or online is completely free. In-person seating is almost full, but there is still availability for the livestreamed event. You must sign up to receive access, but thanks to the generosity of local donors, this symposium is being offered entirely free of charge. 

In a world where many people deny the existence of truth, learning how to clearly and confidently live out our Christian faith requires that we equip ourselves with a firm grasp of the trustworthiness of the Gospel. Again, please join us online as we work together for a more truthful world. 

Jul 29, 2022
Bach Drew From a Deep Theology
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Today marks the death of Johann Sebastian Bach (1665-1750), an ardent student of music and diligent student of theology. Raised in a family of north German musicians, he lost both his parents by age 10. He sang in a boys’ choir and played the violin early on, and later moved to the organ where he quickly was recognized for his unique talents.  

And of course, today he’s known for his compositions, where his deep knowledge of theology is so evident. Although music historians may point out the variety of musical influence—northern and southern German, French, and Italian music, Christians have long marveled at the theological richness found in the cantatas Bach wrote for churches in Leipzig. As director of church music, he designed each one to echo the Gospel reading in both language and emotional effect. Over time, it earned him the title of the “Fifth Evangelist.”  

Like Bach, let’s be sure that in all the works of our hands and especially in our creative acts to draw from a deep and growing knowledge of God. 

 

Jul 28, 2022
Do Pro-Life Laws Threaten the Lives of Women?
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The most common response from pro-abortion advocates since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court is misinformation. One of the most common pieces of misinformation that’s been floated by media outlets, politicians, and cultural commentators alike is that certain pro-life laws triggered by the Dobbs decision place the lives of pregnant women at risk, especially those facing an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. These pro-life laws are not clear, the argument goes, so doctors could face legal reprisals for offering the life-saving treatments that women with at-risk pregnancies need. In some versions of this scenario, hospitals and doctors are frozen with fear and confusion, unsure of what they can and cannot do. 

However, as Alexandra DeSanctis wrote recently at National Review, “This is simply not the case.” What her article offers is exactly what pro-lifers need to answer this pro-abortion talking point, and exactly what the title promises: “How Every State Pro-Life Law Handles Ectopic Pregnancy and Miscarriage.” Here’s the summary of what DeSanctis’ deep dive into state law revealed:  

Abortion supporters have argued that state abortion limits aren’t clear about whether these types of health care are permitted—and they have argued that, as a result of this supposed lack of clarity, doctors have declined to perform necessary and potentially life-saving procedures out of fear of reprisal from officials enforcing state pro-life laws. 

This is simply not the case. If doctors are doing so—and abortion supporters have offered little evidence of a systemic problem in this regard—it is the fault of the doctors themselves, not the fault of the pro-life laws, which are eminently clear. The pro-life worldview has always held that both lives matter, that of the mother and that of her unborn child. It is always permissible to act to care for a pregnant mother whose life is at risk. 

Neither miscarriage care nor treatment for ectopic pregnancy has anything to do with an induced-abortion procedure, which intentionally kills an unborn child. Every successful elective abortion has a single aim: to end the life of the child growing in his or her mother’s womb. What’s more, medical professionals acknowledge that induced abortion is never medically necessary to treat a pregnant mother; modern medicine can treat the mother without intentionally killing the child. 

For instance, miscarriage care treats a woman whose unborn child has already died, and ectopic-pregnancy treatment removes an unborn child who cannot develop or survive, in order to save the life of the mother. Neither of these types of health care bears any resemblance to directly and intentionally killing the child. The only people confused about this—or pretending to be confused—are supporters of abortion on demand. And their aim is clear: to cause confusion for the sake of undermining pro-life laws. 

To put a fine point on the issue: Until just last week, even the website of Planned Parenthood explicitly stated that ectopic-pregnancy treatment is not an abortion. But then the abortion business erased that clarifying information in an effort to perpetuate the tide of misinformation, intentionally blurring the lines between actual health care aimed at saving a mother’s life and abortion procedures, which intend to cause the death of an unborn child. 

DeSanctis then provides a summary and a quote of the relevant portion of the law from every state in question: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. I highly recommend that you read the whole thing, especially if you encounter this particular talking point that has been repeated so often that many have begun to actually believe it. 

And I recommend Alexandra DeSanctis’ book, co-authored with Dr. Ryan Anderson, Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing. In it, Anderson and DeSanctis describe what’s really behind this particular talking point. Legalized abortion has taught us to see the God-given and good ability to procreate as a barrier to full humanness as women. Along the way, fertility is treated as a problem to be overcome, not a good thing to be embraced.  

If Christians are going to build a culture of life, we must understand all the ways in which this legal travesty poisoned our understanding of life, sex, marriage, and children. That’s what Tearing Us Apart offers: the understanding we need to continue to uphold the dignity of life. I think this book is so very important right now. For a gift of any amount this month, I will send you a copy of Tearing Us Apart by Alexandra DeSanctis and Ryan Anderson. Just go to breakpoint.org/give before the end of July.  

Jul 28, 2022
The EU Is Mad About Dobbs
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France is pretty mad at the United States. In fact, the entire European Union is mad, so mad in fact, they wrote a strongly worded letter. Earlier this month the EU passed a resolution condemning the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs abortion case, which overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the matter of abortion restrictions back to individual state legislatures. 

Parliamentarians said the Dobbs ruling showed that “women’s and girls’ rights” are under attack. The strange part is that the Mississippi law which sparked the Dobbs case restricts abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That’s one week later than France’s law, which restricts elective abortions after 14 weeks.  

It gets weirder: The EU’s condemnation also warns the Dobbs ruling could embolden “anti-gender” groups around the world. But if abortion is about the rights of “women and girls,” that implies we know how to define “woman” and “girl.” 

It’s all a silly bit of posturing, but if the EU is worried Dobbs will change the world, I hope they’re right. 

Jul 27, 2022