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Whoopi and the Archbishop
On Friday, according to the Catholic News Agency, “San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone instructed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to present herself for Holy Communion until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion.”
On Monday, Whoopi Goldberg told the archbishop via her audience on The View, “This is not your job, dude. That is not up to you to make that decision.”
It is, of course, the archbishop’s job to oversee the proper administration of the sacraments in that geographic region of the church. It is exactly his job, in fact. Other than playing a nun in the Sister Act movies, it’s not clear what qualifies Goldberg to tell an archbishop what his job is.
Years ago, Dr. Frank Beckwith taught a group of students how to respond to someone dismissive of their arguments: “If anyone ever says to you, ‘Who are to say what’s right?’ just ask back ‘Who are you to say, “Who are you to say?”’”
This isn’t about Whoopi, of course. Skeptics, secularists, and non-believers will often ask, “Who are you to speak for Jesus?” while speaking for Jesus.
A good response is, “Well, who are you to ask?”
|May 24, 2022|
Exploiting More Women Is Not an Improvement
On the YouTube channel “Lutheran Satire,” there’s a video entitled, “A Christian and a Feminist Almost Agree on Stuff.” In it, two sock puppets discuss the cultural breakdown of sexuality and marriage and how pornography plagues both.
“Pornography harms women,” says the feminist sock puppet.
“Totally agree,” says the Christian puppet. “Pornography demeans women, and it also corrupts men by making them think of women as nothing but sexual objects.”
“Therefore,” interrupts the feminist sock puppet, “women should empower themselves by taking control of the porn industry and producing their own sexually explicit material.”
To which the Christian puppet responds, “That is not the solution I had in mind.”
Pornography and sexually suggestive material of any kind objectifies women, training consumers that female bodies are things to be leered at, to be lusted after, rather than persons to be loved and valued.
Those Lutheran sock puppets came to mind last week after Sports Illustrated announced the covers of its annual swimsuit issue. Of course, there’s never been any point to the swimsuit edition other than to objectify women to the publication’s largely male readership. It has nothing at all to do with sports. It has nothing at all to do with even marketing swimsuits.
It has been, instead, for decades now, the most visible example of everything that Christians and feminists and other protectors of women have decried about our objectifying culture: selling skin, airbrushed and impossible beauty standards, sexual provocation, etc., etc., etc.
This year’s cover model does not represent the typical, unreachable standards of thinness that porn and photoshop have imposed on women. However, she is still posed provocatively in a barely there swimsuit, as objectified as any other cover model has ever been.
There seems to be some confusion. The problem here is not that all women should be objectified for their bodies. It’s that no one should be objectified at all. Valuing a human being made in God’s image by changing standards of outward appearance is always wrong. But we don’t atone for a sin by committing it against everyone.
Now, I know it sounds a bit quaint in 2022 to object to swimsuit covers, but at the heart of even the mildly suggestive material in our culture is a lie that has long consumed our culture, the same one that is at the heart of the always accessible and ever darker online pornography world. That lie is that people are things to be used and therefore can be abstracted from their bodies for our gratification or titillation.
This lie can never be made true, even when people consent to it. As Christine Emba pointed out recently in The Washington Post, it is possible for a woman to objectify herself, and therefore consent to things that are actually terrible for her. Consent, Emba concludes, is not a sufficient sexual ethic by itself. We need to talk about a much more important value: love, which she defines, taking a cue from St. Thomas Aquinas, as “willing the good of the other.”
There is no sense in which reducing a woman to her body and putting her on display for millions is willing her good. No person—man or woman—is merely a body. Christians have always insisted, and must continue to insist against things like prostitution, polygamy, slavery, and pornography. Because human beings are bearers of God’s image, they must always be taken seriously, body and soul.
If there is a problem with displaying scantily clad women as objects for the eager eyes of sports fans—and there is—if we recognize the connection this ritual has with far darker corners of our culture especially online—and it does—the answer is to stop. Certainly, the answer is not more of the same. We have to treat women as whole people.
|May 24, 2022|
Breakpoint Podcast - Preparing for a Post-Roe World with Kristan Hawkins
Kristan Hawkins, founder and president of the Student for Life. Kirsten spoke at the recent "Preparing for a Post-Roe World" event at the recent Wilberforce Weekend.
|May 23, 2022|
A Doctor’s Sacrifice in a Shooting
The day after a mass shooting in a New York supermarket left 10 people dead, a 68-year-old opened fire on parishioners at a Taiwanese Presbyterian church in southern California. He killed one and injured five before parishioners subdued and tied him up.
The man killed in the attack authorities are calling “hate-filled” was 52-year-old Dr. John Cheng, who charged the shooter in an attempt to save fellow church members. Orange County officials called Cheng’s actions “heroism” and “a meeting of good versus evil.” His quick thinking and courageous actions undoubtedly saved lives, including his recently widowed mother.
Mr. Rogers always told kids, in times of calamity, to “look for the helpers.” Dr. Cheng is now part of Christian history, a history full of those who ran toward the danger in self-sacrifice. Jesus called this love—when a man lays down his life for his friends—the greatest. It proves that evil will not have the last say, and that evil is overcome with good.
|May 23, 2022|
Understanding the Buffalo Shooting
Last Saturday, the country was left grappling with another reminder of human depravity. An 18-year-old gunman entered a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 and injuring three more. The victims, who were predominantly black, included Heyward Patterson, a local church deacon; Pearl Young, a retired school teacher; and Aaron Salter, a retired police officer.
Mass shootings are too familiar, but no less overwhelming: friends and family in agony, communities left to pick up the pieces, collective rage over the brutal violence, a longing for justice, and a rush to explain why.
For many news outlets, the narrative is a cut-and-dried example of right-wing extremism. The shooter’s manifesto pointed to an embrace of “replacement theory,” the idea that white Americans are being systematically edged out of society by minorities. “That idea,” claim Isaac Stanley-Becker and Drew Harwell of The Washington Post,
once relegated to the fringe, has gained currency on popular right-wing television programs and in the halls of Congress. The apocalyptic vision has accumulated followers during the coronavirus pandemic, which has deepened political polarization and accelerated the online flow of racist ideology.
The shooter’s 180-page document confirms that he was indeed motivated by replacement ideology and outright racism. In it he described his plan to deliberately attack a black supermarket, as well as his support for antisemitic and neo-Nazi causes. “I will carry out an attack against the replacers,” he wrote, “and will even livestream the attack.”
In a sort of guilt by association, blame was leveled at Republicans, especially those who hold conservative views on immigration, whether or not they harbor any ill will towards minority groups or immigrant neighbors. Ignored was the shooter’s description of his own ideals, which includes outright rejections of conservatism as “corporatism in disguise.”
“Are you right wing?” he asks rhetorically. “Depending on the definition, sure. Are you left wing? Depending on the definition, sure. Are you a socialist? Depending on the definition.”
As Kyle Smith at the National Review summed up:
The manifesto, while certainly political, is ideologically all over the map, as was the Unabomber’s. Whoever your ideological boogeyman of today’s discourse is, this person doesn’t link up to him very easily.
How do we make sense of this? Human beings are meaning-making creatures. The fact that we have an instinctive need to know why bad things happen says something about the kind of creatures we are and the moral kind of universe we inhabit. But we are also prone to misdiagnose the problem, and therefore mis-prescribe a solution, because of our allegiance to false ideologies that become a hammer looking for nails.
People are more than many ideologies can explain. This is why Communist and Fascist dictatorships end up looking like each other over time. As my colleague Tim Padgett put it recently, “Sometimes worldviews simply give shape to the evil already within individuals.”
And that’s what the Christian worldview says: That evil is already within individuals. The more the social bonds of a culture unravel, the more that people are pushed to their ideological extremes. This is especially the case in a world where digital technologies both radicalize and incentivize bad behaviors.
In such a world, politicized theories dominating our discourse are proving to be inadequate to explain violence on this level. Racism, while not what it was a few decades ago, is far from extinct. In its most diabolical forms, entire groups of people are seen as the enemy, as evident by the shooter’s manifesto. At the same time, the current analysis of nearly everything, including these incidents, is being dramatically hampered by what I call a “critical theory mood.”
While most Americans, including the pundits, have not read the academic source material behind the various expressions of formal critical theory, there is a predisposed commitment, on both the right and the left, to divide the world by tribes, people groups, and political parties and, in doing so, to pre-determine who’s right and wrong, good and evil, if by nothing else but association. The dramatically different ways that clearly racially motivated acts are treated and described—compare this event with the Waukesha tragedy a few months ago—based on these people groupings simply demonstrate that we have no clue how to distinguish between good and evil.
Critical theory in its formal form or as a cultural mood is short-sighted and inadequate. The Christian vision of the cosmos, people, morality, and human history offers an adequate understanding of good and evil on every level: both societal and individual.
As a young man, Tom Tarrants, was injured in a shootout with FBI agents and sent to prison. “If anyone deserved to die, it was certainly me,” this former member of the Ku Klux Klan, once filled with racial hatred, wrote recently in Christianity Today. But God worked a miracle, even in solitary confinement: repentance and even reconciliation with some of those he tried to kill.
Only the Gospel can do that.
As we grieve, we pray for justice and for healing to God who reigns over everything, even Buffalo, New York, last Saturday. In Him, we have hope, understanding, and a way forward.
|May 23, 2022|
Understanding Shootings in Buffalo and California, Body Shaming, and Russian Art
John and Maria unpack the web of the recent shootings in Buffalo, New York and California. Rather than rest on the narratives, John provides a helpful way to consider the landscape and the underlying ideas that many are glossing over.
Then, Maria asks John for perspective on some social media traffic around the recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. Maria provides additional context to help us consider our culture's issue with objectifying women and how the church can provide a better way in this moment.
To close, Maria asks John for insight into a few Breakpoint commentaries from the week. John discusses how Russian art is important in this cultural moment, despite the call from some to cancel it in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. John also explains the scenario of a lesser known phenomenon in charitable giving that could impact Christians looking to support biblically-based organizations.
|May 20, 2022|
Chesterton on Keeping Ideals
Can we stand for truth without becoming jaded? G.K. Chesterton, in his 1908 book Orthodoxy, describes how when he was a boy, many told him that his ideals would eventually “break up like clouds” and that he’d be forced to put his real faith in simple, practical politics. He writes:
What has really happened is exactly the opposite. … I have not lost my ideals in the least; my faith in fundamentals is exactly what it always was. What I have lost is my old childlike faith in practical politics.
Tongue in cheek as always, Chesterton isn’t arguing that politics don’t matter. They do. But far too many build their life on the weak foundation of an ever-changing political landscape. It’s a recipe for burnout, anger, and disillusionment.
Christian hope is secure and makes us better neighbors, parents, spouses, and citizens. The unchanging values and methods of Christ’s kingdom give us the strength we need to go on even in the face of changing situations.
We’ll have to take unpopular stands in our lifetimes, but placing our hope in Christ is the opposite of being naive or impractical. It’s the only sure foundation there is.
|May 20, 2022|
A Secular Call for Sexual Restraint
A recent opinion column made quite a splash. In it, the author observed:
In every other situation common to the human experience—eating, drinking, exercise, even email—we have come to realize that limits produce healthier results. It’s unlikely that sex and relationships are exceptions to the rule. An unrestrained sexual culture hasn’t necessarily led to better sex for all or to better relationships. In many cases, it has inspired numbness, callousness, hurting others and being hurt. And rather than being titillating, sexual overload has become boring.
She writes: “Getting rid of the old rules and replacing them with the norm of consent was supposed to make us happy. Instead, many people today feel a bit … lost.”
If you were to guess who published those words, what would you say? A Christian media outlet like Breakpoint or First Things? A conservative column by Ryan Anderson or Mary Eberstadt at The Heritage Foundation or Daily Wire? What if I told you this was published in The New York Times?
The author is Christine Emba, and the opinion column was based on her recent book: Rethinking Sex, a Provocation. Making a case quite controversial for modern ears, Emba argues for a recovery of ethical norms around sex, something “mere consent” is unable to provide.
A Catholic, Emba is quick to clarify that she is not advocating for a return to “purity culture,” or what many view as the outdated, repressive ethics of orthodox Christianity. She also carefully avoids talking about LGBTQ relationships, which some see as a desire to avoid permanently offending her progressive audience. Even so, the case she does make is profoundly countercultural, and she’s making it to a culture that just might be ready to listen.
Our culture is, after all, showing signs of sexual exhaustion in the midst of all of its confusion. As one news outlet reported on Valentine’s day, “Americans [are] less likely to have sex, partner up and get married than ever.” A Pew survey found that nearly half of single adults have given up looking for a partner entirely.
Another Pew Research survey showed that 65% of single women have experienced some form of harassment on the dating scene. Porn-inspired violence is so mainstream, Emba writes, that even when women are surprised by inappropriate conduct, they often feel like they can’t back out, once consent has been given. One young Twitter user put it this way: “I don’t think older generations realize how terrifying dating is for the current generation.”
In other words, it’s time to admit that the idea that consent could adequately govern human sexuality has failed. Consent may be the barest of moral necessities, but it cannot govern something as powerful as sex, especially when sex has been untethered from its purpose, design, and any other moral restraint. So, Emba concludes:
[S]ome new understandings may be in order. Maybe even casual sex is significant, an act unlike any other. Maybe some porn-inspired practices—those that eroticize degradation, objectification, harm—shouldn’t be mainstreamed. Maybe we do have a duty to others, not just to our own desire. We need norms more robust than “anything between two consenting adults goes.”
Her analysis is correct, though missing a necessary component. To say that we need to recover sexual norms leads to an obvious question: Whose norms? And why? What can make certain norms normative?
The answer, of course, takes us beyond exploring various moral options. Any analysis of morality quickly becomes a question of teleology. Or, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, we must know what something is for, before we can know what to do with it.
In its bid for unrestricted sexual freedom, late modernity lost any foundation of what sex is and is for. Now, even as the house crumbles, we’re busy throwing away every tool needed to build back a foundation.
Contrary to everything we’re taught, sex is inherently about other people. Biologically, it’s about creating children; sociologically, it’s about making strong bonds between moms and dads for the sake of those children. Spiritually, it’s a reflection of Christ and the Church; metaphysically, it’s about the ways we are each embodied beings, created as men and women for, and in relationship with, each other.
Of course, it’s never popular to suggest any restrictions when it comes to sex, but the alternative is proving to be worse. Emba and others are realizing how sex without restrictions leads to personal and social chaos. She makes a great case. Our job is to take it one step deeper, and to point with our words and our lives to a better way.
|May 20, 2022|
Religion, Not Gender, Best Predicts Views of Abortion
“Religion, not gender,” the Economist reports, “is the best predictor of views on abortion.” The editors continue:
Shocked by a draft Supreme Court opinion that would allow states to ban abortion…. some [activists] hope that women enraged by the loss of Roe v Wade will vote en masse for Democrats in November.
But, they argue, that hope is misplaced. Whereas the gap between men and women on abortion restrictions is just 6%, religion—combined with race—accounts for a 65% difference.
Among both men and women, for example, 92% of atheists favor pro-abortion policies. Likewise, according to Gallup, 75% of those who attend religious services weekly identify as “pro-life.”
In other words, abortion is not an issue of women against men. It’s an issue of worldview. Women are, of course, most affected by issues surrounding pregnancy, but not always the way that we are led to believe.
The real question is what is the pre-born? Are they, abortion advocates suggest, just disposable tissue or “lives worth sacrificing?” Or are they, in the words of Scripture, “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of God?
|May 19, 2022|
Russian Art after the Invasion of Ukraine
After the invasion of Ukraine, what should be done with Russian art?
According to Simon Morrison in a recent The Washington Post article, Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine has prompted a global push to disavow all things Russian:
Music providers like Sony are suspending their Russian operations. … The Royal Opera House in London scrapped a summer season featuring the Bolshoi Ballet. … The Cardiff Philharmonic in Wales pulled the 19th-century . . . composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
Some of these measures are warranted. For example, composer Valery Gergiev is an outspoken supporter of Putin, played victory concerts in Ossetia and Syria for Putin, and in 2014 publicly supported the occupation of Crimea. He was fired from his position as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic.
Other situations are less clear. As Morrison writes,
The Montreal Symphony Orchestra just postponed three shows by 20-year-old pianist Alexander Malofeev, despite the fact that he has stated publicly, “Every Russian will feel guilty for decades because of the terrible and bloody decision that none of us could influence and predict.”
It’s both true and unnerving that so many Russians support this rapacious war against their neighbor. Others have been taken in by Putin’s relentless campaign of misinformation about Ukraine and its leaders. At the same time, there are those who have done nothing wrong, some who are even leading the internal resistance. Like with economic sanctions, everyday Russians are being punished for the sins of their government. Though war makes such extreme measures necessary, they should never be employed thoughtlessly.
Canceling Russian artists is one thing. Canceling Russian art is another. Throughout its history, the country has produced some of the greatest composers, painters, and authors of all time—not to mention dissidents, prophets, and counter-revolutionaries.
Leo Tolstoy is a perfect example. A seasoned military veteran who became a devout Christian and pacifist, his work Sevastopol Sketches vividly describes the horror of war in an age prone to glamorize it. Rather than elevate a character or cause, Tolstoy closes with one of his most famous lines: “The hero of my tale, whom I love with all the strength of my soul, whom I have tried to set forth in all his beauty … is the truth.”
In War and Peace, Tolstoy elaborates on the idea of “greatness.” “When it is impossible to stretch the very elastic threads of historical ratiocination any farther,” he argues,
when actions are clearly contrary to all that humanity calls right or even just, the historians produce a saving conception of greatness... “Greatness,” it seems, excludes the standards of right and wrong.
Deeply convicted by Christ’s teachings, Tolstoy reflected, “There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness, and truth.”
The fact that Tolstoy’s works even survived, despite decades of Soviet censorship, is itself an act of God. Tolstoy’s Christian themes were overt, and his contributions both to and from Russian culture undeniable. “Russian school children are introduced to their country’s literary canon as early as the fifth grade,” writes journalist Tim Brinkhof. Even Putin has listed Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy among his favorite authors.
Perhaps his hypocrisy is an open door. Russia’s great artists have long served as a kind of national conscience, a reminder of the immutable, God-given truths stamped on the heart of every person.
Shunning the country’s back catalogue means giving up a guide to the darkness, and out of it. Cancel Dostoyevsky … and you miss peerless insights into nihilism and violence. Blacklist Tchaikovsky—or Shostakovich—and you silence a beauty wrenched from the chokehold of repression. Turn away from Malevich’s paintings, and you forgo his urgent vision of a world cracked open. Banishing Tolstoy means losing a timeless prophet of peace.
Of course, the Soviet era also has had its share of propagandist art, none of which should be celebrated. The problem with this art is not that it is Russian in origin, but what it was for, what it communicated, and the corrupt motives of its creators. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago,
The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. … and even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.
|May 19, 2022|
Supporting Families with Gender Dysphoric Kids & Understanding Manhood and Womanhood - BreakPoint Q&A
John and Shane consider how to support families who have children wrestling with gender identity. A listener writes in asking for ideas, as some in his own family are navigating gender dysphoria.
Then, Shane asks John for a way to think well on manhood and womanhood, noting the natural gender breaks with speakers like Jordan Peterson.
|May 18, 2022|
Is the Future of Charitable Donation at Risk?
Imagine if giving money in support of a group that protects religious liberty, crafts pro-life legislation, or teaches a biblical view of sexuality or marriage meant that your name and the amount of your contribution would be publicly available. Anyone, including anyone who hoped to intimidate, harass, or “out you” to your employer, would have access to that information.
Would you still give if giving exacted a social cost as well as a financial one? That’s the situation countless conservative and Christian donors could face.
An upstart group called “Unmasking Fidelity” is trying to expose conservative donors to harassment by demanding the nation’s largest grant-maker, Fidelity Charitable, publicly reveal contributions to ten key organizations. These include the Family Research Council, Turning Point USA, and Alliance Defending Freedom, which Unmasking Fidelity absurdly calls “white supremacist” and “fascist.”
The true agenda behind the name-calling is obvious. Some of these organizations have been thorns in the side of progressive policymakers and lawyers who wish to impose their views on all Americans. Alliance Defending Freedom, for example, has been responsible for several key religious freedom victories at the U.S. Supreme Court, including one last year that protected conservative donors in California from having their names and charitable contributions published. In Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta, lawyers with ADF successfully argued against a California law that effectively “doxxed” donors—exposing them to harassment and intimidation.
Having failed in court, progressive activists hare now directing their efforts to attacking their opponents’ funding, specifically any conservative and Christian donors who use Fidelity Financial to manage their nonprofit contributions. Unmasking Fidelity is demanding five years’ worth of receipts for all donations that have gone to ten charities whose views they don’t like.
If Fidelity agrees to these demands, any major donor who gives to these organizations, or any like them, ought to immediately move their charitable dollars. Thankfully, there are trustworthy homes for this money, including Waterstone, National Christian Foundation, and Signatry.
As ADF put it, Unmasking Fidelity “desires to punish [Fidelity] and their donors for supporting principles millions of Americans endorse—religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and sanctity of life.” If Fidelity caves to these demands, other financial institutions would likely follow, and an ideological litmus test would be imposed on account holders and institutions. Conservative and Christian groups would be effectively blacklisted by predominant financial players which is precisely what these activists want. From there, they can target other financial institutions and services, such as credit card processing and banking. As ADF concludes, this is an effort to “circumvent the First Amendment” right after the Supreme Court ruled that nonprofit donations are free speech.
This is, of course, cancel culture at its worst. If it succeeds, our radioactive political landscape would only become more toxic, and ordinary Americans will be increasingly afraid to contribute to or show public support for causes that would invite harassment or cost them their jobs. Our nation is divided enough, without every citizen who wants to make a charitable donation being effectively put on trial in the court of public opinion.
Fidelity Charitable needs to hear from its account holders and the public. As of this publication, more than 30,000 financial advisors, investment professionals, and nonprofit leaders have already signed a letter urging Fidelity Charitable’s leadership to reject the demands of progressive activists. Contact Fidelity Charitable directly and urge them to fight for the privacy and freedom of account holders, as well as for the good of our civil society. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And, if you plan on donating to conservative or Christian nonprofits through a donor-advised fund, consider a Christian-based financial firm that is less vulnerable to pressure from activists. ADF has compiled a list of suggested organizations.
The stakes are clear. Not only must we protect the future of charitable contribution and organizations doing great work, we must stop this financial squeezing strategy right now, before it gains any momentum.
|May 18, 2022|
Don't Believe the Miscarriage Myth
A bizarre talking point circulating in the wake of the Supreme Court leak in the Dobbs case is that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, women who suffer miscarriages could be criminally charged in states that restrict abortion.
The rumor apparently stems from a handful of stories involving women who’ve been charged for the death of their preborn babies after they used drugs or caused a car accident by driving under the influence.
These stories have nothing morally or medically in common with miscarriages, which are natural, albeit tragic occurrences. Abortions are needless, deliberate, violent, and dangerous for babies and women. Removing the body of a baby who has died from his mother’s womb is nothing like invading a healthy womb to dismember and kill a baby.
Propagating the miscarriage myth is nothing less than a ruthless political strategy aimed at keeping women terrified and distracted from the real issues at stake in abortion law.
Women deserve better than to be lied to. Christians need to tell the truth loud and clear.
|May 18, 2022|
The Great Rage
The New York Times, for example, reported that over 500 health officials had quit their jobs since the pandemic, many citing threats and intimidation. According to an Education Week survey, 60% of school administrators say their employees were threatened with violence over the schools’ handling of COVID. In 2021, the FAA logged over 6,000 reports of “unruly passengers,” as opposed to just 150 in 2019.
To be sure, Jurecic’s political bias is obvious—but the problem she describes is real.
During the cultural hostility of the first centuries, the Apostles said to let our words “be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” That’s not advice, that’s instruction.
In today’s world, we won’t be able to avoid conflict, but these stands we take have to be the right ones and how we take them will reflect who we really serve.
People, to paraphrase Paul, are not our adversaries. They are our objective.
|May 17, 2022|
Does Abortion Save Women’s Lives?
Last week at our annual Wilberforce Weekend conference, we held a pre-event on Thursday evening to discuss what it means to prepare for a post-Roe future. The presentations were exceptional across the board. Today, I want you to hear from my friend Stephanie Gray Connors. She responded throughout the evening to various slogans used in our culture to promote abortion. Here’s one of the short talks she gave in response to the slogan, “legal abortion saves women’s lives.” Here’s Stephanie Gray Connors.
Legal abortion saves women’s lives. Why is that claim made? It’s made to imply that if abortion becomes illegal, it will be unsafe. And the question we want to ask is this, “For who? Abortion will be unsafe for who?” Because abortion is always unsafe, whether legal or illegal for the pre-born child.
Another point we want to make is to ask this question: “Even if abortion, when legal, is safer for women than illegal—even if we were to concede that—is it ethical to legalize homicide just to make it safer for those who participate in it?”
We could come up with a little parable, and say, imagine you’re a nurse in an emergency room and a man comes in with broken, bruised, swollen, bloodied knuckles. And so you begin bandaging his wounds, and you say, “Sir, what happened that caused this to you?” And he replies, “I was beating my wife tonight, and this resulted.” Would it make sense for the nurse to say, “You know, we really need to legalize spousal abuse and give men boxing gloves so that when they beat their wives, they don’t hurt themselves”? Now, we would never say that. Why? Because we recognize what brought on the infliction of harm to the man was infliction of harm to another.
And so the question is “When an abortion occurs, does that abortion inflict harm on the most vulnerable of the human child or human beings—that of the pre-born child?” And if the answer is yes, then we may not legalize it.
But when I hear that false claim from abortion supporters—legal abortion saves women’s lives—what I’m hearing is a concern for women’s lives and on that, I can agree. As a woman, most particularly, I too am concerned about my life and the lives of other women. But my concern is not just that women survive. I want women to thrive.
So we have to ask the question, “What makes a woman thrive?” And I would suggest the answer is what makes a woman or anyone thrive is they live to the fullness of who they were created to be. And the ultimate fulfillment biologically, the greatest level of maturity for a woman, is maternity, is having offspring. A woman is called to motherhood. Whether that is lived out through the physical reality of biological mother or the spiritual reality of spiritual motherhood. But the point is all women at the heights of their maturity are called to motherhood.
What is abortion? It is a rejection of that. I have worked full time in the pro-life movement for 20 years. I have seen a lot of people on both sides of the debate, and I can tell you the most bitter people I have met over the last two decades are people who have rejected their maternity, and the happiest, most thriving women I have met are those who have embraced their femininity in the form of maternity, whether that is biological mothers or spiritual mothers in the form of nuns I’ve met who are happier than most people I know.
There are two paths ahead of our world today. One says, “This is my body given for you.” And the other one says, “This is your body given for me.” As we reflect on those two choices, I would suggest the great tragedy of abortion: It’s not just that it destroys the body of a baby, but that it destroys the very nature of a woman. Thank you.
That was Stephanie Gray Connors, answering a common pro-abortion slogan: Legal abortion saves women’s lives. Throughout our preparing-for-a-post-Roe-future event, Stephanie answered a few more questions like that. To receive access to her presentation as well as the other speakers at this very special event, go to breakpoint.org.
|May 17, 2022|
Chuck Colson Shares His Testimony - Breakpoint Podcast
Chuck Colson lived a redeemed life. This past weekend we celebrated the redeeming work of Christ in our lives and the lives of those who have come before us.
One of the redemption stories we highlighted was Chuck Colson's, and today on the BreakPoint Podcast we share Chuck's story, as told by him, of how Christ saved him not only from something, but to and for many things for the glory of God.
|May 16, 2022|
Longevity Gives More Time for the Redeemed Life
Recently, Stanford Center on Longevity announced a project called the “New Map of Life.” “In the United States,” the authors write, “as many as half of today’s 5-year-olds can expect to live to the age of 100, and this once unattainable milestone may become the norm for newborns by 2050.”
The problem, the authors admit, is that we don’t know what to do with an extra 30 years: The “narrative of an ‘aging society’ seems to convey only a crisis.”
Reaching this 100-years-of-life milestone is, as one researcher put it, a “[breathtaking] package of human potential the world has never seen, unprecedented numbers of people with unprecedented capabilities, and significant desire to give back and leave the world better.”
Scripture agrees, calling old age “a crown of glory.” But that’s not because of how long it lasts or what is accomplished. It’s because there’s a “why” behind it all. As Stanford looks for technological and sociological benefits to longer lives, Christians can point to the Source of meaning for all of life, who faced and defeated death.
The more time we have to do that, the better.
|May 16, 2022|
Are Human Embryos "People"?
Recently, we held a public event on the evening before our annual Wilberforce Weekend to talk about how we can prepare to live in a post-Roe world. A very important aspect of that event was learning how we can respond to the common slogans, the common lines that people often throw around in support of abortion. We asked Stephanie Gray Connors, one of the great apologists for the sanctity of life in our present moment to address some of these slogans.
One of those slogans was “embryos aren’t really people.” Here’s Stephanie Gray Connors responding.
Embryos aren’t people. And when we want to respond to that, the first thing we want to do is ask the question, “What our embryos? And what are people?” Let’s seek definitions of those two terms.
If you look at the word embryo—you actually look it up in the dictionary—it says an animal in the early stages of growth. And I would like to point out as a pro-lifer, I do not believe in protecting all embryos. Dogs have embryos. Cats have embryos. Other species have embryos because the embryo is the animal in the early stage of development. The embryos that I’m interested in protecting are the human embryos that happened to be at the earliest stage of their development. The question is “Are pre-born children human embryos at the very beginning of pregnancy?” And to answer that we have to ask, “Is the pregnant woman human?” Yes. “Is her partner human?” Yes. Then, that means the embryo in the pregnant woman’s body must be of the same species.
The next question we want to put forward in such a conversation is “Is that embryo that we know is human because the parents are human—is the embryo alive?” And to answer that we ask ourselves, “Is the embryo growing?” And scientifically we know that one cell grows into 2, 4, 8, doubling every time. And so by virtue of the embryo’s growth, the embryo must be alive. By virtue of having human parents, the embryo must be human.
“What are people?” Well, if you ask an abortion supporter that, they’ll say a person is someone who’s rational, conscious, and self-aware, and an embryo at the beginning of pregnancy might be human but isn’t those things. I have a nine-month-old baby. Yes, she interacts with me to a degree, but let me tell you she does not act rational, conscious, or self-aware very often. I even have to get boogers out of her nose for her. She is entirely incapable of doing many things. “Is she a person?” Yes, because she’s human, because she’s a member of the human family, and she has the inherent capacity to be rational, conscious, and self-aware like all of us. But due to her age, she can’t yet act on that capacity.
In the same way if someone is having surgery under anesthetic, in that moment they’re not rational, conscious, and self-aware. If you have a conversation or try to with someone under anesthetic, they will not respond back. If you say, “May I kill you?” They will not object. It doesn’t mean it’s okay to kill them because they have the inherent capacity to be rational, conscious, and self-aware. But due to the circumstances of surgery, they can’t act on it. In the same way with a born baby, like a nine-month-old, they have the inherent capacity for this higher brain function. But due to their age, they can’t act on it. And the same is true for human embryos. They have the inherent capacities as all of us have. But due to their age, they can’t yet act on those capacities.
The question then is this: “Our human rights grounded in how old we are, how developed we are, or who we are as members of the human family?” Throughout history, humans have been denied personhood status based on features that don’t matter. Women were denied personhood status at one point because of sex, blacks because of skin color, Jews because of ethnicity. And we reject the denial of personhood status of those humans. We reject the denial of personhood status when it comes to pre-born humans because the only difference between them and you and me is their age. And human rights are grounded in being a member of the human family, not how we currently function, how developed we are, or how old we are. Thank you.
That was Stephanie Gray Connors, answering a common pro-abortion statement, “embryos aren’t people.” And at last week’s pre-Wilberforce event, preparing for a post-Roe future, Stephanie answered three more slogans, just like that one. To receive access to the entire evening event, Preparing for a Post-Roe World, come to breakpoint.org.
|May 16, 2022|
Should Christians Protest?, Overpopulation Myths Explained, and the Reason for the Life Redeemed Theme
John and Maria consider the ethics surrounding protests, looking specifically at the public outcry over the leaked draft opinion of the Supreme Court.
The pair also considers how the war in Ukraine is sparking the consequences of the overpopulation myth many have believed.
And then to close, John unpacks the reason the Colson Center has selected The Life Redeemed as the theme of this year's Wilberforce Weekend.
|May 13, 2022|
A Woman Is a Woman, Again
A month or so ago, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson was asked to define “woman.”
She responded, “I’m not a biologist.”
That was just a week after a biological male won the NCAA women’s swimming championship. Gender scholars were quick to support Jackson, pointing to biological anomalies such as people who are born “intersex.” But intersex and other “disorders of sexual development” are exceptions. They don’t erase the basic biological category of a woman.
Ironically, many who remained silent on what a woman is during the NCAA championship have not been silent regarding the potential loss of the so-called “right” to abortion.
For example, Vice President Kamala Harris proclaimed in a speech, “How dare they try to deny women their rights and their freedoms,” assuming that we should all know perfectly well what a woman is, that the definition has to do with certain biological functions, and that you don’t need to be a biologist to know that.
Once again, God’s design is revealed to be reality.
|May 13, 2022|
Wilberforce Weekend and Chuck Colson’s Testimony
Today launches our annual Wilberforce Weekend. Ten years ago, Chuck Colson gave what would be his final message, at a Wilberforce Weekend event. His message that day was that the world needed the Church to be the Church.
His call that day remains the central purpose of the Wilberforce Weekend. This weekend, we will be looking at salvation and redemption from every possible angle we can, in order to better live a life that is redeemed.
Chuck’s life was a wonderful redemption story. Today on Breakpoint, I wanted you to hear Chuck Colson, in his own voice and his own words, tell his own redemption story.
I was the first person in my family to go to college, and when I got through there, it was time for me to go into the military because the Korean War was raging. So, I became a lieutenant in the Marines and rose very rapidly and won honors in school. I think everything I ever did in my life I was successful.
I went to law school nights while I was working as an assistant to a United States senator. At one point, Newsweek wrote about me as the youngest administrative assistant to a United States senator. I think I was 28—ran campaigns, loved it, started a law firm—great success. I got to know Richard Nixon in 1968 when he was elected president and went into his administration as his special counsel. I arrived in his office when I was 38 years old, and my office was immediately next door to his.
And you know, you go to the eight o’clock senior staff meetings. There would be 12 of us sitting around the table, and the 12 senior aides would come in with their big portfolios under their arms. Henry Kissinger would always be the last one to arrive. And he would sit down at the end of the table and say, “Mr. President, the decision we are going to make today is going to change the whole future course of human history.” I mean every day of the week for five days. That gets pretty exhausting. And we thought we really were doing things that were of great significance. And in many respects, I suppose, looking back, they were.
When the campaign was over—and I pretty well ran the campaign for President Nixon in 1972—I decided to go back to my law firm. But I was feeling—instead of jubilant over what was at that point the largest landslide victory in American politics—instead of being jubilant over it, I was feeling kind of down. At 41 years old, I’d been there, I’d done that. There wasn’t much else left to do. And I kept thinking to myself, “My grandfather who was an immigrant to this country from Sweden would be so proud to see his grandson in a place like this, but what am I really doing here?”
Took a couple of trips abroad, but I came back, and I still had that emptiness. And one day I was back in my law firm, and I went to visit a client whom I had not seen in the four years I’d been in the White House because I refused to see anyone I’d ever practiced law as their lawyer. I was so worried about a conflict of interest. Can you imagine that?
But I went back to see one of these men, Tom Phillips, who was the president of the largest corporation in New England. I had been his general counsel.
I walked in his office one day, still feeling kind of empty, and I looked at him, and he was a completely different guy. He’s a guy like myself who had worked his way up the hard way, self-made man, the CEO of this corporation when he was barely 40 years old. And he was at peace, and he started asking me about my family, and finally, I said to him, “Tom, you’ve changed since I saw you four years ago.”
He said, “Yes, I have, Chuck,” and then he looked up at the clock, and he didn’t look me straight in the eye, but he said, “I have accepted Jesus Christ and committed my life to Him.” He looked away as I later found out because he’d never done this with anyone before.
I thought about that for the next three months, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So, I went back to him one evening in August of 1973, and I said, “Tom, you’ve got to explain this to me,” and he said, “Before I do, I want to read you a chapter from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity entitled the great vice, ‘The Great Sin.’”
I listened to this chapter, and I realized he’s writing about me. And I sat there that night in pain listening to that chapter, and I was really moved. He wanted to pray with me, and I said, “No. I have never prayed except in the church.” So, he prayed.
I left his home that night, and here I was a former Marine captain. And yeah, I was known as the White House hatchet man, the tough guy. And I got into the automobile, and I tried to drive away, but I could not because the tough guy was crying too hard. I couldn’t see the road in front of me. I pulled over and sat there. I have no idea for how long, thinking about my life, thinking about “Could there be a God, and if there were, could I know Him?” But that night for the first time in my life, I was sure there was a God, and I was sure He was hearing me.
I woke up the next morning figuring I was going to be embarrassed, and instead I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Mere Christianity and read it from cover to cover. Away from Watergate and before I was considered a target of the investigation, I simply quietly surrendered my life to Christ and asked Him to come into my life. I will tell you that’s 35 years ago this past summer. Nothing about my life has been the same since. Nothing about my life can be the same again. I am convinced Christ is who He says. I’m more convinced as Malcolm Muggeridge once said of the reality of Jesus Christ than I am of my own reality.
That was Chuck Colson describing the moment God got ahold of his life and changed it forever. Chuck’s redemption story is a feature of this year’s Wilberforce Weekend, this weekend in Orlando, Florida. To find out how you can gain access to all of the recordings and videos from this weekend’s event, visit breakpoint.org.
|May 13, 2022|
Is the Secret to Happiness Just Wanting Less?
For years, sociologist Arthur Brooks has been trying to understand the secret to human happiness. Recently in The Atlantic, Brooks argued that at least part of the answer is wanting less, something taught by teachers as ideologically diverse as the Buddha and Thomas Aquinas.
“As we age, we shouldn’t accumulate more to represent ourselves,” writes Brooks, “but rather strip things away to find our true selves—and thus, to find happiness and peace.”
This is good practical wisdom, but there’s more to understand here. While the views of Aquinas and Buddha are superficially similar on this topic, they depart radically on what people are, and what people are for.
The Buddha taught us to stop desiring, but Jesus said to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
In other words, it’s not about not desiring, but about desiring the right things. The difference between Buddhist asceticism and Aquinas’ idea of soul-building is knowing the One who created us with a capacity for happiness in the first place.
|May 12, 2022|
Brain Surgery for Addiction?
A friend of mine has, for decades now, suffered severe back pain. Finally, surgeons took a remarkable step, implanting a device that sends electrical signals to his spinal cord in order to disrupt pain signals traveling to his brain. For the most part, his pain has been dramatically lessened.
This was an incredible help for my friend. After all, pain tells us that something is wrong. His condition was never going to change, so the pain served no purpose.
The more our knowledge of the human brain increases, the more breakthrough treatments like this, for an increasing variety of mental and physical problems, are possible. Some, such as treating addiction with brain surgery, are more controversial than others.
As WORLD News recently reported, a new study at West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute is utilizing deep brain stimulation in an attempt to counteract addictive cravings. Surgeons insert a tiny, thin wire into the brain’s tissue. This allows them to read the parts of the brain that light up when the patient craves a high. It also stimulates other parts of the brain in an attempt to affect, over a time, a “dopamine reset.”
Combined with additional medication, counseling and lifestyle changes, the treatment seems to have been successful in early trials. More trials are needed before widespread adoption. Even so, as with all technological innovations, any optimism should come with a healthy side dose of caution.
Unlike back pain, addiction involves more than just a person’s neurology. It involves relationships, lifestyle choices, sense of self-worth, spirituality, and identity. To be clear, addiction is not about less than our brain chemistry, but it is about more.
That’s one reason certain addictions, such as opioids, are so difficult to fight or overcome. The chemical forces at work can easily outmatch the human brain. Synthetically produced opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil, for example, pack roughly 100 to 10,000 times the potency of morphine. This partially explains why drug overdoses have skyrocketed in recent years, and why, according to some estimates, more than 90% of those addicted to opioids will relapse.
Of course, an increasingly dominant form of materialism does exactly that. Faced with complicated problems of human nature, such as poverty, crime, or addiction, it is tempting to grasp for explanations that rob people of moral agency. Poverty, in this view, is the result of generational difficulties, class discrimination, or racial inequities, but never the choices of the people involved. Crime is caused by poverty, or the lack of access to basic social institutions like education. Addiction is genetic, a result of chemical dependence in the brain, and nothing more.
To be clear, empathy, compassion, and care for those in poverty, prison, or addiction are not optional. Christians should know themselves well enough to say, “there but for the grace of God ...” Also, the biblical description of people and sin includes room for both personal and structural factors, both physical and spiritual sides, of each of these issues.
What we cannot do is reduce people down, as a naturalistic worldview tends to do, to only their brains. When we treat them as if they aren’t moral creatures, with the freedom to act, we don’t merely dehumanize them ... we fail to adequately help them.
The problem with poverty, especially in the first world, is rarely just a lack of money. This is why a significant percentage of lottery winners end up filing bankruptcy after winning fortunes. People are not reducible to their material selves: their brains, their traits, even their circumstances. Real treatment requires moral commitment and a strong network of spiritual and relational support.
Gerod Buckhalter, an early recipient of deep brain stimulation to overcome addiction, understands this better than most. After his surgery over two years ago, Buckhalter committed to counseling, accountability, and other support systems. He told reporters back in February, “When it comes to staying sober, it’s just as important as the surgery.” If neurostimulation does prove helpful, and I hope it does, it cannot replace a worldview change so that people see themselves as image bearers and moral agents. Neither people nor their addictions are reducible to just one thing.
|May 12, 2022|
Understanding Challenges If Roe is Overturned - BreakPoint Q&A
John and Shane devote this episode of the Breakpoint podcast to the challenges society will face if Roe v. Wade and a federal protection on abortion is overturned and removed.
|May 11, 2022|
What Russia is Paying to Wage War Against Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been immensely expensive, and not only because of global sanctions and lost military equipment. In fact, the highest price Russia is paying in this war has to do with an increasingly scarce resource: lives. Estimates of Russian casualties in just the first week of the war ranged from 2,000 to 6,000, with thousands more lost since then. Every life lost is tragic, but as British journalist Ed West points out, this is a loss modern Russia simply cannot afford. Russians, like in so many other European nations, simply aren’t having enough babies. The country’s population is shrinking by more than a hundred thousand people a year, with no clear end in sight. Some parts of the country are simply becoming devoid of people. According to West, about 20,000 Russian villages have been abandoned in recent years, with tens of thousands closely following. This is a factor that could ultimately affect the outcome of the war, West thinks:
If Russians turn out to have no stomach for this fight, it will probably be for the simple fact that the country does not have enough men to spare. The majority of those poor young men killed for Russia’s honor will be their mother’s only son, in many cases their only child….
As it turns out, Russia’s problem is not unique. This country, so rich in land but poor in young people, is just one of dozens of nations across an “infertile crescent” from Spain to Singapore, consisting of populations aging so rapidly that their long-term existence is in doubt.
West cites a few examples that bring the stats into perspective: “In 2000 Thailand had 7 workers for every retiree; by 2050 that figure will be just 1.7. In Greece, 1,700 schools closed between 2009–2014.” In Stoke-on-Trent in England, “40% of bars and clubs have shut in the past twenty years, as the ratio of infants to retirees has gone from 4:1 to 1:2 in a century.” And in Paris, “15 schools merged or closed between 2015–2018.”
According to the United Nations map of world fertility, every continent except Africa is below or nearing the replacement birth rate. This widespread population crash is so steep that West compares it with P.D. James’ novel, The Children of Men, a tale about a world devoid of babies.
One reason it is difficult to imagine a world threatened by aging and depopulation is that, for decades now, we’ve been fed a steady diet of alarm about overpopulation. Ever since Paul Ehrlich published his book The Population Bomb in 1968, the idea that the Earth is too crowded has been the zombie myth that just won’t die. “The battle to feed humanity is over,” Ehrich famously declared. “In the 1970s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.”
He was wrong, of course, largely because human beings aren’t mere eating machines. We have the capacity to innovate and improve methods of food production and living, and that’s exactly what happened. To the extent that famines do still occur, they are usually the result of political corruption and war. In fact, we now grow enough food to feed three billion more people than actually exist!
So why does the idea of overpopulation and the solution that we must have fewer children persist? How can this belief still hold sway over millions of people in the developed world despite the growing evidence to the contrary?
The partial answer is that people in places of influence in governments, academia, and the press have committed themselves to an anti-natal mindset, and struggle to admit that the real problem is too few new humans. The myth of an overpopulated planet sticks despite all evidence because it was long ago accepted as dogma, and almost no one has bothered to challenge it since.
The demographic trends at work in Russia and around the world—including in the United States—aren’t going to be easy to reverse. One author compared increasing a nation’s fertility with pushing water uphill. And in many ways, the gray, shrinking world of our not-so-distant future is an experiment never before tried. The most important strategies to address it—beyond building cultures where children and families are valued again—have probably not been thought of yet.
What we can say at this point is that Russia’s dwindling supply of young men is just another example of how far popular wisdom can be from the facts. On overpopulation, those facts are in. We’re seeing the results before our eyes. And the long-feared future where there are too many mouths to feed has not materialized. Instead, we have a banquet set for billions. But some countries may not be joining us.
|May 11, 2022|
What Friendship Is For
The status of modern friendship isn’t good. “It’s precisely because of the atomized, customized nature of our lives that we rely on our friends so very much,” Jennifer Senior recently wrote in The Atlantic. “We are recruiting them into the roles of people who once simply coexisted with us—parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, fellow parishioners, fellow union members, fellow Rotarians.”
Friendships, however, are in short supply. According to one survey, nearly half of Americans have three or fewer close friends: 12% say they have none.
Senior writes, “One could argue that modern life conspires against friendship, even as it requires the bonds of friendship all the more.”
Complicating this problem is that friendship was never meant to be our only social relationship. People need churches, families, and neighbors, all relationships in steep decline in a culture that prioritizes autonomy over responsibility.
The unique beauty of friendship is, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, that it’s about something bigger than itself. In fact, all human relationships are. And, Christians who know that have much to offer a world that doesn’t.
|May 11, 2022|
The Handmaid’s Tale, Abortion, and Abandonment
Last week’s leak of a draft opinion in the Dobbs case reignited comparisons of abortion restrictions with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. This isn’t new, of course, but it is silly and misguided.
Atwood’s dystopian novel is about a fictional theocratic successor to the United States, the “Republic of Gilead.” In Gilead, select women are forced to become concubines for the sole purpose of breeding. Of course, not killing a child is not the same thing as forcing a woman to bear a child, especially in a culture like ours bent on rejecting sexual morality.
In fact, the closest thing to Gilead in our world is commercial surrogacy, particularly those nations where women are kept in surrogacy “farms” and barely paid to remain pregnant in order to bear children for wealthy Westerners, especially same-sex couples. Advocates of so-called “universal parentage” laws are bringing that to America, not pro-lifers.
Despite the promises, abortion doesn’t bring freedom to women, only a false promise. As Frederica Mathewes-Green and others have observed, abortion untethers men from their responsibilities, and women are on the receiving end of that bad deal. Abortion promises women freedom, but instead delivers abandonment.
Let’s pray abortion becomes as unthinkable today as those handmade outfits are.
|May 10, 2022|
Canada’s Ever Expanding Euthanasia Law
In 2015, Canada’s Supreme Court struck down a 22-year ban on assisted suicide. The next year, its parliament passed legislation allowing “MAID,” or Medical Assistance in Dying for those who suffer from terminal illness and whose death was “reasonably foreseeable.” Five years later, the “reasonably foreseeable” language was dropped, as was the requirement of terminal illness.
Today, ending one’s life with “medical assistance” simply requires a physician and a witness to agree that physical or mental suffering is such as “cannot be relieved under conditions that you (the patient) consider acceptable.” Next year, that will expand to include anyone with a mental illness, like PTSD or depression. There’s also talk about expanding the practice to include minors.
Soon, under Canadian law, someone accused of a crime “must possess the capacity to understand that his or her behaviour was wrong in order to be found guilty.” However, someone will not need the mental capacity to understand the implications of “medical assistance in dying” in order to choose death.
None of which, we are told, should alarm us. Proponents of assisted death always point to “safeguards,” such as physician approval, the uncoerced consent of the patient, or humane conditions. Certain stories are elevated, such as Betty Sanguin, an ALS patient who chose to end her life in a Manitoba church, surrounded by friends, family, and clergy, who secured permission for a MAID team to kill her in their sanctuary. Other stories are ignored.
Even in the so-called “safe” cases, a grave evil has been done. Life is sacred, a gift of God, and should never be thrown away. To intentionally end life in a church is not a blessing. It’s a distortion and a blasphemy.
For the most part, the realities of doctor-assisted death look nothing like the beatific best-case scenarios described in the sales pitch. In particular, there are culture-wide implications for human dignity and value, something that euthanasia advocates seem unable or unwilling to predict. Many begin to believe that their lives are unworthy of life, their volition stolen, their dignity degraded.
Last month in The Spectator, Yuan Yi Zhu described some of these stories in an article provocatively titled, “Why is Canada Euthanising the Poor?” In it, he described the real human cost of euthanasia laws and how the practice blurs the limits of consent:
Now, as long as someone is suffering from an illness or disability which ‘cannot be relieved under conditions that you consider acceptable’, they can take advantage of what is now known euphemistically as ‘medical assistance in dying’ (MAID for short) for free. ... Soon enough, Canadians from across the country discovered that although they would otherwise prefer to live, they were too poor to improve their conditions to a degree which was acceptable.
His examples included an Ontario woman, who opted for assisted death because her disability benefits weren’t enough to cover smoke and chemical-free housing, and she was forced to live with crippling allergies. In Vancouver, another woman sought “medical aid in dying” when her debt kept her from affording the medication that would have alleviated chronic pain. The family of another 35-year-old disabled man discovered how appalling his living conditions were, only after he decided to end his own life. Tragically, by the time the government investigated the care facility and revoked its license, it was too late. As Zhu put it, “One may wonder how much autonomy a disabled man lying in his own filth had in weighing death over life.”
Individuals are supposedly “free” to choose, but it is unclear just how often this decision is impacted by financial concerns. “Healthcare, particular for those suffering from chronic conditions, is expensive,” wrote Zhu, “but assisted suicide only costs the taxpayer $2,327 per ‘case’.” He concluded:
Canadian law, in all its majesty, has allowed both the rich as well as the poor to kill themselves if they are too poor to continue living with dignity. In fact, the ever-generous Canadian state will even pay for their deaths. What it will not do is spend money to allow them to live instead of killing themselves.
For at least some of Canada’s poorest citizens, coercion in death is not some distant fear, promoted by scared conspiracy groups. The pressure is a daily reality.
Euthanasia in any form is a misguided answer to a real, human problem. Some, face a life of unimaginable pain. The only acceptable and loving response is to provide the best compassion, care, and pain management possible.
Anytime a country, such as Canada, embraces “death with dignity” or “medical aid in dying” or some other euphemistically disguised lack of compassion, a price tag is placed on people. And, whenever a price tag is placed on something that is inherently priceless, it is cheapened. In Canada’s case, the money is going to the so-called “autonomy” of vulnerable people, instead of fighting for their lives.
|May 10, 2022|
The Handmaid’s Tale, Abortion, and Our Hunger for Virtue
Last week’s leak of a draft opinion in the Dobbs case, reignited the comparisons of abortion restrictions with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. This isn’t new, of course, but it is still silly and misguided.
Atwood’s dystopian novel is about a fictional theocratic successor to the United States, the “Republic of Gilead.” In it, select women are forced to become concubines for the sole purposes of breeding. Of course, not killing a child is not the same thing as forcing a woman to bear a child.
The closest thing to Gilead in our world is commercial surrogacy, particularly in those nations where women are kept in surrogacy “farms” and barely paid to remain pregnant in order to bear children for wealthy Westerners, especially same-sex couples. Advocates of so-called “parentage rights laws” are bringing that to America, not pro-lifers.
Despite the promises, abortion doesn’t bring freedom to women, only a false promise. As Frederica Mathewes-Green and others have observed, abortion untethers men from their responsibilities, and women are on the receiving end of that bad deal. Abortion promises women freedom, but instead delivers abandonment.
Let’s pray abortion becomes as unthinkable today as those outfits are.
|May 10, 2022|
Revisiting Chuck Colson's "The Faith" - BreakPoint Podcast
Today we revisit a speech by Chuck Colson on his renowned work The Faith. Chuck's main idea is that the church is at its best when we propose rather than impose the message of the Gospel.
|May 09, 2022|
President Biden Calls Aborted Babies Children
Responding to the leaked draft of Justice Alito’s opinion in the Dobbs case, President Biden said, “The idea that we’re gonna make a judgment that is going to say that no one can make the judgment to choose to abort a child ... goes way overboard.”
His statement is hard to follow but here’s the point: The president said abortion kills a child—not a clump of cells, not a fetus, not a potential human. A child.
This is more than a Biden gaffe. He is acknowledging what even honest pro-abortion folks have been forced to admit: The preborn is a human being and a child. Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer has long held this position while not only arguing for abortion rights but also for infanticide. Most others don’t go that far, but still argue that the good of the mother outweighs the child’s right to life.
And yet, many still claim a preborn child is only a clump of cells. We can show them differently. Babies in the womb develop fingerprints, suck their thumbs, have food preferences, recognize their mom’s voice, and feel pain. The fact that abortion kills a child is something we can no longer not know. Heck, just quote the president.
|May 09, 2022|
Biochemistry Doesn’t Point to Common Ancestry
Something long considered reliable evidence for Darwinian evolution, the chemical similarity of living things, is now in question.
In 1973, leading Neo-Darwinist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote that “nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.” He specifically pointed to “biochemical universals,” or shared features in the chemistry of life, as evidence that all creatures “arose from inanimate matter only once” and that everything alive today descended from an universal common ancestor.
Today, however, discoveries in molecular biology have complicated that conclusion. In fact, a new paper poses one of the strongest challenges yet to the idea that all life shares common chemistry. Though the title, “Scaling Laws in Enzyme Function Reveal a New Kind of Biochemical Universality,” may be one that could excite only a scientist, what the authors describe should make everyone sit up and take notice. In fact, philosopher of biology Paul Nelson, in a piece at Evolution News, called the paper “the most interesting biology paper of 2022 so far.” Its findings are precisely the opposite of what we’d expect if life evolved from a common ancestor.
The authors, including theoretician Sara Walker and Dylan Gagler from Arizona State University, looked at enzyme functions across all the major groupings of life. They tallied the different functions, then plotted these against the total number of classified enzymes. They found that “as the enzyme space grows … so do the number of functions.” In other words, there are very few “specific molecules and reactions” common to all living things.
If your head just exploded, Nelson offers a helpful analogy borrowed from one of the paper’s coauthors, Chris Kempes. The English language contains many words, or synonyms, that can mean approximately the same thing. If the sky is darkened, we could just say it was “darkened.” Or, we could say that it became “murky,” “shaded,” “shadowed,” dimmed,” or “obscured.” All these words mean, more or less, the same thing but with very different spellings and histories. According to Nelson, “a strikingly similar pattern” occurs among the chemicals that make life possible.
The authors of the paper agree, writing that “[biochemical] universality cannot simply be explained due to phylogenetic relatedness.” Or, stated more simply, living things don’t look like they evolved from a common ancestor using the same basic components on a molecular level. Instead, many different enzymes are used to accomplish similar purposes. This is precisely the opposite of what Darwinism predicts.
An editor of this paper, Eugene Koonin of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, has long argued that life lacks the “universal genetic core” that Darwinian evolution predicts. Instead, he says, living things show a pervasive pattern of what scientists have termed “non-orthologous gene displacement.” That’s a technical way of saying that the functions necessary to sustain life are carried out by different molecules coded by different genes in different species. Or, as original paper’s coauthor Chris Kempes puts it, “there are a lot of ‘synonyms’” at work in biology.
This is just the latest instance of scientific evidence complicating the Darwinian picture, which has long been portrayed as tidy, straightforward, and conclusive. In fact, this is an instance where evolutionary assumptions hinder rather than help us understand how life works and where it came from.
Nelson simply points out the obvious conclusion: Functional requirements fulfilled by a different molecular tool doesn’t appear to be the product of a universal common ancestry. Instead, it looks more like what we see in computers, cars, language, etc. Function and purpose seem to take priority over hardware in the world of biochemistry. And if there is a mind behind life, we can conclude from these findings that He took great care to equip every living thing with exactly what it needed to thrive, instead of giving them all identical tools.
Theodore Dobzhansky may have truly believed that nothing in biology makes sense without evolution, but it’s not clear how he would have dealt with these findings. The more and more we learn in biology, the less and less it makes sense when thinking from evolutionary assumptions. The more we follow the evidence, the more it leads elsewhere.
|May 09, 2022|
The Supreme Court Leak, The Ethics of Student Loan Forgiveness, and Kids Deserve Good Books
John and Maria explore the incredible emotion in the nation following a leak of a draft opinion from the Supreme Court.
Then, Maria asks John about the ethics and the way Christians should respond to moves by the government to eliminate student student. They plan to do this by forgiving student loans, but is this a concept Christians should get behind? John and Maria explain the trapings of student debt forgiveness and why the move challenges society.
To close, Maria asks John to go deeper into some of the ideas he presented this week in a number of commentaries. Notably, John explains society's problem with forgiveness, touching on a question from Maria on whether forgiveness is a sign of strength of weakness. Then, Maria asks John for some further commentary on the state of books for children, noting that many challenge children's developmental stages and interest in social movements around politics, race, and gender.
|May 06, 2022|
Medical Abortions Can be Reversed
Pro-lifers aren’t the only ones strategizing for a post-Roe America.
By 2020, chemical abortions—abortions accomplished with oral medications—became the most common form of abortion in America. With the FDA recently permitting doctors to prescribe this poison without even an in-person visit, chemical abortions are only going to become more common.
This is why it’s critical to know that medical abortions can be reversible. The process starts with one drug that starves the baby. A few days later, the mother takes a second drug to induce labor. But women who take the first pill and do not take the second can and have gone on to have healthy pregnancies.
Medical abortions will become more common in a post-Roe world for the same reason that they are so dangerous: It pushes a violent, dangerous act behind closed doors. As Christians we know that in God’s light, we see light—pray for the light to shine in these dark places.
|May 06, 2022|
A Secular Case for Christianity?
Many say they want a world without Christianity, but many secular thinkers are discovering they should be careful what they wish for.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of a public high school football coach who was fired for praying on the field after games. Though the firing should never have happened, this now years-long controversy has provided a window into how many in our culture feel about Christian prayer. Hint: they’re not positive feelings.
Still, one specific prayer, known as the Serenity Prayer, remains a part of our shared cultural language and a staple of addiction recovery meetings: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Of course, Alcoholics Anonymous’ official position is that the “God” of the Serenity Prayer can be any sort of Higher Power you wish, but it is profound that most addiction recovery programs continue to stubbornly insist that faith is critical for addiction recovery. That insistence is backed by a constantly growing mountain of data, which has become un-ignorable. Even the government quietly admits that faith-based recovery programs are the most effective.
A re-discovery of Christianity’s practical benefits isn’t just happening in addiction recovery. The more that various aspects of our culture struggle under the weight of bad ideas and their consequences, the more and more people are discovering “new” solutions in the old Scriptures.
Canadian clinical psychologist and self-described nonbeliever Jordan Peterson has become famous in part for his bold claims that Christianity has a unique positive impact on individuals and culture. Contemporary historian Tom Holland, a self-described atheist, literally wrote the book on the responsibility Christianity bears for just about every good thing about modern culture. According to Holland:
[Christianity] is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us… still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value.
And just last week, in former New York Times’ reporter Bari Weiss’s new independent Substack, non-believing author Tim DeRoche put forth what he called “The Secular Case for Christianity”:
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most successful meme in the history of the world. And the spread of that meme over the last 2,000 years has largely been correlated with decreasing levels of slavery, war, crime, poverty, and general suffering.
Modern culture, the same modern culture so scandalized by football field prayers and so put off by Christian sexual ethics, must reckon with what Christianity has given the world, DeRoche argued.
We should, of course, welcome this kind of cultural self-discovery, though it is a bit like the angsty teenager who rejects the ways of his parents in order to find a more “enlightened” way to do life. But, after all his experimentation, that teen is forced to admit his open-mindedness only led to suffering and maybe his parents were right after all.
Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck wrote that “an independent creature is a contradiction in terms.” In other words, whether we acknowledge He’s there or not, all creatures were made and are sustained by God. He knows best, and He knows us best. That He chose to reveal Himself to us in the creation, the Bible and ultimately in Christ is a tremendous mercy. A Christian life isn’t without suffering, of course, but it is the only life in which suffering has meaning, can be redeemed, and will ultimately be defeated.
Christians who claim that publicly promoting Christian ethics is somehow intrusive or unloving miss this point, as well as the related point that sharing the best way to live is a way of loving our neighbors. Years ago, comedian Penn Jillette of the comedy duo Penn and Teller famously said that he did not respect Christians who did not proselytize. “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” he asked. How much do you have to hate somebody to not tell them the best way to live life?
To be clear, neither Christian faith nor Christian public witness is utilitarian. Christianity isn’t true because it “works,” but it does work because it’s true. If God did not take the form of a man, if He had not died and then resurrected, if He were not on the throne of the universe, then Christianity’s cultural “benefits” would not matter all that much. But He did, so they do.
The Church’s great opportunity is not to say, “I told you so,” but rather “come and see.” The world is better because Christianity is true. Now, come and meet the One behind it all.
|May 06, 2022|
On Kids Living Through Divorce
I don’t love BuzzFeed’s clickbaity and crowdsourced approach to content, but a recent article caught my eye: Reddit users revealing what their childhood was like after their parents divorced.
“When we were little, mom worked full-time and dad stayed home with us,” wrote one user. “When I was six, they separated, and we only saw him once, maybe twice a year. I have never recovered from this sudden and unexplained abandonment.”
Others described having to become the unintentional middle man between their parents, or trying to keep up with both of them as adults. “Little things like that that take a really big toll on you,” wrote one: “I always got physically ill before having to switch houses because of the stress.”
These anecdotes line up with the research. Divorce is awful, even if tragically necessary. And, more often than not, our culture trips all over itself to obscure its real impact. In order to protect adult feelings, we tell ourselves “the kids will be fine.”
They aren’t. In fact, they deserve better. Sometimes, even BuzzFeed gets it right.
I hope people pay attention.
|May 05, 2022|
Kids’ Books on Activism Are for Adult Activists
A few years ago, a kids’ book was published titled A is for Activist. On the book jacket is a tiny fist, raised, apparently, in solidarity. A quick stroll through any metropolitan library children’s section will find more books like this one. There’s Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish and, of course, Heather Has Two Mommies. There’s Let the Children March and Woke Baby. There’s even complete series, such as the “Little Feminists” and the “Citizen Baby” series, which include the titles Citizen Baby: My Vote and Citizen Baby: My Supreme Court.
Anyone with actual children or who has been around actual children or who was once an actual child knows that “baby activism” is a misnomer. Little fists are used for temper tantrums and for fighting with dad, not for “solidarity.”
Chuck Colson advocated for classical education because of its understanding of and respect for the natural development of kids. Postmodern thinking in education was disrupting what he called the “order of learning” instead of recognizing that the right foundations, known as “grammar” and “rhetoric” in a classical vision, must first be established before children can move on to, for example, making coherent political arguments. Today, however, we’ve got it exactly backwards. Instead of teaching third graders their multiplication tables, we’re teaching them to “express themselves.” Instead of teaching high schoolers logic, we encourage them to share their opinion on every subject, as long as it aligns with our opinion, and that anyone who challenges them is a “threat.”
This approach is, in part, a downstream effect of postmodernism. If there’s no absolute Truth, then anyone who believes they know something fixed about the world shouldn’t be trusted. It’s also a downstream effect of the sexual revolution, which prioritizes the needs and desires of adults over the needs, desires, and the design of kids.
A is for Activist isn’t really written for children. It’s written for the adults that will buy it. Adults that buy it aren’t really buying it for their children. They’re buying it in order to be the kind of person who buys a book titled A is for Activist. The voting booth to dinosaur ratio in kids’ books today is way off. Too many kids’ books are being written by adults talking to other adults.
This is an amazing opportunity for Christian creatives. However, there are plenty of bad “Christian” books for kids, too. Slapping a pastel-colored Noah’s Ark on a book cover or a Bible verse on every page does not good literature make.
C.S. Lewis, himself a master of children’s literature, wrote that “the world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.” Elsewhere he implored Christians to write books on every subject:
What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way around. Our faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defense of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian.
Good art paraphrases reality, describing the world as it truly is. Good art also respects the audience. Good literature for children will respect children.
Jesus explicitly respected children as full human beings, with their own dignity and value. Kids should not be used as political pawns. They ought not be asked to shoulder the burden of advocating for our modern innovations, like proclaiming that Heather’s “two mommies” replace a mom and a dad or that their bodies may be wrong or that they may be racist because of the color of their skin. They especially shouldn’t be asked before they’ve learned the alphabet.
Thankfully, a growing number of good books for kids is on offer. The Good Book Company produces a series of incredibly well-made picture books called “Tales that Tell the Truth.” NavPress publishes a series called “God’s Design for Sex,” with a different book for each age that carefully and slowly teaches kids about their bodies. And there are fantastic children’s authors whose books are not explicitly “Christian” but who tell good, true, and beautiful stories for kids in their own language.
After all, if kids are full members of God’s kingdom, they, too, deserve good books.
|May 05, 2022|
Justice Alito’s Leaked Opinion is Compelling
An early draft of Justice Alito’s opinion was leaked from the Supreme Court. That’s a big deal.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of a draft opinion from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito regarding the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case. Justice Alito’s opinion is important and is briefly explained in our Breakpoint podcast by Erin Morrow Hawley. Here’s a sample:
The opinion sort of has a couple of parts. It looks first at, “is there any historical right to abortion?” Is it deeply rooted at our nation’s tradition and history? That answer is clearly “no.”
Then the opinion talks about stare decisis. The idea is basically, even if Roe is wrong, even if Casey is wrong, should we still uphold them anyway? Justice Alito says clearly, “no.” There’s not the sort of alliance interest that would justify that.
One thing Justice Alito’s opinion focuses on is damage the so-called “right to abortion” and the Court’s finding of it in Roe and Casey have done to this country.
So, it’s been damaging to our democracy, it’s damaging to our institutions, and to the Court, so there’s no reason to stick to it.
Listen to the full conversation with Erin at www.breakpoint.org.
|May 04, 2022|
Justice Alito’s Leaked Opinion
On Monday night, an initial draft of the Supreme Court majority opinion on the Dobbs case was leaked to news site Politico. As SCOTUS Blog tweeted: “It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff.” Tuesday morning, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the draft, and called the leak a “betrayal of confidences of the Court intended to undermine the integrity of our operations.”
Most likely, the leak was intended to pressure the Court’s conservative justices to moderate their opinion before a final decision is published. That would be especially inappropriate if the source of the leak is a clerk of one of the Justices.
One response would be for the Court, as National Review’s Ed Whelan suggested, to announce the majority decision as soon as possible, allowing dissenting views to be published later. It’s happened before in extenuating circumstances.
What’s not clear is how the leaked draft of the majority opinion will compare to the final draft. Unless it is somehow significantly gutted, Justice Samuel Alito has thoroughly and thoughtfully dismantled, at least in legal terms, the 50-year hold that Roe v. Wade has held on America. Here are three observations from the leaked draft.
First, Alito thoroughly dismantles the claim that the right to an abortion is found anywhere in the Constitution. He states: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” Thus, Alito concludes, the 1992 follow-up case to Roe v. Wade, known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey would also be overruled. Quoting other cases, Alito insists that Casey’s basis on Roe’s precedent “is not an exorable command” and that it’s time for the issue to “be settled right.”
Second, Alito dismantles what he calls Roe’s “most important rule”: “that states cannot protect fetal life prior to ‘viability.’” When Roe was established, viability was considered to be at around 28 weeks of gestation.
Today, it’s at 24 weeks or younger. Viability, Alito further notes, is also based on the health of the mother and the hospital facilities where she lives.
Given these multiple factors, Alito argues, “the viability line makes no sense, and it is telling that other countries almost uniformly eschew such a line.” In a footnote, Alito notes that the U.S and the Netherlands are the only nations to rely on viability. He doesn’t mention what others have recognized, that the U.S. is most in line with the authoritarian regimes of China and North Korea in its abortion policy.
Third, if this decision holds, the Court would not be outlawing abortion but returning the decisions about abortion to the states. “In the years prior to [Roe v. Wade],” writes Alito, “about a third of the States had liberalized their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process.” Roe was, writes Alito, quoting the late Justice Ginsberg, an “exercise of raw judicial power.” He then surmises that some states will expand abortion rights and other will limit them, but this is how states are supposed to work. State legislators will work out state regulations for abortion instead of a court, and voters will therefore have a voice in the process.
Limiting abortion rights in any way, including moving the decision to the states, is intolerable for abortion advocates. In a tweeted response to the leak, Sen. Elizabeth Warren pressed for the elimination of the filibuster in Congress in order for the Women’s Health Protection Act to pass. This extreme measure, which could be called the Abortion on Demand Until Birth Act, is not supported by a majority of Americans. According to a recent poll, 71% of Americans, including 49% of Democrats, want abortion limited to the first trimester.
Warren also claimed that dismantling of Roe v. Wade would be an act of racism. In the same tweet about eliminating the filibuster, she alleged,
If an extremist Supreme Court overturns Roe, wealthy women will still get safe abortions—by traveling to another state or country. But women of color, those with lower-incomes, and victims of abuse will suffer the most.
And of course, the leaked draft of Alito’s opinion also led to numerous Handmaid’s Tale references and the tired old canard that pro-lifers care about babies only until they are born. None of these claims, of course is true. In fact, 4,000 pregnancy resource centers exist to help parents who may be in crisis.
If this leaked opinion is indeed reflective of what the final decision will be, then we must do two things. First, we must thank God that this decades-long legal nightmare is over. Our efforts to protect babies and care for vulnerable women will no longer be pre-empted by an evil masquerading as an invented “right.” Second, the Court has done its job. It cannot do our job. State legislatures now have very important jobs to do, but they cannot do the jobs that we are called to: to speak the truth in love and to create a culture of life and care.
Next week we have a free event in Orlando, Florida, called Preparing for a Post-Roe World. If you’re in the area or nearby, register for an evening with speakers such as Tim Tebow, Erin Morrow Hawley of Alliance Defending Freedom, Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, and Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life. Stephanie Gray Connors of Love Unleashes Life will be spending time in particular unpacking the slogans for abortion. Register now for this event preparing you for the cultural moment. https://wilberforceweekend.org/regional-bonus-event/
And while you’re doing that, pray for the safety of our Supreme Court Justices from intimidation and unlawful acts. Pray that the intentions of whoever caused this leak will backfire, and God’s true justice will reign.
|May 04, 2022|
BreakPoint Special: Justice Alito's Leaked Opinion: the Future of Roe and the Damage to the High Court
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of a draft opinion from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito regarding the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health case.
Erin explains the significance of the leaked draft opinion and helps us understand the circumstances surrounding the court. She also provides important insight on what this means for the pro-life community moving forward.
John also interviews Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and the Founding Editor of Public Discourse. Dr. Anderson paints a picture of the pro-life movement in the wake of this leaked report and the possible decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood.
|May 03, 2022|
Forgiveness In a World Without It
In March, online magazine Vox ran a series of stories under the title “America’s Struggle for Forgiveness.” That’s not a typical topic for a thoroughly secular outlet like Vox, but, then again, Christians should be talking about forgiveness more than they are too.
“The state of modern outrage is a cycle,” writes contributor Aja Romano:
We wake up mad, we go to bed mad, and in between, the only thing that might change is what’s making us angry. The one gesture that could offer substantive change, or at least provide a way forward—forgiveness—seems perpetually beyond our reach.
Each contributor to the Vox series was a committed progressive, and it showed when they discussed who they considered most in need of forgiveness. Romano, for example, questioned how to forgive J.K. Rowling, for her repeated defenses of biological women against erasure. In even suggesting that what Rowling has done was so egregious, Vox only proved that the fantasy writer has a firmer grasp on reality than they do.
Still, Vox asked a question that is on point. What is the place of forgiveness in modern society? Consider, for example, how quickly celebrities are cancelled, for reasons ranging from the trivial to the serious. Ellen DeGeneres created a toxic workplace environment. Aaron Rodgers didn’t get vaccinated. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard engaged in domestic abuse. And, the jury is still out on Will Smith’s future.
The point here isn’t to equivocate every public fall from grace since, obviously, some are more deserved than others. What is missing in contemporary debate is any way forward. What’s missing in our culture is forgiveness.
After all, forgiveness doesn’t ask whether condemnation is deserved. It assumes it is. Forgiveness isn’t about the virtue of the other person’s actions. It’s about our response to that action.
In the Vox article, Romano quotes Elizabeth Bruenig, a writer at The Atlantic, who put it this way:
As a society we have absolutely no coherent story—none whatsoever—about how a person who’s done wrong can atone, make amends, and retain some continuity between their life/identity before and after the mistake.
She’s right, but clearly, we need something. Romano concludes her essay with a suggestion:
Grace, the act of allowing people room to be human and make mistakes while still loving them and valuing them, might be the holiest, most precious concept of all in this conversation about right and wrong, penance and reform—but it’s the one that almost never gets discussed.
Powerful words. It’s always fascinating when a culture has exhausted all the resources a secular worldview can offer, only to discover that Christianity always had the best option on the market.
Christianity offers the perspective on forgiveness that so many are desperate for. Because we’ve been forgiven, we can forgive others. Because we’ve been loved, even when unlovable, we can love even the unlovable.
But let’s be clear. There is no grace without God. Nobody likes thinking of the ways they have failed, and we avoid it at all costs. With God comes a moral law that we are responsible to. It may be that our world is short on forgiveness precisely because it has rejected God and His moral law.
That also will make it more difficult to extend forgiveness to others. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” In a fallen world, we are quick to forgive people we like … for things we don’t see as particularly serious. But what if the wrong was serious? What if the person isn’t on my team? In those moments, only a transcendent perspective makes forgiveness a live option.
Like Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” That’s every one of us. That’s why He later said so strongly, as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
All of which makes me think, again, about Chuck Colson, whose unexpected redemption during Watergate led to an amazing amount of forgiveness between him and his political enemies. He was forgiven much by God, and by those who had been forgiven much by God, so he also extended forgiveness to others. In the end, that perspective grounded his whole understanding of criminal justice reform.
If the world indeed is looking for forgiveness, then once again, only Christians have what the world is looking for.
|May 03, 2022|
Breakpoint Podcast: Strange New World with Dr. Carl Trueman and Dr. Timothy D. Padgett
The Colson Center is offering a special short course featuring Dr. Carl Trueman and Dr. Timothy D. Padgett. In the BreakPoint Podcast today we are featuring the first session in a four-part series the Colson Center is offering this month.
During this month, for a gift of any amount to the Colson Center, you’ll receive a wealth of resources that will be explored in a special short-course offering.
For more information visit www.colsoncenter.org/april
|May 02, 2022|
A Comet, Astronomy, and God’s Creation
“It’s 100 times bigger than the typical comets we’ve been studying for all these years,” says astronomer David Jewitt:
Finding this thing is a reminder of how little we know about the outer solar system. There’s a vast quantity of objects out there that we haven’t seen, and a huge number of things we haven’t even imagined.
Awe is powerful and humbling. As John Piper once observed, no one stands at the edge of the Grand Canyon and says, “I am awesome.” Awe points us outside of ourselves, and the whole drive to know the universe is, in reality, a drive to know God.
Seventeenth century astronomer Johannes Kepler, whose precise mathematics led to his groundbreaking laws of planetary motion once wrote, “I wanted to become a theologian, and for a long time I was unhappy. Now, behold, God is praised by my work even in astronomy.”
For the God who created everything, good science is more than good work. It’s worship.
|May 02, 2022|
Russia, the Media, and Seeking Truth
Recently, a colleague noted how a growing number of conservative-minded people he encountered on social media, some of them Christians, were refusing to believe stories about Russian atrocities in Ukraine. Some even reject that the invasion was an unjustified war of aggression by Russia. When he asked the reason for their doubt, it was simply because those stories were reported in the “mainstream media,” which has done nothing but lie to us for years.
I share suspicion for certain sources. Most reporters for the major networks and news outlets have forgotten the difference between journalism and opinion writing. And, of course, their biases tend to lean in the same direction. Christian conservatives rarely get a fair shake on self-described neutral outlets, such as CNN or The Washington Post, let alone overtly progressive outlets such as Vox or MSNBC.
However, when our suspicion about truth-telling becomes suspicion that there isn’t truth, we’ve become postmodernists. Christian writer Samuel James calls this bad habit “negative epistemology.” This is the idea that we don’t need to figure out what’s true, we only need to believe the opposite of whatever our political enemies say.
Of course, this is only part of the overall and pervasive collapse of trust throughout American society, specifically trust in institutions. We are rightly concerned about misinformation, the frequently shifting landscape of rationale for dealing with COVID-19 and claims about election fraud. But beneath all of these specific examples is a cultural landscape that treats truth and truth claims as nothing more than power plays.
This isn’t a new idea. During the confirmation hearings for current Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, concern was raised over a speech she had given at UC Berkeley. In it, she stated that “to judge is an exercise in power.” The same idea leads activists to dismiss opponents by pointing out the color of their skin instead of addressing their argument. We see it every time cancel culture comes for a speaker or author on a college campus who says something that doesn’t support their team. In other words, behind the collapse of trust in American society is a collapse of truth, the very possibility of truth.
For more than a century now, academics have been preaching this kind of extreme skepticism, suggesting that all truth claims are really impositions of power. This belief was at the heart of a worldview known as “postmodernism,” initially conceived by mid-20th century French philosophers and most fully expressed in late-20th century pop culture. Today, Eminem and Nirvana are considered “classics,” but the fact that so much of our culture is reduced to political power plays and so many people decide what’s true by asking who believes the opposite only proves that, to some extent, we are all postmodernists, now.
For people whose faith teaches that truth is knowable and that it doesn’t depend on the source but a reality external to ourselves, this is a road we simply cannot continue down. Once we embrace the idea that all claims are mere power plays, there’s no room for reason, for revelation, for persuasion, for thinking, or for looking at God’s world to know something about it and Him. Instead, we employ a version of a tactic promoted by postmodern English professors called “the hermeneutics of suspicion.” We become suspicious of everything and, in the process, destroy the possibility of knowing anything.
I’m not the first to make this connection, but we’d do well to learn from the Dwarfs from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle. Having been deceived once by their enemies, these sadly memorable characters decided they would never believe a non-Dwarf again. Terrified of being “taken in,” they retreated into a tribalistic huddle, and ultimately became blind to the world around them. Their suspicion of everyone and everything became their prison, and in the end, it deprived them of Lewis’ equivalent of Heaven.
If we come to believe that truth is only a matter of who’s talking, that Vladimir Putin must be a good man because CNN says he’s not, or that an unjust war must be just if a president from the other party condemns it, we have retreated into that same, fatal huddle. We have lost our ability to talk meaningfully about right and wrong, and even to persuade others of these moral realities. We have traded a Christian worldview for a postmodern one. In our fear of being “taken in” by a lie, we have blinded ourselves to truth.
Let’s not make that mistake.
|May 02, 2022|
Elon Musk Buys Twitter, Imagining a Post-Roe World, and China's Covid Practices
John and Maria discuss society's reaction to Elon Musk buying Twitter. Maria questions why many reacted the way they did, and John explains how and why words matter in culture.
Then Maria asks John about an upcoming Colson Center event at the Wilberforce Weekend, where John will guide attendees to imagine a post-Roe world. A number of guest speakers will inspire us to consider the individual responsibility, as many states enact "trigger" laws in preparation for a dismantling of Casey and a weakening of Roe when the Supreme Court decides the Dobbs case, likely in June.
To close, John highlights a number of Breakpoint commentaries from the week, specifically pointing out the human rights challenges in China, lately expressed in China's "no-Covid" policies.
|Apr 30, 2022|
A recent viral video shows thousands of people in Shanghai screaming in unison into the night to protest the Chinese government’s brutal “zero-COVID” policy.
Entire high-rises of people are confined to their rooms, locked in with green fencing that appeared overnight. Children, including babies, are separated from their parents in massive government quarantine centers, some of which lack basic medical equipment or even beds. Other videos show hundreds of pets being collected and euthanized as supposed carriers of the disease.
In the meantime, many of the city’s 25 million people find themselves on the brink of starvation, with government food deliveries unable to keep up with demand.
If we’re looking for a culprit, it’s not just the lockdown. It’s not even COVID-19. It’s the ideology of China’s ruling elites, which rejects the sacred value of the individual in the name of the “common good.” Human dignity is a deeply Christian idea, one that China’s communist leaders have been at war with for decades.
We must pray that the voices of Shanghai’s suffering people will wake them up to what is true and good.
|Apr 29, 2022|
Personal Redemption is Never Private
Many of our favorite stories culminate with a conversion experience. C.S. Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy is like this, with Lewis fighting God every step of the way until he finally recognizes that Christ is the source of true joy. Another example is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with Ebenezer Scrooge realizing the error of his ways and becoming a new man. It’s a Wonderful Life also features personal redemption, when George Bailey realizes his life has incredible value.
In other tales, however, personal redemption is not the end of the story but only the middle, a turning point that sets up all that comes afterward. Think of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which Edmund was redeemed, but Narnia still needed saving. Or Pilgrim’s Progress, in which Christian is released from the burden of his sin, but still must complete a journey to the Celestial City.
Or consider real-life examples, such as the Apostle Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus or St. Augustine’s conversion, as described in his Confessions. In both cases, an incredible amount of life and influence came after and because of personal conversion. Chuck Colson’s personal transformation, in the midst of the Watergate scandal, was just the beginning of a life far more accomplished, influential, and significant after than before.
These kind of stories, in which personal redemption creates a wake of redemption that impacts families, churches, communities, and even entire cultures, are the ones that better reflect the biblical story. Often, Christians tell a truncated version of this story. It’s not a false Gospel, just incomplete, a “two chapter” story of sin and salvation.
However, Scripture has four chapters. It begins before sin and the fall, with a very good world that God created and designed with a purpose. It ends with His creation restored, a New Heavens and New Earth. Sin and salvation are crucial parts of the story to understand and embrace, but not the whole story.
Something incredible happens when we realize that our salvation is about more than getting to Heaven. We aren’t merely saved from sin and death and to eternal life that begins when we die. We are saved for an abundant life in which, to borrow Jesus’ own words, all things are being made new.
In just a couple weeks, at the Wilberforce Weekend in Orlando, Florida, we’ll be looking at “Life Redeemed” from as many angles as we can. Together with dozens of speakers, discussions, film sessions, and panels, we will explore the full scope of Christ’s redemption. Along the way, we will celebrate amazing stories of personal redemption, such as Lewis and Chuck Colson and Harriett Tubman and others, before looking at how their personal redemptions led to the world being changed around them.
This year’s speakers include Os Guinness, Monique Duson, Max McLean, Jim Daly, Jennifer Patterson, and many more. We’ll also be honoring the faith and courage of cake artist Jack Phillips and florist Barronelle Stutzman, two people whose redeemed lives meant taking a stand, paying a steep price, and inspiring thousands.
I hope you’ll join us May 13 through 15 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando for the Wilberforce Weekend. And, if you are coming or live in the Florida area, please join us Thursday night, May 12, for a special training session to prepare for “A Post-Roe Future.” That event will better equip us to stand for life and against abortion, and features Stephanie Grey Connors, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, and the one and only Tim Tebow. Space is limited, and there are just a few days left to register. Visit wilberforceweekend.org to get tickets.
|Apr 29, 2022|
Defining Cancel Culture for Teens
Recently, The New York Times asked six teens to describe what cancel culture “is really like.” Their responses show just how normal the term has become.
For many, it’s “basically a joke,” a word thrown around about anything and everything. That’s not surprising for a generation so plugged in and coming of age just as the term has reached critical mass. For others, “it’s a way to take away someone’s power and call [them] out for being problematic in a situation,” as one girl put it.
But that power element makes cancel culture dangerous. Canceling someone is less about holding convictions with integrity, than it is convincing a mob of peers to forever isolate someone else. And, who decides what’s canceled if not the powerful, which itself is subject to the changing whims of a moment’s majority? This isn’t about enduring truths or standing for what’s right.
These students have inherited a world with troubling public figures, celebrities, causes, and past sins, but no example of what to do.
This is an opportunity for Christians to show a better way forward.
|Apr 28, 2022|
The Plight of Hong Kong and Its Christians
Is there hope for Hong Kong? That’s the question the city’s citizens, including nearly 1 million Protestant and Catholic Christians, are being forced to ask daily.
Under more than 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong established itself as a bridge from East to West, and an economic powerhouse that protected the basic freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly. In 1997, when the British government relinquished control to Beijing, a 50-year transitional period was established under a principle known as “one country, two systems.” The idea that China would respect the agreement and Hong Kong’s liberties might have been tenuous, but it wasn’t completely irrational. In terms of economic prosperity and a tolerance for democratic norms, some even hoped Beijing’s own system would evolve to mirror Hong Kong’s.
In 2014, China announced that, though Hong Kong voters could choose their chief executive, candidates first had to be screened by a Beijing committee. The response in Hong Kong was explosive. Over 1.2 million people took to the streets in peaceful protest, occupying the central commercial district and famously using yellow umbrellas to deflect tear gas.
In 2019, protests were renewed over a proposed extradition bill that would grant authorities the ability to transport anyone accused of a crime, including political dissidents, to mainland China. Again, the backlash was massive. In a city of 7.5 million people, an estimated 2 million took to the streets, many pushing children in strollers or elderly in wheelchairs. Even when Chief Executive Carrie Lam eventually scrapped the extradition bill, it did little to stop the momentum.
But COVID-19 did. And, like all authoritarian regimes, China did not let a good crisis go to waste. As the city locked down, key protesters were arrested and momentum stalled. China bypassed Hong Kong’s government and implemented a draconian national security bill of its own.
Now, the city’s future seems especially dire. While some embers of protest still smolder, two of Hong Kong’s last British judges resigned this April. By some estimates, nearly 50% of European firms are planning to leave the city. Though an economic blow like that should make Beijing think twice about Hong Kong’s fate, economics has never been the primary driver behind the actions of the Chinese Communist Party or Xi Jinping.
Christian concern goes beyond our commitment to human rights, or the tragedy of watching such a vibrant, beautiful place fall under oppression. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have long played a dramatic part in Hong Kong’s non-violent resistance. From the beginning, in fact, Hong Kong’s Christians have formed the backbone of its pro-democracy movement.
A powerful example is retired pastor Chu Yiu-Ming who, along with eight others, was sentenced to prison for his role in the 2014 and 2019 protests. While his sentence was lightened due to his age, Pastor Chu was fully ready to bear the cost of following Christ and articulate why. Chu’s speech, in which he described why he was compelled to act, should be required reading for all of us:
I am a Christian minister committed to the service of God,
and yet, at this very moment, my heart tells me that with this defendant’s dock, I have found the most honorable pulpit of my ministerial career. The valley of the shadow of death leads to spiritual heights. …
To those who are naked or hungry, the Christian minister has no business responding with greetings of Peace, Peace. I wish you well; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs. What good are such greetings? [A]sk the Bible. …
This is our conviction based on the faith we hold: Every person is created according to God’s image.
As such, every person should be respected and safeguarded. We strive for democracy, because democracy strives for freedom, equality and universal love. Human rights [are] a God-given gift, never to be arbitrarily taken away by any political regime. …
We have opted for a peaceful, non-violent way. Although the power of injustice before us is immense and those holding power capricious, we are not afraid, nor will we run away. …
We have no regrets,
We hold no grudges,
We do not give up.
In the words of Jesus, “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” (Matthew 5:10)
Please pray for Hong Kong, for Pastor Chu, and for the other courageous Christians .
|Apr 28, 2022|
Preferred Pronouns, White Fragility, and Favorite Books - Breakpoint Q&A
John and Shane are asked how a student should respond to his college requesting him to identify his preferred pronouns. John explains how using one’s name is unique from a person’s preferred pronoun. He also shares how choosing a pronoun says something distinct about what male and female are.
Along with emphasizing the importance of understanding the issue, John emphasizes the way in which a person engages the issue of pronouns. He encourages the listener to respond with light, not heat.
For another listener’s question on the topic of “white fragility,” John explains what white fragility is, where it originated, and how it’s become a theory of everything. He notes that it isn’t helpful to be reactive whenever a conversation on race presents itself, giving some helpful tips to guide conversation to a constructive end.
To close, John and Shane respond to a listener about what young people can do now to prepare for the future. John encourages them to read books, find a mentor, and critique habits.
Dr. Meriweather Stand on Pronouns
A Rebel's Manifesto: Choosing Truth, Real Justice, and Love amid the Noise of Today's World
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage
The Four Loves
The Screwtape Letters
The Holiness of God
Dancing with Max
Through the Gates of Splendor
The Journals of Jim Elliot, repackaged ed.: Missionary, Martyr, Man of God
The Way of the Modern World
|Apr 27, 2022|
Google’s Annoying Inclusive-Language Guide
In one of the most annoying tech moves since Microsoft’s “Clippy,” Google Docs now offers unsolicited advice about how to avoid using non-inclusive language. Terms like “landlord” or “motherboard” trigger a pop-up warning that reads “these words may not be inclusive to all readers.”
The folks at TechRadar were overly generous when they said that this was “a good idea, poorly executed.” In reality, it’s a bad idea, poorly executed.
It’s more than annoying for Google to thought police our words in this way. It simply doesn’t correspond with reality. Sure, not all “police officers” are “policemen,” but connecting “landlord” with slavery or class warfare misses the full history of the word. And questioning the word “motherboard”? That’s just silly.
Google has never been a neutral facilitator of communication, but this move demonstrates a misunderstanding of language itself. Words are more than social constructs. They reflect reality. Denying that certain realities exist with language doesn’t change reality.
As a friend used to say, “sloppy words make sloppy thought possible.” Misusing language damages our ability to think.
|Apr 27, 2022|
Why Take Unpopular Stands in a Strange New World?
According to Theodoret of Cyrrhus, on January 1, A.D. 404, an ascetic monk named Telemachus jumped to the floor of the arena during a gladiatorial match, and begged the competitors to stop. The crowd was so angry at the interruption that they stoned him to death. When Christian Emperor Honorius heard about Telemachus’ act of bravery, he ordered an end to gladiatorial combat.
Telemachus’ stand led to martyrdom, but it changed a culture. Throughout history, similar stands made in Jesus’ name yielded similar results. Though they often came at great cost, and transformation was not instantaneous, in the end, a culture was left better.
Telemachus’ brave act occurred 91 years after Christianity was legalized by Constantine, and 24 years after it was made the state religion of Rome by Emperor Theodosius I. Earlier Christians denounced other evils, such as abusive sexual mores. They insisted that sex be limited to marriage and, following the Jews, rejected abortion and infanticide. They treated women and slaves as the spiritual equals of men. As a result, woman and slaves became leaders in the church. Pliny the Younger, in a letter dated about 111, mentions deaconesses, and a slave was made a bishop of Ephesus in the early second century.
Christians didn’t kill baby girls, a practice common among the pagans. Nor did they pressure girls into early marriage, or Christian widows into remarriage. As a result, Christian churches had a higher percentage of women than did society at large. In fact, Christianity was held in contempt by the Romans as “a religion of women and slaves.”
The Church’s response to slavery is more complex. Though the early Church did not outright oppose slavery, they opposed the abusive conduct normal to the slave trade, and often purchased slaves in order to free them. Eventually, as the implications of the Gospel’s insistence on the spiritual and moral equality of all people sank in, medieval theologians such as Thomas Aquinas declared slavery a sin.
Nonetheless, many Christians continued the horrible practice, particularly with the discovery of the Americas. Other Christians, most notably William Wilberforce and the Clapham Circle, actively sought the abolition of the slave trade. After decades of persistent effort in the face of opposition from cultural elites and an apathetic public, slavery was brought to an end in the British Empire.
Similar examples can be found in other cultures. Christian missionaries led the fight against sati, the practice of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands, against the opposition of the Hindu elites in India. Native Chinese Christians fought against foot binding, the breaking of bones to compress the feet of girls, a trait considered desirable among the Chinese people. Christian diplomats saved Jews from the Holocaust, often bucking instructions from their home government and direct superiors. Many leaders and activists in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement faced beatings, dogs, lynchings, and fire hoses. Though these courageous actions led to the renewal of various aspects of those cultures, change was not immediate.
Christians had to oppose cultures before change took place. Of course, they had no way of knowing whether or not their actions would bring change. Telemachus did not live to see the redemptive consequences of his courage. They acted because they had to, not because they knew their actions would work.
As T.S. Eliot said, “For us there is only the trying. The rest is none of our business.” Christians today must oppose cultural evils, such as the taking of preborn life, the buying and selling of preborn lives, the ideological sexual abuse of children, and the persecution of religious minorities. Though the rapid changes in our society are confusing and distressing, we must understand them if we are to know when, where, and how we must take a stand.
So that we can join in the long history of Christian redemptive influence, the Colson Center is offering an in-depth study of our culture, particularly recent shifts in sex, gender, and identity, with the help of Dr. Carl Trueman’s new book, Strange New World. For a donation of any amount to the Colson Center, we’ll send you a copy of Dr. Trueman’s book, an accompanying study guide, access to a four-week course with Dr. Trueman and Colson Center theologian-in-residence Dr. Tim Padgett, and access to Dr. Trueman’s powerful presentation at last year’s Wilberforce Weekend.
To sign-up for this offer, simply make a donation of any amount to the Colson Center at www.breakpoint.org/april.
|Apr 27, 2022|
Are THC Gummies Dangerous for...Children?
Big marijuana promised not to market to children. They are. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.
Legal recreational marijuana sales officially began this week in New Jersey. That’s the same state where, on Christmas Day in 2020, a 3-year-old was admitted to a hospital ICU after he ate a dangerous amount of cannabis edibles. They were in a bag that looked like a package of Nerds candy.
According to CNN, knockoff candy bags that actually contain THC edibles are a big problem. The New Jersey Poison Control Center reported that the number of kids poisoned with cannabis was six times higher in 2020 than just two years earlier. There are similar reports across the country.
Marijuana lobbyists promise they don’t market to kids, and that it’s just a few bad apples selling edibles in kid-friendly packages. But making THC edible at all is a step towards marketing to kids, a genie that can’t be out back into the bottle.
As the nationwide march toward legalizing marijuana continues, the consequences of our culture’s worst ideas will be paid by the most common victim: the kids.
|Apr 26, 2022|
What's Causing Teen Depression?
Teens are not all right, and there’s an underlying cause—the loss of meaning.
At a recent gathering, Dr. Ryan M. Burkhart, Associate Dean of the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Colorado Christian University, noted that he and other counselors are seeing “treatment-resistant depression and anxiety.” These counselors are seeing more young clients but are not seeing typical therapies bring the same results as in the past.
One mark of this kind of despair is suicide. In the U.S., suicide increased by 30% between 2000 and 2018 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s pre-COVID-19. By 2020, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, suicide was the runner-up cause of death for ages 10-14. As I stated yesterday, teens who claim they have “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” have increased from 26% percent to 44%. It’s such a concern that last fall the American Academy of Pediatrics deemed the mental health of youth a “national emergency.”
In his “The Parable of the Madman,” Friedrich Nietzsche famously declared, “God is dead.” He was not making an ontological claim, in the sense that God once lived but was now dead. Rather, the parable is full of observations of the consequences of a culture losing its divine reference point.
We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space?
Nietzsche’s remarkable description of meaninglessness echoes James 1:6: “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” In Nietzsche’s parable, when those secular intellectuals who were gathered about the madman are shocked at his words, the madman proclaims,
“I have come too early... my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves.
Nietzsche penned “The Parable of the Madman” in 1882. Almost a decade earlier, in his “On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense,” he pointed out that humans, deceived by pride, are limited by language in their ability to know. Decades later, postmodern theorists embraced these ideas and cast a deeper doubt on the ability to know at all. Their ideas first infected higher education, and then most of our society.
Without God, there is no external reference point outside of ourselves. Nietzsche’s description of a world untethered is now a picture of youth untethered. In his words, they’ve been “unchained from the sun,” desperate for meaning, truth, identity, and ultimately, God.
Of course, devout Christians can also struggle with despair, experiencing what John of the Cross described, in the 16th century, as a Dark Night of the Soul. Still, even when God feels distant, it matters that He is there. Where can young people turn in a society that treats God as, at best, an inward feeling and, at worst, not there at all? Apologists and Christian philosophers have discussed the cosmic and personal ramifications of a world without God. They warned that such a world affords no source for meaning. Now, for many, those predictions have become an existential reality.
Behavior modification can treat symptoms, but not the underlying despair. In a Pew Research Center study released last November, only 15% of Americans mentioned faith as a “source of meaning”; outside of the U.S., the percentage drops to 5%.
Members of the mental health community are recognizing the connection between meaningful faith and effective therapy. Last June in Scientific American, David Rosemarin wrote an opinion piece provocatively entitled “Psychiatry Needs to Get Right with God.” In it, he argued that psychiatrists, the least religious of medical doctors, need to integrate spirituality into their treatment. As he put it, “The only group to see improvements in mental health during the past year were those who attended religious services at least weekly (virtually or in-person): 46 percent report ‘excellent’ mental health today versus 42 percent one year ago.”
According to the protocols of the mental health community, secular counselors are not to point clients to a particular faith. Still, they must begin to point clients to meaning. Dr. Ryan Burkhart and his student apply Victor Frankl’s approach to psychology—a theory that encourages clients to search for meaning. Frankl, after surviving a Nazi concentration camp, went on to write Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, he explained that the heart hungers for meaning more than for pleasure. Although Burkhart and his students’ assessment is anecdotal, they are seeing results: clients are responding to Frankl’s approach.
Our culture is reflecting many consequences of the “death of God.” A Christian worldview has something powerful to offer in such a time and place, a God who is not only very much alive but Who beat death. Because He did, there is meaning.
Dr. Burkhart will speak at the September Lighthouse Voices Series about how we can speak meaning into lives suffering from meaninglessness.
|Apr 26, 2022|
Ryan Bomberger | Wilberforce Weekend Speaker Series
Maria Baer visits with Ryan Bomberger about his upcoming presentation at the Wilberforce Weekend, May 10-13.
Ryan has a rather unique perspective of the innate nature of Purpose. His biological mother was raped yet courageously gave him a chance to live and the beautiful gift of adoption. He was adopted at 6 weeks of age and grew up in a loving, multi-“racial” Christian family of 15. With siblings of varying ethnicities, he grew up with a great appreciation for diversity. Ten of the thirteen children were adopted in this remarkable family. His life defies the myth of the “unwanted” child as he was adopted, loved and has flourished.
Today, he is an Emmy® Award-winning Creative Professional who founded The Radiance Foundation (TRF), a life-affirming 501c3, along with his wife, Bethany. He is a factivist, international public speaker, columnist, educator, broadcast media designer, producer and author of the powerful book, Not Equal: Civil Rights Gone Wrong.
For more on the Wilberforce Weekend visit www.wilberforceweekend.org
|Apr 25, 2022|
How Can We Pray When Overwhelmed by Information?
In the warp-speed cycle of digital news, caring for our souls requires time in God’s Word, time away from our devices, and a reminder that we’re called to faithfulness, not success.
In his book Every Moment Holy, Douglas Kaine McKelvey offers “A Liturgy For Those Flooded by Too Much Information.”
“We are daily aware of more grief, O Lord,” he writes,
“than we can rightly consider,
of more suffering and scandal
than we can respond to, of more
hostility, hatred, horror, and injustice
than we can engage with compassion.
“.... remind us that we are but small
and finite creatures, never designed to carry
the vast abstractions of great burdens,
for our arms are too short and our strength
is too small. Justice and mercy, healing and
redemption, are your great labors.
“…. Give us discernment,
to know when to pray,
when to speak out,
when to act,
and when to simply
shut off our screens
and our devices,
and to sit quietly
in your presence,
casting the burdens of this world
upon the strong shoulders of the one who
is able to bear them up.
|Apr 25, 2022|
Why Is Depression Trending with Teens
America’s teens are not all right. As Derek Thomas recently wrote in an Atlantic article entitled “Why American Teens are So Sad,”
From 2009-2021, the share of American high-school students who say they feel “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26 percent to 44 percent. [This] is the highest level of teenage sadness ever recorded. [Almost] every measure of mental health is getting worse, for every teenage demographic, and it’s happening all across the country.
What Thomas is describing goes far beyond typical adolescent angst. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, other risky behaviors traditionally chalked up to adolescence—such as drinking and driving, fighting at school, and even underage sex—are significantly down. Nor can these declines in mental health be blamed on the pandemic or lockdowns. Rather, these were “pre-existing conditions” that, though certainly aggravated, were not caused by the social chaos of the last two years.
Thomas suggests four converging cultural realities that are contributing to this crisis: social media, social isolation, the extra-stressful global situation, and today’s parenting styles.
Over a decade ago, psychologist Jean Twenge warned about the effect of smartphones on teenage brains. Since then, the prevalence of social media has unleashed new levels of comparison, exposure, and image problems on a demographic already wired to care too much about what their peers think. Instagram’s own research found that while a third of teenage girls say the app “makes them feel worse,” they cannot keep from logging on.
Even so, writes Thomas,
the biggest problem with social media might be not social media itself, but rather the activities that it replaces. [Compared] with their counterparts in the 2000s, today’s teens are less likely to go out with their friends, get their driver’s license, or play youth sports.
And, of course, it also matters what teens are encountering on the screens that are such a big part of their lives. Even more than TV or print media, phones bombard teens with 24/7 coverage of the world’s problems, creating a near-constant sense of fear and foreboding. These days, teens deal with more than just the stress of preparing for college. Alone in their rooms, they are worrying about the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, climate change, and whether they have been sufficiently “woke” on various issues.
In response to all of the social chaos, many parents are choosing what Thomas calls an “accommodative” parenting style. It is very tempting for parents, instead of letting teens experience life’s normal bumps and bruises, to insulate them. “If a girl is afraid of dogs, an ‘accommodation’ would be keeping her away from every friend’s house with a dog, or if a boy won’t eat vegetables, feeding him nothing but turkey loaf for four years” (which, he points out, is a true story).
That strategy, sometimes called “lawnmower parenting,” ultimately backfires. When every challenge on the path is mowed down, a child struggles to develop the resiliency necessary to confront the inevitable obstacles ahead. In the end, a world cannot be prepared for a child. A child needs to be prepared for the world.
Every factor that Thomas identifies certainly contributes to the current mental health crisis among teens. However, there is more to consider.
In his book, The Content Trap, Bharat Anand tells the story of the 1988 Yellowstone fire, infamously started by a single unextinguished cigarette. But Anand asks a critical question: Why that cigarette? After all, hundreds of cigarettes are dropped in Yellowstone every year. What was different this time?
The answer, he argues, is not found by focusing on the spark—but the environmental factors that turned Yellowstone into a tinderbox. The extremely dry summer of 1988, the driest on record, combined with the park’s controlled burn policy meant, as one former park superintendent put it, “We were a perfect setup to burn.”
Social media, parenting strategies, and world events are definite sparks for a mental health crisis (as are others such as the breakdown of the family and increased availability of substances to abuse), but it’s the prevalent cultural worldview that makes devastating cultural wildfires inevitable.
Our real cultural crisis is a catastrophic, culture-wide loss of meaning. Philosophers warned it was coming, as did social scientists, and now we are living with the existential results of a culture untethered from God, and therefore untethered from any fixed reference point for truth, morality, identity, and meaning. It is a tinderbox in which any spark, whether social media or addiction or lockdowns or something else, is destined to explode.
It is also a tinderbox primed for a different kind of spark, one which can point people again to the God Who infused His world with meaning. This spark is Christ-changed people, shaped by redemption, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and armed with the truth and love about life, the world, and what it all means.
|Apr 25, 2022|
Ron DeSantis and Florida Legislators - Nicholas Meriwether Wins Pronoun Case in Court
Maria opens BreakPoint This Week asking John for some insight into who Chuck Colson was. It's been 10 years since Chuck Colson's passing following a final message at a Wilberforce Weekend in 2012. Highlighting attributes he remembers about Chuck, John explains the legacy he gave to the Colson Center.
Then, John and Maria explore how Florida is quickly becoming ground zero for the culture wars. John explains that a series of actions from the Florida Legislature and Governor DeSantis are causing sparks in the Sunshine State.
-- Recommendations --These Precious Days
By Ann Patchett
The Secular Case for Christianity
-- References --
Chuck Colson’s Leadership
One of the first projects after I joined the Colson Center team was a curriculum project called Doing the Right Thing. This film series reflected how Chuck understood those issues that plagued prison and the rest of our society. Upstream from the brokenness and evil was a lack of moral formation, an abandonment of right and wrong, and a neglect of virtue. In this film series, Chuck issued a clarion call for Christians to influence our communities with the Christian worldview. Christianity was, after all, a better way of being human
Chuck Colson’s Last Address
At the 2012 Wilberforce Weekend, Chuck collapsed on stage. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where, on April 21, he died. His final words may have been delivered with less energy than some of us were used to hearing from Chuck, but with no less lucidity or passion.
Florida Rejects Math Texts For 'Indoctrinating' Kids?
Florida called for textbook submissions from publishers in 2021 in accordance with a 2019 executive order from DeSantis aimed at eliminating Common Core standards in the state. The textbooks rejected "were impermissible with either Florida’s new standards or contained prohibited topics."
The 41% rejection rate was the highest in Florida's history.
Florida Senate passes bill to strip Disney's special self-governing status
The Florida House still has to vote on the measure, which would dissolve the special taxing district that allows Disney to operate much like a local government.
Ron DeSantis takes his culture war to the next level
(Gov. Ron DeSantis) has been outspoken in opposition to mitigation measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. (Florida was one of the last states to close down in the midst of the original outbreak in spring of 2020 and one of the first states to re-open after the initial wave.)
He's championed civic literacy efforts aimed at teaching students the dangers posed by socialism and communism. "You have orthodoxies that are promoted, and other viewpoints are shunned or even suppressed," DeSantis has said of the moves. "We don't want that in Florida, you need to have a true contest of ideas, students should not be shielded from ideas and we want robust First Amendment speech on our college and university campuses."
Shawnee State: Professors must speak contrary to their beliefs or be punished
In January, during a political philosophy class he was teaching, Meriwether responded to a male student’s question by saying, “Yes, sir.” Meriwether responded in this fashion because he refers to all his students as “sir” or “ma’am” or by a title (Mr. or Miss, for example) followed by their last name to foster an atmosphere of seriousness and mutual respect.
After the class, the student approached Meriwether, stated that he was transgender, and demanded that the professor refer to him as a woman, with feminine titles and pronouns. When Meriwether did not instantly agree, the student became belligerent, circling around Meriwether and getting in his face in a threatening fashion while telling him, “Then I guess this means I can call you a c**t.” Before walking away, the student promised to get Meriwether fired if he did not agree to the student’s demands.
The student then filed a complaint with the university, which launched a formal investigation. Meriwether offered to call the student by his first or last name only, but university officials rejected this and anything else that would allow him to speak according to his conscience and sincerely held religious beliefs. Instead, they formally charged him, saying “he effectively created a hostile environment” for the student. Later, they placed a written warning in his personnel file and threatened “further corrective actions” unless he articulates the university’s ideological message.
Professor disciplined for refusing to use transgender student’s pronouns to receive $400K in settlement
In a statement, Shawnee State said the settlement was an “economic decision” and that it continues to stand behind a student’s right to a discrimination-free learning environment while also allowing its faculty and staff to freely express their beliefs.
|Apr 23, 2022|
Why Are Teens Still Wearing Masks?
According to The New York Times, some teens are choosing to keep their masks on, even after pandemic mandates end . The reason isn’t because they fear Covid. It’s due to anxiety.
“The mask has offered teens a way to hide some of their anxiety symptoms and emotions from others, and wearing it has also made many of them feel ‘normal’ and ‘like everybody else,’” writes Emily Sohn.
One psychologist described the “imaginary audience” with which many teens constantly deal: an invisible jury of peers scrutinizing their every decision. Only, in the age of social media, the audience isn’t so “imaginary.”
Masks, by contrast, provide a degree of relief via anonymity. Even if teens feel the need to hide their faces, they were made for face-to-face interaction. The lack of it—whether from isolation or screens—is no way forward.
We have to help students steward technology and their anxieties. A big part of that will mean investing in relationships that are out of the spotlight.
|Apr 22, 2022|
Chuck Colson on Courage in this Cultural Moment
This week, the Colson Center has remembered our founder, Chuck Colson, on the 10th anniversary of his death. Though the Colson Center is part of Chuck’s outsized legacy, we are not a memorial organization. We’ve often joked that if the Colson Center were only about playing a tape recorder of Chuck’s commentaries, he would come back and haunt us from the grave.
Chuck had a vision for the Church: that it would be the Church. And, he had a vision for the Colson Center: that it would serve and equip the Church to fulfill her calling. We’re still as committed to that vision as we were when Chuck was with us.
I’m constantly amazed at how prescient Chuck was. He foresaw many things that have, since his death, become realities. Today, I want you to hear from Chuck Colson about the necessity of courage in this cultural moment:
The critical question in the West today is, “Can freedom survive where virtue isn’t able to flourish?” A friend of mine who is a member of a good, strong evangelical church, met with his pastor to urge him to get more involved in some of today’s worldview and cultural battles. The pastor drew back in his chair and said, “You know, I have one great regret about my ministry: that I got involved in the gay marriage debate. We lost several members over there.” My friend was speechless as I would have been. What do you say to somebody who denies the clear teaching of Scripture or who in this case stands up for it, but then regrets it? Where was this man’s courage?
I wish I could say this was an isolated instance. It isn’t, friends. We’re navigating through rough waters in the culture today, and we’re woefully unprepared. Oh, sure we have all kinds of information at our fingertips. Amazing technology, vast resources our forebearers could only dream of, but we’re lacking something far more important: character.
That’s why on this morning, and for the next few weeks I want to talk about the building blocks of character: the four classic Greek virtues and the three Christian virtues. Today, we’ll look at the first and I believe most important virtue, courage.
Now courage is not a lack of fear. It’s the willingness to do what you have to do in the face of your fear. Courage, Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie note in their book The Sacrament of Evangelism is the habit of saying yes to the right action, even at the risk of pain or loss. Courage never gives up. Courage sticks with the task until it’s done. Courage faces one’s fears and does the right thing in spite of them.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of course, would be near the top of anybody’s list of courageous Christians. He had the courage to defy the Nazis at the cost of his life. On his last day, Bonhoeffer held a brief service for his fellow prisoners. A contemporary who was there describes the scene. It’s described in Eric Metaxas’ wonderful book Bonhoeffer, which I strongly recommend. Bonhoeffer hardly finished his last prayer when the door opened and two evil-looking men in civilian clothes came in and said, “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, get ready to come with us.”
“Bonhoeffer came over to me,” the man writes, “drew me aside, and he said, ‘This is the end, but for me the beginning of life.’” Bonhoeffer and countless martyrs like him through the ages had the courage to stand up to evil in the name of Christ and pay the ultimate price.
Do we have the courage to lay it all on the line? Do we have the courage to speak out for traditional marriage when we know we’ll be called bigots and worse? Or would you have the courage to stand up at a school board meeting and speak against a curriculum that indoctrinates kids and sexual license? You have to prepare to be shouted down. Believe me, it takes courage to take an unpopular stand and risk our popularity, our reputations, and maybe even lose a few church members.
Now I could be wrong. But the continuing assault on religious liberty is a test. If we lack the courage to defend our religious freedom, then we will lose all other freedoms as well. Remember this.
However, it’s easier to summon up courage when you know someone has your back. I learned this well. When I was a lieutenant in the Marines, I knew my men had my back and I had theirs—that they would have laid down their life for me. That inspired courage in me. I have to say, too, that when we act for goodness for truth, Jesus Christ has our back. He is the source of our courage, He who laid down his life for us.
Ten years ago yesterday, Chuck Colson went to be with the Lord. We are grateful for his life, for the work of Christ to make Chuck a new creation, for his remarkable life of passion and leadership, and for the privilege of being part of his ongoing work and legacy.
|Apr 22, 2022|
Biden Administration to Reverse Conscience Rule
Christian legal experts are bracing for the Biden administration to issue a reversal of a 2019 “conscience rule,” which protected faith-based groups from being forced to violate their beliefs. To quote one Christian attorney, reversing the protection would create “an existential threat to religious-based employers,” who would be forced to provide services, such as abortifacients or gender assignment surgery, or face fines, lawsuits and legal challenges that would drive them out of business.
If they are to respond in a helpful way, Christians first need to remember the basics of religious liberty: It’s for all individuals, it’s the cornerstone of a free and democratic society, and it’s the first freedom from which every other freedom springs.
Respecting the right to conscience provides a setting in which both people and society can thrive. Remove it, and there’s nothing to stop some future administration or regime from imposing its worldview on millions of people.
Religious liberty might be the direct result of a Judeo-Christian worldview, but it’s the birthright of every American—and it’s worth fighting for.
|Apr 21, 2022|
Chuck Colson's Final Message
Ten years ago today, Chuck Colson met Jesus Christ face-to-face in eternity. As many would note later, Chuck Colson died in a way fitting for a marine, with “his boots on.” I was sitting on the stage behind Chuck as he delivered what would be his final speech.
At the 2012 Wilberforce Weekend, Chuck collapsed on stage. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where, on April 21, he died. His final words may have been delivered with less energy than some of us were used to hearing from Chuck, but with no less lucidity or passion. Here’s Chuck Colson:
My topic is the cultural environment today. Culture and a crossroads, which indeed it is, and what you’ve just witnessed with the Department of Health and Human Services attempting to impose a mandate on the Church, that the Church and Christian groups and religious organizations would have to provide insurance for things which violate our conscience and that we wouldn’t be allowed conscience for exemptions.
What’s extraordinary is that there haven’t been battles of religious liberty ever since the nation was founded and most of them have ended up in court decisions. Sometimes legislative. This is the first time in history, which is why Cardinal Wuerl here in Washington said, “This is the most serious invasion of the Church by government ever.” This is the first time it’s been done by a bureaucrat in a government agency simply writing it and then putting it out as law. Normally in a court case, you get a chance to argue both sides, but there wasn’t a chance for two sides to be argued this time. It was done by executive fiat.
This is a moment in which the Church has to learn how to defend itself against this sort of thing and do it in a way that is constructive with what we’re witnessing in our culture today. The HHS mandate is but the tip of the iceberg. It’s about the latest visible manifestation of a growing hostility towards Christianity mainly because—this has always been the case— government officials feel threatened by the power of the Church because we all worship a king higher than the kings of this Earth. And that’s seen as a threat, and we’re also seen as wanting to impose our views on people.
Don’t let them tell you that we don’t propose to impose anything. We propose an invitation to the wedding feast to come to a better way of living, a better way of life. And it is the great proposal. We couldn’t impose if we wanted to impose, and we don’t want to impose in a democracy. You can’t. So, we need to be very clear about who we are and what we do and why we do it.
What we’re seeing now is the full fruits that have come from 30 years of relativism, death of truth in the academy particularly and in public discourse, and the coarsening of public-discourse question of politics. Everybody looks at the elections and thinks the elections are going to settle this problem. Elections are important for who it is who serves in office. It makes a difference what kind of person that is and what that person believes.
But elections can’t solve the problem. We’ve got the problem that our culture has been decaying from the inside for 30 or 40 years, and politics is nothing but an expression of culture. So how do you fix the culture? Culture is actually formed by the belief system of the people, by the cult, which was what the Church has been historically. So if things are bad, I don’t think it’s going to be solved by election: It’s going to be solved by us. You have a healthy cult, you have a healthy culture, have a healthy culture of healthy politics.
So it comes right back to us. Look in the mirror: That’s where the problem is. And if we can through the Church renew the Church too, really bring healthy cultural influence, then there’s some hope that we can be changed. I think Eric is right that this is a moment. This is a moment when the time is right for a movement of God’s people under the power of the holy spirit to begin to impact the culture we live in. It’s desperately needed. This is why I’ve been spending so much time in recent years teaching biblical worldview because I think that’s at the root of our problems. Once we can get that understood by the Church: that it is a worldview and we have to live it and express it and contend for it.
Otherwise, it’s not going to be. You’ll see that continued deterioration of the culture and all that goes with it. So, I think the responsibility has to be taken by the Church for a movement that will bring back the authority and strength and winsomeness of the Church, which then in turn affects the culture.
Chuck’s final passion was to see the Church embrace the fullness of the Lordship of Christ and be the Church in this cultural moment. Many of us took these final words, delivered at the 2012 Wilberforce Weekend, as a calling. The Colson Center exists to carry this mission forward.
|Apr 21, 2022|
Who was Chuck Colson, What's the "Violinist Argument", and Bridging the Gap in Public Schools - BreakPoint Q&A
John and Shane reflect on who Chuck Colson was and the legacy he left in the Colson Center. A listener writes in asking for some context to the organization, noting that this is the 10th anniversary of Chuck's passing.
John and Shane then provide some answers to how a public school parent can work to impact their community. A single-parent writes in asking how a parent can guide a student in the public arena noting the challenges in curriculum and ideology taught in public schools that oppose a Christian worldview.
|Apr 20, 2022|
Christian Colleges and LGBTQ+ Romance Accommodations
As pressure continues to mount on institutions to accommodate the sexual revolution, it’s no longer possible to avoid the issues or craft a “third way.” Yet, colleges keep trying.
Recently, Calvin University spun off a department to accommodate a lesbian staffer who wished to marry her same-sex partner, and the assistant professor who presided over the ceremony. The staffer quit after Calvin asked her to keep her “marriage” quiet.
Writing at WORLD Opinions, Bart Gingerich points out that attempts by Christian colleges to thread this moral needle makes nobody happy and everyone upset, including donors and board members committed to Christian truth, and the LGBTQ students and staff committed to full affirmation.
Over the last few years, other colleges have attempted similar flip-flops, for example, deciding to allow LGBTQ “romance” among students but not sex, then reversing the decision, then reversing the reversal…none of the attempts have gone well.
It’s time for Christian institutions that want to remain meaningfully Christian to make decisions, and when they do, we should remember what Jesus said about serving two masters.
|Apr 20, 2022|
Chuck Colson and the Call to Influence Community
Ten years ago this week, Chuck Colson went to be with the Lord. After his time in the White House and then in prison and then in leading the largest ministry to prisoners and their families in the world, the great passion of the last few years of Chuck’s life was advancing a Christian worldview. He worked and prayed so that, as he often put it, the Church would be the church.
One of the first projects after I joined the Colson Center team was a curriculum project called Doing the Right Thing. This film series reflected how Chuck understood those issues that plagued prison and the rest of our society. Upstream from the brokenness and evil was a lack of moral formation, an abandonment of right and wrong, and a neglect of virtue. In this film series, Chuck issued a clarion call for Christians to influence our communities with the Christian worldview. Christianity was, after all, a better way of being human:
I have a peculiar habit in my life. I read the Bible every morning, but I also read The New York Times through clenched teeth. I have to. I do it because I write BreakPoint radio broadcasts every day, and I usually get half my BreakPoints out of The New York Times, out of some of the silly things they say. It’s wonderful. I mean for a guy like me who’s writing biblical commentary on public events The Times is indispensable. I should be paying twice as much for my subscription.
But one morning I picked it up and—let me tell you what—I read the extraordinary Thomas Friedman, a great writer of The World Is Flat, a great thinker, very liberal, secular Jew. Thomas Friedman wrote a column about why America was number one in the world by all ratings and all polls and all standards and all measurements for years and years and years and all of a sudden it appears number 11 on the list. What happened? Everybody’s talking about Newsweek’s cover list of the most important and influential nations in the world, the best nations in the world. America’s number 11.
So, Friedman writes a column in which he restates the whole thesis of all of his books, which is that the world is flat. Everybody’s got access to all the same resources and tools, and therefore we’re all equal now. But here’s what he says at the end about why America is number 11. This is the conclusion of his column: China and India have been catching up to America not only via cheap labor and currencies; they’re catching up with us because they now have free markets like we do, education like we do, access to capital and technology. They alike in what we do.
But most importantly—listen. Most importantly, they have values like our greatest generation: They have a willingness to postpone gratification questions. That’s a Christian virtue, deferred gratification, paying your bills, providing for your kids in the future. In a flat world where everyone has access to everything, values matter more than ever. And listen to this coming from a secular Jew. Right now, the Hindus and Confucianists have more Protestant ethics than we do. And as long as that is the case, we will be number 11.
All of you know that I spent my life, the last 35 years going into prisons. I love it. I have a passion for it: to bring the Gospel to prisoners who are absolutely loved. But I discovered early on that the reason the prisons were being filled wasn’t all the sociological theories about crime that we hear generally. It was the fact studied at Harvard in 1986 by two great social scientists: the lack of moral training during the morally formative years.
It hit me that we are raising a generation that lacks male role models. The family has broken down. These kids aren’t learning character. Where does character come from? It comes from habits that you learn in the family first. That’s the first basic structure that Aristotle once said is the first school of human instruction. It comes from associations that you become part of, where you find your identity—you find role models and other people. That’s how character forms.
You cannot teach character. All these courses going in public schools today about teaching character. It’s a joke because you can’t teach character. You learn character. You learn character by living with people who create an environment which is righteous where people live righteously in that environment. That’s how you do it. So, I thought to myself, “This is really a problem.” And I had had this experience at Harvard, and then I’d spoken at schools all across the country.
I ended up speaking at the 2nd Marine Division where I started out as a platoon commander in the 1950s. The commanding general invited me back to give a speech on ethics. Grizzled-up old master sergeant stood up to me, and he said, “Mr. Colson, which is more important, loyalty or integrity?” Ah, got it! I wish I had thought about that when I was in the Oval Office. Whoa! They really got it. But the result of this, when I was realizing what was happening in the prisons, was I thought, “I’ve got to do something about ethics.”
When I said, “Wouldn’t it be something if five million Americans started to do the right thing?” one of my friends said to me, “You’d turn the country upside down.” It can happen. I want to see that. That’s my goal. That’s why I’m standing here today. I want to see five million people, 2% of the population of this country start doing the right thing, start practicing virtue.
That was Chuck Colson describing the potential influence that he believed Christians could have on our society. Join us tomorrow to hear a clip from Chuck Colson’s very last public speech, delivered at the 2012 Wilberforce Weekend.
|Apr 20, 2022|
Can AI Make Us Less Lonely?
One company is proposing an innovative digital solution for loneliness. “Replika” is an AI chat-bot created “for anyone who wants a friend with no judgment, drama, or social anxiety involved.”
The company makes audacious claims. “Feeling down, anxious, having trouble getting to sleep, or managing negative emotions?” the website asks. “Replika can help.” Presumably, this is by filling a relational void: a virtual “friend,” “mentor,” “boyfriend,” or “girlfriend” … whatever the user wants.
If you think that’s both weird and problematic, you’re right. Replika promises the loneliest generation on record a technological answer that only people can deliver.
It’s a gimmick now, but what happens when the technology is perfected?
What pornography is to lust, Replika could easily become to loneliness. Like pornography, it can never solve the underlying problem.
Young people are hurting and longing for a better answer. There is one. Real friendship always exposes us to the risk of social anxiety, drama, or judgment … but it’s worth it. The Church has a chance to model the real thing, so they’ll never be fooled by a replica.
|Apr 19, 2022|
Where Did the Idea of War Crimes Come From?
Evidence is mounting of possible war crimes by Russia and, on a vastly smaller scale, by Ukraine. We can be sure, given that every act of warring nations is documented on social media today, that the truth will come out. But where did the idea come from that some ways of fighting wars crossed some sort of civilized line? Who decided where that line should be drawn? Where did the very notion of “war crimes” come from?
Union Major General Sherman, the general behind the infamous Sherman’s March during the Civil War, famously said that “War is hell.” International laws on war crimes are a historically recent innovation intended to mitigate how terrible and devastating war becomes. They are attempts to prevent war from descending entirely into hell, especially for non-combatants.
In the West, the primary sources for laws governing how war should be waged are found in Just War Theory. The earliest idea that war should be governed and moderated, however, dates long before any formal formulation of Just War Theory. In Deuteronomy 20, Moses instructed the Israelites not to kill the women and children of their enemies.
Much later, the Roman Republic would embrace three criteria for waging war: first, that it had to be waged for a legally sound reason, such as in response to aggression; second, that it had to be declared by someone legally authorized to do so; and third, that it had to be waged justly. As ethically innovative as that may sound, the Romans still had no problem using horrific tactics, such as rape, torture, enslavement, and terrorism, in their warfare.
It was Christian thinkers, especially Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, who most fully developed the ideas governing if and how war was to be waged. This Judeo-Christian approach eventually influenced the formation of the code of chivalry in Medieval Europe. Like the injunctions in Deuteronomy 20, the code was eventually expanded to include the protection of women and non-combatants, with the ideal of the knight being a protector of the weak. Though in the throes of war, these ideals were rarely followed, the code held among the nobles. For example, if a knight unnecessarily killed another knight in combat, he could be charged with murder. This was not considered a war crime, however.
In the wake of the brutality of the Spanish conquests in the Americas, thinkers such as 16th century Spanish theologian and jurist Francisco de Vitoria began to argue that war was never part of God’s plan and could only be justified on the grounds of the common good. Thus, consideration of war and warfare shifted from a topic within theology to the emerging realm of international law.
At the same time, the emergence of gunpowder armies and other military technologies made war increasingly destructive. As weapons became more powerful, the ability of armies to target civilians grew as well. This led to legal attempts in the 19th century to restrict warfare.
The first international treaty on warfare was the 1864 Geneva Convention, which covered the treatment of sick and wounded prisoners of war. This was followed by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, which also banned weapons such as poison gas, the killing of surrendering prisoners, looting, and the bombardment of undefended towns. The 1925 Geneva Protocol supplemented the ban on chemical weapons with a ban on biological weapons. Protections afforded to civilians were expanded in the 1949 Geneva Conventions. In 2008, the U.N. Security Council added rape and sexual violence to the list of war crimes.
Although a few Germans were tried for war crimes after the first World War I, it was the Nuremberg Trials and the lesser known International Military Tribunal for the Far East after World War II that most fully established the idea of war crimes and holding violators accountable. Since 2002, such trials have been handled by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In the U.S., war crimes can be prosecuted using the 1996 War Crimes Act and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Despite all the conventions, treaties, and laws, war crimes continue to be a part of every military conflict and are often perpetrated by all sides. Heads of state and others have been prosecuted, from a range of countries, while others have escaped accountability altogether. It is important to remember that the U.S. has been guilty of war crimes, such as the violations at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The very concept of war crimes is rooted in the Judeo-Christian understanding that in a deeply flawed world, war is at times a horrible necessity. However, the desired ends of nations, even if noble, do not justify the means. The waging of war, even if just, must not violate the inherent dignity of human beings. In other words, all is not fair in love and war, and to whatever extent we can control, war should not be hell.
|Apr 19, 2022|
Ukrainians Find Refuge in Polish Town
In the midst of brutality, the war in Ukraine is revealing stories of courage, beauty, and human decency in the face of evil.
The Polish city of Przemyśl is situated on Ukraine’s western border. According to the BBC, over 4 million Ukrainians, about 10% of the population, have fled their country since the war’s beginning. Poland has received more than half of them.
What makes their kindness ever more incredible and significant is that during World War II, Ukrainian nationalist groups killed over 100,000 Poles in the region of East Galicia. This led to Polish reprisals and an ongoing cycle of violence, ethnic tensions which remained until quite recently.
Today, this Polish city has been transformed into a refugee hub: locals giving their own time and resources to house and resettle those fleeing the war. As one veterinarian put it, “We have to help. It’s our destiny.”
It’s a beautiful reminder that there’s something deeper than borders, political gridlock, or even ethnic tension: when other image bearers of God are seen and treated as neighbors.
|Apr 18, 2022|
Virginia Prodan - Wilberforce Weekend Speaker's Series
Virginia Prodan grew up in Communist Romania. Unaware of the truth about her own family — including why her family never showed the slightest hint of love toward her — she discovered God’s Truth and Love as a teenager.
Virginia accepted the divine call to defend fellow followers of Christ against unjust persecution in an otherwise ungodly land as a human rights attorney.
For this act of treason, she came within seconds of being executed under the orders of Ceausescu himself. How Virginia not only managed to defeat her enemies time and again, but helped expose the appalling secret that would lead to the demise of Ceausescu’s evil empire is one of the most extraordinary stories ever told.
BreakPoint This Week Co-Host and Wilberforce Weekend Emcee Maria Baer sat down with Virginia to discuss Virginia's session on forgiveness at the upcoming Wilberforce Weekend.
|Apr 18, 2022|
How We Can Secure the Hearts of Our Children
I’m Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids here in Fort Worth, and I want to talk with you about how God made us good. I think God is good and God is a good Creator. And if children, teens, or adults don’t know that, then it doesn’t matter to them that they’re created in His image. That’s how my friend, Dr. Kathy Koch began her presentation at last year’s Wilberforce Weekend event. In a remarkable talk, which many attendees identified as the highlight of the conference, Koch talked about something incredibly elusive in this cultural moment: a settled identity.
In Psalm 139, verses 13 and 14 declare that we have been formed by God in our inward parts. It says in Psalm 139:13 that Father God knitted us together in our mother’s womb. Knitting is a precise skill; the knitter knows before starting what he is making, or he’d better not start. Otherwise he’d have a mittens-scarf-hat-afghan sweater thing.
The size of the stitch and the needle, the color of the yarn, and the design of the creation is known before the knitter begins.
For years, Dr. Kathy Koch has taught the truth about God’s design of human beings, especially how to help children grasp who they are. Tomorrow, she joins the Lighthouse Voices Series to speak about how parents, educators, and mentors can secure the hearts of children for God. The Lighthouse Voices Series is sponsored by Focus on the Family and the Colson Center. If you live in the Holland, Michigan area, please join us in person. If not, please join us online for the live stream.
Childhood matters. In our culture, children are too often the victims of adults pursuing their own happiness. If children are to experience their full potential, they must learn to see themselves as the image bearers they are. How can we point children to God? How can we help them understand who they are when there are so many competing voices? How can we help them emerge as adults, stewarding their gifts and talents for the glory of God? How can they grow up to be who God created them to be?
Tomorrow night, Dr. Kathy will share three essential beliefs and three communication approaches that can help us secure our children’s hearts for God. You’ll appreciate her upbeat instruction, her practical and realistic ideas, and her tremendous speaking ability.
The verse that revolutionized my understanding of God’s creative intent is the end of Psalm 139:14 where David writes on behalf of God: My soul knows very well that I am a wonderful work of the creative intent of God. A fearfully and wonderfully creation made in His image.
Dr. Kathy Koch is founder and president of Celebrate Kids, and is one of the best speakers I have ever heard. She is practical, relevant, and gives a results-oriented approach that’s grounded in a Christian worldview. She helps parents, grandparents, teachers, and anyone caring for kids do so in a way that’s engaging and honoring of the image bearers that children are.
Dr. Kathy’s presentation in our Lighthouse Voices series will guide us to secure children’s hearts. Her talk will be practical, powerful, and impactful.
I hope you’ll register to attend, either in person or through the live stream, tomorrow, Tuesday April 19, at 5:45pm for those in the Holland Michigan area, and at 7pm for the livestream.
To register visit www.colsoncenter.org/events
|Apr 18, 2022|
Chuck Colson's Easter Message in Prison
Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, John Stonestreet introduces a sermon given by Chuck Colson from a Prison in Michigan in 2010. Nearly every Easter, Chuck visited a prison to give the Gospel. In this presentation we hear why, and the significance of Easter to Chuck Colson.
|Apr 16, 2022|
Challenges in Teen Sadness, What Is Church? and Is Easter Pagan?
John and Maria discuss new findings in teen sadness and what it means for culture. They also discuss a recent podcast by Jen Hatmaker and what it means to misunderstand what church is and what church is for.
To close, John explains the landscape of a recent BreakPoint commentary on the roots of Easter. He shares how Easter is a pivotal moment in history that changed the course of humanity.
-- In-Show Mentions --
Frank R. James, the 62-year-old man accused of popping a smoke canister in a crowded New York City subway car before opening fire during the Tuesday morning rush hour, is in police custody after a good Samaritan spotted him walking down a Manhattan sidewalk in broad daylight Wednesday.
In 30 hours between the attack and his arrest, investigators obtained and distributed images of the suspect in the hope that the public could help catch him. They searched a storage unit and apartment linked to him in Philadelphia, which he had spoken of in numerous videos posted to a now-disabled YouTube channel. And he may have taunted investigators by calling in the tip line to report himself, according to law enforcement sources, even as a security camera technician spotted him in the East Village and turned him in.
Why American Teens Are So Sad
The United States is experiencing an extreme teenage mental-health crisis. From 2009 to 2021, the share of American high-school students who say they feel “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26 percent to 44 percent, according to a new CDC study. This is the highest level of teenage sadness ever recorded.
The government survey of almost 8,000 high-school students, which was conducted in the first six months of 2021, found a great deal of variation in mental health among different groups. More than one in four girls reported that they had seriously contemplated attempting suicide during the pandemic, which was twice the rate of boys. Nearly half of LGBTQ teens said they had contemplated suicide during the pandemic, compared with 14 percent of their heterosexual peers. Sadness among white teens seems to be rising faster than among other groups.
What is Church? With Jen Hatmaker
1999: 70% of US adults said they belonged to a religious institution. 2020: It fell to 47%. Why are people leaving & where are they going? Is the church experience still relevant & what is its future?
Is Easter a Pagan Holiday?
Most Christians consider Easter to be a sacred and joyous celebration of Christ’s resurrection. But what about the claim that Easter and its accompanying traditions originated from a pagan spring celebration?
|Apr 15, 2022|
Why is it "Good Friday"?
One of my all-time favorite B.C. comic strips has two guys talking.
“I hate the term Good Friday,” says one.
“Why?” says the other guy.
“My Lord was hanged on a tree that day,” the first guy replies.
“But if you were going to be hanged on that day,” his friend says, “and He volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?”
“Good,” the first guy replies.
And there it is. Today marks the greatest act of love in the history of the universe: “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Today on very a special BreakPoint podcast, we air four of Chuck Colson’s classic BreakPoint commentaries reflecting on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the day that, as he said, tells “the truth about everything.”
|Apr 15, 2022|
Why Was Jesus Thirsty?
Today, on Good Friday, we remember, honor, and reflect on the God who entered the world of human suffering on our behalf.
Only John’s Gospel records these words. They were uttered by Jesus, we’re told, not as a guttural physical response, but with intention: “Knowing that all was now finished,” Jesus said, “I thirst” in order to fulfill the Scriptures (John 19:28). And yet, we ought not think these words are manufactured or insincere either.
Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had, on the last great day of the Feast of Tabernacles, “stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37). “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14).
And now, on the cross, He who said these words was Himself thirsty. Why are we told this? Why is the fact that Jesus thirsted important?
The world changed on All Saints Day in 1755. In Lisbon, Portugal, a 10-minute earthquake, followed by a tsunami and fires, killed an estimated 60,000 people, many crushed by collapsing churches where they had gathered to celebrate that Christian holy day.
According to moral philosopher Susan Neiman, for many Western intellectuals this incident of natural evil proved that God could no longer be trusted. The French philosopher Voltaire offered scathing words in a poem:
“Are you then sure,” he wrote, “the power which would create
And so in the modern era, trust moved from God to man. And it seemed to work: The next few centuries were marked by technological advances, scientific progress, and scholarly criticism of the Bible.
However, the peak of modernism was the 20th century, which revealed that trust in man was badly misplaced: the mechanized slaughter of millions in two world wars, Communism, Auschwitz, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. So where do we turn now if we can’t trust God or man?
The cross directly addresses this world of moral and natural evil: As the prophet Isaiah foretold, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
The cross proves that God is not aloof from human suffering as Voltaire had imagined, nor will human evil have the final say. Our God once thirsted, like we do. He bled, as we do, in this existence of fallen people and a fallen world. In Christ, God entered the world of human suffering, suffered Himself, defeated suffering and now has the scars to prove it.
Nearly two centuries after Voltaire, theologian Edward Shillito, offered a poem with a very different take on the suffering we experience. Here are two stanzas of that poem:
“If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
“The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak;
Today on Good Friday, we remember, we worship and proclaim this God, Jesus of the scars. To Him be all glory and praise forever and ever. Amen.
And before I leave you today, I want to invite you to come to BreakPoint.org for a free pdf that the Colson Center team has prepared on the seven last sayings of Christ from the cross. It’s a beautiful booklet, with reflections from our team and sacred art to help you reflect this Easter season on what Jesus suffered and said for our benefit. Again, it’s at BreakPoint.org.
|Apr 15, 2022|
Why Celebrate Maundy Thursday?
In the church calendar, the Thursday before Easter is called Maundy Thursday. It’s set aside to remember the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples.
The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word for command. At this supper. Jesus commanded His disciples to love and serve one another. And then he demonstrated what he meant by washing their feet. And let’s not forget: This was the supper remembering Passover, when the Jews remember God rescuing His people from Egypt, as described in Exodus. At this supper, Jesus revealed himself as the fulfillment of that event.
It’s His broken body and shed blood we are to remember. So is Christianity service or salvation? This divided the church in the 20th century and still does today. The answer is, it’s both. On the same night, Jesus commands us to remember that we need rescue by His broken body and spilled blood, and to show we have been rescued by loving and serving each other.
|Apr 14, 2022|
What's the Point of Maundy Thursday?
“Jesus would’ve baked the cake.”
“Christians hate LGBTQ people.”
“You’re on the wrong side of history”
“Why can’t you let them be ‘their true selves’?”
“That’s just your truth, not mine.”
And, perhaps most painful, especially when it comes from a friend or family member: “If you love me, you’d accept me for who I am.”
All of the slogans that leave Christians silent or shamed today are, at root, different ways of saying the same thing – that truth and love are incompatible. For people to tell the truth, especially when it comes to issues of sexuality and gender, is to be unloving and intolerant. And, to love someone is to affirm their choices.
There’s a uniquely “Christian” version of these slogans, too. Taking a moral stand, we are told, especially on questions so culturally controversial, is to distract from the Gospel. Instead, the Church must become more welcoming and avoid anything that makes people feel excluded from the Church. After all, we are told, isn’t the Gospel really about inclusivity?
Today, of all the days of Holy Week, directly confronts this mentality. Maundy Thursday is set aside on the Church calendar to remember the Last Supper. The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word for “mandate,” or “command.” At this first celebration of Communion, Jesus gave His disciples “a new command,” that they should love and serve each other. To demonstrate what He meant, He picked up a basin of water and a towel and washed their feet.
To fully understand His words and actions, recall that at this “Last Supper” and first Communion, Jesus and His disciples were obeying God’s original command, given to all Jews, to remember the Passover. God’s people were to never forget how they were rescued from slavery in Egypt. For Jesus to issue a “new” command was an audacious thing to do, especially given how significantly God’s original command stood in Israel’s history and identity as a people.
Jesus, however, went even further than merely adding instructions to an old celebration. Now, rather than remembering how the angel of death “passed over” those homes with lamb’s blood on their doorposts, they were to remember His broken body and His shed blood. Ultimately, the new command was to remember a new rescue, and how, through Christ’s death, death is not merely avoided but finally defeated.
Since at least the mid-20th century, the American Church has been divided over whether it should be primarily about proclaiming truth or about serving others. More recently, the volume in this debate has significantly increased. The Lord’s Supper and Jesus’ “new” command remind us that this is a false dichotomy, an unnecessary choice to make. Truth and love need never be separated and should never be separated. On the same night Jesus when commanded us to remember how His broken body and shed blood rescues us from sin (that’s the truth), He commanded us to demonstrate our new life by serving others (that’s love).
We need not choose between truth and love. In fact, we must not choose. They always go together, because they are both grounded in the same Source, or specifically, the same Person.
Jesus embodied truth and love, not only in the event we commemorate this day, but every event we remember this Holy Week. He is truth. He is love.
And, He has risen. Indeed.
|Apr 14, 2022|
What's "worldview", the historical Adam, and secularism in Europe - BreakPoint Q&A
John and Shane discuss what a worldview is and if it can shelter racist sentiments. John gives a full explanation of worldview, and explains how the concept is both helpful and challenged in this cultural moment.
Then Shane asks John to explain how we know Adam is a historical figure. A listener writes in because a pastor he knows presents Adam as an idea inside Scripture.
To close, John explains an interesting trend in the United States where in some cases we're outpacing Europe in progressive actions. A listener asks for some explanation on the culture trends that are creating fertile soil for secular ideas.
|Apr 13, 2022|
Does God Use Quantum Theory, Too?
Quantum theory boggles the mind.
As science journalist John Horgan writes, quantum theory is “science’s most precise, powerful theory of reality. It has predicted countless experiments, spawned countless applications. The trouble is physicists and philosophers disagree over what it means, that is, what it says about how the world works.”
At the core of the disagreement is what matter consists of at the quantum, or the smallest, level. At that size, matter’s properties change when we try to observe it, even—amazingly—because we try to observe it. That’s led to over a century of frustrated efforts to understand exactly what the fundamental “stuff” of reality is. It’s not that these tiny things aren’t real; it’s that we can’t figure out what they’re like.
At the same time, quantum theory has proven explanatory power.
A theological parallel is the Trinity. We can’t comprehend exactly how the Godhead functions, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.
As C.S. Lewis wrote back in 1952, if Christianity is true, it would be “at least as difficult as modern physics.”
And, we could add, just as rational.
|Apr 13, 2022|
Is Easter Pagan?
Most Christians consider Easter to be a sacred and joyous celebration of Christ’s resurrection. But what about the claim that Easter and its accompanying traditions originated from a pagan spring celebration?
In his treatise On the Reckoning of Time, eighth-century English monk The Venerable Bede proposed that the word Easter comes from the name of a pagan goddess: “Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated ‘Paschal month’, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month.” Modern pagans latched onto this idea, and further associated Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, with Ostara, a Germanic goddess of spring.
There are multiple problems with this theory, however, the Venerable Bede notwithstanding. For centuries, the Church fought to turn people from paganism. Therefore, it is unlikely that one of the most important Christian holidays would be named after a pagan goddess. More importantly, there is no evidence, aside from Bede, of a goddess named Eostre, nor is there evidence for a Germanic goddess named Ostara. The name Easter is only used in English, and its cognate Ostern in German. Everywhere else, even in Germanic languages such as Dutch, Norwegian, or Swedish, the word is derived from Pascha or Passover. And, since Resurrection Day was celebrated for hundreds of years before the Anglo-Saxons or Germans were converted, it is unconvincing that its name points to a pagan origin of the holiday. More likely, Bede was mistaken, either following a folk etymology or simply guessing.
In fact, where the day’s name does originate is a bit more complicated. New converts, after receiving intensive instruction, were baptized on Easter. Easter Sunday was known as Dominica in albis, or “the Sunday in white,” after the white robes worn by the catechumens. It may be that albis was misunderstood to be the plural of alba, or dawn, which was then translated into Old High German as eostarum. The words Easter and Ostern most likely are derived from that.
Another common argument is that Easter traditions such as rabbits and decorating eggs were pagan fertility symbols. Some modern pagans even claim, without evidence, that the worship of Ostara involved these very things. However, the connection of these items to Easter is much less elaborate and far more recent than any mythical pagan past.
During the Holy Week fast preceding Easter, Christians were prohibited from eating eggs. The chickens kept laying, however. Eggs laid during Holy Week were considered Holy Eggs. The practice of decorating them began in the thirteenth century, many centuries after Europe turned from paganism. The egg was seen as a symbol of the resurrection, with Christ bursting from the tomb in the same way the chick broke free from the egg.
As for rabbits, the timing of their association with Easter also eliminates the possibility that they are a holdover from pagan ideas. During the Middle Ages, rabbits were seen as innocent, good, and harmless, and as such were sometimes used as a symbol of Christ. However, they were not associated with Easter until the 17th century.
Another version of the “Easter has roots in paganism” idea associates the celebration of the resurrection with the ancient Sumerian myth of Tammuz and Ishtar. This myth, which is an explanation of the annual cycle of death in winter, tells of Tammuz and Ishtar spending half a year in the underworld, before a new birth when they are released for six months each spring. The myth bears little resemblance to resurrection story, especially the three days Jesus spent in the tomb and his once-and-for-all resurrection from the dead.
Even so, this pagan story and others like it may, in fact, be connected to Christianity, just not in the way we normally think. In fact, we may have it the wrong way around. As C. S. Lewis described in Mere Christianity:
And what did God do? …. He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men.
Lewis believed that these myths were hints that God gave to the pagan world of the person and work of Christ. In other words, the argument that myths are the source of the story of the Resurrection has it exactly backwards. The Resurrection actually happened, and is the Reality to which these myths have always pointed.
And because the Resurrection actually happened, it is certainly worthy of celebrationg... with Hallelujahs, raised glasses, and lots of joy.
|Apr 13, 2022|
Dr. Christopher Yuan and Prayer - BreakPoint Podcast
Dr. Christopher Yuan led our Time of Guided Prayer last week. He shared how the prayers of his parents, and hundreds of other believers, were used to lead him to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
For more information on our Time of Guided Prayer please visit: www.breakpoint.org/praywithme
|Apr 12, 2022|
Why Do Christians Get Kicked-off Twitter?
Recently, Twitter banned Christian satire site The Babylon Bee from their platform. Their offending tweet “awarded” Admiral Rachel Levine, the nation’s first transgender four-star admiral, with their satirical “Man of the Year Award.”
Clearly, big tech censorship is a problem. What should Christians do?
Christians, even in comedy, will have to continue to speak truths that people will not always want to hear … It’s too easy to look away, ignore controversy, and just focus on what are often called primary issues.
But truths about identity and sexuality are primary issues because they deal with the deepest questions of worldview: Who are we? And where does our design come from? Is humanity’s fundamental problem society’s lack of acceptance, or the wrongdoing we are each guilty of? Is the solution self-expression or self-surrender?
Wherever and however we can, Christians should do things differently, especially in the digital world. But we should never give in to the culture’s biggest demand: to stay silent on matters that matter the most.
|Apr 12, 2022|
How Do We Overcome Our Culture's Identity Crisis?
Just a small sampling of recent headlines reveals what a disorienting cultural moment this is: Man wins a women’s swimming championship, Supreme Court nominee refuses to define the word woman, Biden administration endorses gender reassignment surgery for minors. Back in 2020, theologian and historian Dr. Carl Trueman provided a full account of how something that was unthinkable a generation ago became unquestionable today. The dramatic shifts in how we think about gender and sexuality are among the fruits (not roots) of a much deeper shift in how we think about the human person.
Trueman’s book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self described the origin story of what has been called “the cultural identity crisis.” Centuries ago, thinkers, writers, and activists began to rethink, redefine, and over-sexualize the concept of self. By describing this process, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self felt like a long-overdue answer key for our cultural moment. Weighing in at over 400 pages, it is the definitive account of the thinkers, ideas, expressions, and consequences of the sexual revolution.
Thankfully, Dr. Trueman also heard the many pleas for a less academic approach to these essential concepts, one that works out the same essential analysis but for those Christians dealing with the everyday chaos of the culture he so aptly describes. The new and much slimmer version is called Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution.
In it, Trueman tells the story of the development and propagation of ideas that sparked a revolution in how Western people think about themselves and others. Eventually, these ideas transformed how we think about sex and the human body, about social institutions like the family and the role of the state, and about meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.
Along the way, Trueman introduces the thinkers whose ideas sparked this revolution: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, Wilhelm Reich, Germaine Greer, and others. Trueman connects how these thinkers built on one another’s ideas, and ultimately shaped the assumptions that now influence most Western people, even those who have never read these authors.
No assumption has been more influential than the idea that discovering and expressing our authentic, inner selves is the goal of life. Though it is as widely held today as any other belief in our modern world, it is not an assumption that most humans for most of history could have shared. A whole collection of forces has made this idea, which Trueman identifies as “expressive individualism,” thinkable. Now, it is the ideological foundation for so much of modern Western culture.
Another assumption that emerges in Trueman’s account is the idea that there is no such thing as a fixed human nature. According to this assumption, our faculties as a species, our moral ideals, and even our gendered bodies are like “playdough,” raw material to be molded according to our shifting desires and the whims of activists. Again, it is not hard to see where this leads.
Strange New World is more than a Reader’s Digest version of Rise and Triumph. It is a book to be carefully studied, especially by Christians committed to engaging this cultural moment with the truth and love of Christ. Increasingly, the battles over gender, sexuality, and selfhood are being fought in more areas of our lives: not just across political aisles or in courtrooms, but across dinner tables, classrooms, and social media feeds. Sometimes, those closest to us have radically different views of what human flourishing looks like, and these relationships can quickly become vulnerable, even volatile.
This month, the Colson Center is offering an opportunity for you to join us in studying the essential ideas in Carl Trueman’s new book Strange New World. For a gift of any amount, we will send you a copy of the book, a study guide Dr. Trueman has prepared to go along with the book, and a four-lesson digital course with Dr. Trueman and Colson Center theologian-in-residence Dr. Tim Padgett.
Come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary to give, and to be better equipped to understand the increasingly strange headlines and issues of our moment.
|Apr 12, 2022|
Transgender Proclamations Threaten Religious Freedom
The White House issued a series of documents for the “International Transgender Day of Visibility.” Even more than revealing a new progressive “baseline” when it comes to politics and gender, these documents foreshadow new and real threats to religious freedom.
For example, a statement from the Office of Population Affairs claimed that so-called gender-affirming treatment “improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender-diverse children and adolescents.” In this case, however, gender “affirming” means to encourage grade-school children to question their gender and, once they do, provide them with puberty blockers and hormone therapy to help them reject their bodies. In some cases, the document says, adolescents should even have access to so-called “gender-affirming surgery,” a procedure which removes or destroys perfectly healthy body parts and is irreversible.
In recent months, states such as Texas and Florida have taken legislative steps to prevent children from being subjected to such mental and physical harm. However, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), an entity of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a release proclaiming that “gender-affirming care” is neither “child maltreatment nor malpractice.” Around the same time, the Department of Justice sent a letter to all state attorneys general, saying that opposing HHS guidance is discrimination, is essentially an attack against “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, nonbinary, or otherwise gender-nonconforming” people, and that such actions “may be unconstitutional.” The Department of Justice!
To top it all off, President Joe Biden issued a video in which he spoke specifically to parents, insisting that “affirming [their] child’s identity is one of the most powerful things [they] can do to keep them safe and healthy.” In it, he not only jumped way past the line of state authority into parental authority, but he appealed to biblical language, misguidedly conflating the image of God with the confusion of gender dysphoria.
It’s not just that the government’s claims fail to match reality, or that their talking points are crafted from data with flawed research methodology, or even that their appeals to “settled science” are clearly premature. Transgender ideology falsely promises hope and instead brings harm to people who bear God’s image. When government forces and federal departments are co-opted to advance this ideology, religious freedom is placed in a precarious and fragile position.
Years ago, during the Obama administration, Chuck Colson began to notice how then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials began to use the language of “freedom to worship” instead of “freedom of religion.” As he said at the time, freedom to worship is a narrowing of religious freedom, away from public expression toward only private conviction. It is a major loss if religious freedom no longer includes the right to order one’s life around deeply held religious beliefs, but only protects the right to believe in one’s own heart, head, home, and house of worship.
These recent proclamations from the Biden administration assume that flawed understanding of religious conviction, while also establishing a new baseline for political enforcement of the sexual revolution. The statements and letters issued frame all opposition to the state’s view of sexual orientation and gender identity as intent, not only to discriminate, but to harm.
Procedurally, this is how federal departments like Health and Human Services now operate. Each new administration will spend a year and half dismantling the rules and regulations of the previous one, while planning ways to implement their new rules in ways that make them difficult to dismantle. The Obama administration did this, the Trump administration did this, and now the Biden administration is doing it. These recent documents, proclamations, and videos indicate that the rules coming out of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and others will be the most extreme yet.
Christians in this culture moment cannot abandon truths about the human person, sexuality, and religious freedom whenever a new administration roars. With clarity and courage, we must teach our kids, build our institutions, and take all necessary stands based on what is true about men and women, sex, marriage, and freedom.
Connecting what is eternally true to the challenges of the cultural moment is what the Colson Fellows program is all about. In May, over 700 leaders—of churches, homes, institutions, businesses, and communities—will be commissioned, having studied worldview and theology, having wrestled with the challenges of the cultural moment, and having planned how to implement what they’ve learned as Christians of influence. There are cohorts in over 60 cities and 28 churches across America, as well as online cohorts for others. Visit www.colsonfellows.org for more information.
|Apr 11, 2022|
Abortion, Population Control, and Eugenics
This summer the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Part of what the justices will have to consider is a legal principle called stare decisis, which means respecting precedent.
If the High Court wants to respect Roe, especially its deep ideological and legal flaws, it should take into account why Roe was decided the way it was.
Since then, the pro-abortion movement has insisted that abortion is a “women’s rights” issue. But in 1973, many Americans, especially elites, believed a now-debunked theory that the world was headed for catastrophe due to over-population. The Supreme Court justices themselves noted in the official majority opinion in Roe v. Wade that this concern, in part, motivated their decision to legalize abortion.
In the Dobbs case, the justices should consider that this part of the legal precedent is a debunked and harmful theory, and therefore should see abortion for what it truly is: an unconstitutional evil.
|Apr 10, 2022|
Transgender Secrets in Prison, The Post-Roe World, and Archeology Supports the Bible
John and Maria visit on a number of laws that are anticipating a gutting of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey from Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health that is before the Supreme Court.
Maria then explains a new law in Washington State to shroud abuses in transgender prisons from the public.
To close, John explains how unique it is that archeological findings continue to support the historical occurrences in the Bible. John points out that no other worldview that highlights a spiritual explanation for the world and humanity has as much archeological findings that support the guiding texts of the faith systems.
|Apr 08, 2022|
Keeping the Faith at Yale Law
Recently Kristen Waggoner, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, was invited to join a panel at Yale Law School. Ironically, during her talk about free speech, a mob of Yale students—future lawyers, mind you—tried to shut down the conversation, yelling obscenities and pounding on the classroom walls, all because ADF defends the reality of sexual difference.
Kristen wrote about the volatile situation at WORLD Opinions. An anonymous student gave her a note before the event with the words “keep the faith.” She did.
The best argument for free speech is speaking freely and truthfully, with respect for those who disagree. Shouting down opponents is the opposite. Kristen showed how important free speech really is by her boldness and calm in the face of a group temper tantrum. Her demeanor sent the message even louder than her words, and also represented Jesus before the Sanhedrin who also offered a quiet and confident disposition that spoke louder than words.
|Apr 08, 2022|
From the Field to the Supreme Court - Coach Kennedy Prays
Later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of high school football coach Joe Kennedy, who was fired from a Washington state public school for praying on the football field after games. He never forced anyone to join him, though many students and others often did, and he even agreed to pray silently by himself after the school raised concerns. That wasn’t enough for school officials who demanded that if he insisted on closing his eyes in silent prayer, he had to do it somewhere out of sight. Coach Kennedy recognized their demands as a violation of his right to free religious expression. He is represented by First Liberty Institute.
Coach Kennedy didn’t set out to be a culture warrior or religiusreligious freedom icon. Like Jack Phillips and fellow Washingtonian Barronelle Stutzman, Kennedy has been objectified and caricatured. Political movements do this to people whose stories are valuable for political purposes. But these are more than faces on T-shirts. They are real people who have made real sacrifices. Barronelle Stutzman lost her flower shop. Jack Phillips has been harassed for going on ten years now. Coach Kennedy just wanted to coach football.
How the rest of us should respond is by taking any opportunity we can to pray for him and his family. His story is one of many verifications that serious violations of religious freedom are actually happening.
Some of these violations are clearly motivated by religious animus. For example, in Finland, a former parliamentarian was charged with criminally inciting hatred against gay people for quoting the Book of Romans to explain her views on sexuality. Thankfully, last week a Finnish Court ruled strongly in favor of both logic and free expression, protecting this official’s speech.
Other times, religious liberty violations are more symptoms of bureaucratic inertia or ignorance than of animus. The first few letters that Coach Kennedy’s school sent asking him to stop praying aren’t the rantings of radical atheists. In fact, the officials said they knew Coach Kennedy was “well-intentioned,” and that he had never forced any students to participate in his prayer. Still, they asked him to stop, citing their fear that they’d be sued for a First Amendment violation. They didn’t hate Coach Kennedy. They just didn’t understand the First Amendment. They really didn’t understand the First Amendment, in fact, which led to increasingly strange demands.
In fact, religious organizations such as First Liberty Institute, say that’s not uncommon. The majority of religious freedom violations are resolved quickly and quietly by sending a letter to an offending school or company, simply informing them of the law and its protections.
But whenever ignorance of the law mixes with human stubbornness or, even worse, an animus toward Christianity and traditional Christian morality, institutions become increasingly intolerant of an individual’s religious freedom. Even if it’s still illegal, which it is, it becomes socially and politically easier. The state of Washington seems to be case-in-point.
Coach Kennedy’s clarity and courage gives the Supreme Court the opportunity to provide the clarity on religious freedom desperately needed in public schools and other institutions.
All Christians need that kind of clarity. Too many have believed a sort of “inevitability” narrative, about the restriction of religious freedom advanced by bureaucratic demands. In fact, religious freedom is affirmed by the Supreme Court more often than not. And offending institutions back down more often than you think.
Christians absolutely can stand on a football field and close our eyes in prayer, even if other people can see us. Christian educators can cite the Bible as a historical record or a masterclass in philosophy. Christian office workers can place a Bible on their desks. Christian school kids can host Bible studies after school. That’s why I’m grateful for organizations that defend these rights and for organizations like Gateways to Better Education who teach Christian educators that they have those rights.
The cartoon version of what’s going on is that Christians like Coach Kennedy throw a temper tantrum in order to force religion on others. The real story is that religious freedom advances both Gospel witness and the public good, is a first freedom among many others, and is defensible, even as public sentiment against Christianity grows more hostile. We must not believe that unchecked and increased religious censorship is inevitable. It isn’t, and it never should be.
|Apr 08, 2022|
Writing in Vox news, Luke Winkie describes a new and growing trend for health-conscious Americans: “microdosing.” It consists of introducing small amounts of marijuana, magic mushrooms, ketamine, or other formerly illicit substances into a daily routine. The goal is to stay on top of mental health issues.
“What the government once considered contraband is being claimed by wellness culture, one tiny dose at a time,” Winkie writes; “After all, the chaos of the last few years has left so many Americans with a singular priority: to be calmer and happier, by any means possible.”
While the health benefits of microdosing are inconclusive at best , what is becoming clear is how we’ve confused coping with curing. That should be a warning sign. A world that treats every problem as a medical one misses the point. A population that increasingly needs dubious chemicals just to feel “okay” is one that’s not OK.
One early adopter put it this way: “I felt a disconnect from my logical, ever-critical brain to my soul.” That feeling is real, even God-given. The answer she needs is one the Church is tasked with providing.
|Apr 07, 2022|
Suicide, Working in Public Schools, and Online Dating - BreakPoint Q&A
John and Shane field a question on Matthew Sleeth's book Hope Always. They also discuss a question about working in a public school, and John helps a dad who is challenged by the world of online dating.
|Apr 06, 2022|
Netflix's Love Is Blind Starts the Conversation
Reality TV has earned a reputation of being crazy … and Netflix’s dating show Love Is Blind is no exception. Over the course of 10 days, contestants on Love Is Blind talk, mingle, and then decide whether or not to get engaged—all without seeing each other first.
When Season 2 wrapped up in March, a common question was whether the “love is blind” angle delivered more substance than other shows, like The Bachelor. The consensus was don’t get your hopes up. As Vox news’ Alex Abad-Santos put it, “This season had it all: gaslighting, lying, cutting, sarcasm. … [The producers] seemingly pulled no punches.”
Reality TV has long made a consumer product of romance, but the fact that people tried to make a show with this angle says something. Most people want more than just sexual chemistry or even infatuation.
Real love isn’t blind—it sees truly both glories and flaws, and still seeks the other’s well-being regardless. That reality hasn’t changed—even if we try to use the worst possible medium to show it.
|Apr 06, 2022|
America’s Abortion Laws are Out of Touch with People, Science, and the International Community
New gruesome photos of babies aborted late-term in Washington, D.C, are a reminder of what abortion really is.
For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet. This is BreakPoint.
Last week, D.C. police collected the bodies of five babies that were reportedly aborted late-term. A pro-life activist claims the bodies were given to her by a “whistleblower” from an abortion clinic. The clinic conducts abortions until week 27, but experts contacted by Live Action News believe that one of the babies looks to be between 28 and 32 weeks.
I’ve seen the photos. They are absolutely horrific. The older baby is simply indistinguishable from a newborn.
With the Supreme Court soon to announce a decision in the Dobbs case, the abortion industry continues to dig in its heels. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is about the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that limits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The fact that such a law would be fought, especially at the highest legal levels, is evidence that America’s abortion laws are not where people, science, and the rest of the world are when it comes to abortion.
Of course, Christians have additional, sacred reasons for opposing abortion at any age in any circumstance. Even so, despite the alarmism presented in the media and from abortion advocates about any abortion restriction, Americans don’t want late-term abortions. A Wall Street Journal poll published last week found that a majority, although slim by 5%, were against abortion after 15 weeks. Another poll conducted last year by Associated Press and the NORC Center at the University of Chicago found that 65% of Americans don’t want abortion after the first trimester, ending after week 12 or 13. Additional research shows that millennials lean more pro-life than Gen X.
A major reason public opinion continues to trend toward more abortion restrictions instead of less is due to what we have learned from both natural and social science. Abortion is not the elimination of unformed masses but the killing of babies who, at 15 weeks, are developing eyebrows and eyelashes and can thumb suck and yawn. A survey conducted by pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List found that when people know the science they are more uncomfortable with abortions past 15 weeks.
For example, 55% of survey takers informed that at 15 weeks a pre-born baby feels pain were “more likely” in support of a 15-week limit. And 53% indicated “more likely” support for a 15-week limit when informed that “by 15 weeks an unborn child has a beating heart, can move around in the womb, can close his or her fingers, can start to make sucking motions and hiccup, and senses stimulation from outside the womb.” Also, 52% responded in “more likely” favor of a 15-week restriction when they learned that “abortion carries signific physical and psychological risks to the mother, and these risks increase with late abortions.”
This science appears to be convincing much of the rest of the world to restrict abortions closer to the first trimester. Even Chief Justice John Roberts in his exchange with abortion industry counsel during discussion on the Dobbs case noted that, except for China and North Korea, the U.S. seems to be out of step globally regarding the “viability standard.” Viability outside of the womb is often thought now to begin at 24 weeks, and some high-tech NICUs’ have made is as potentially low as 22 weeks of gestation. Sharing a standard with two of the nations known least for respecting life is not commendable. In fact, a report from the Charlotte Lozier Institute finds that the U.S. is only 1 of 7 nations that allow voluntary abortion past 20 weeks.
As Patrick Kelly of the Knights of Columbus wrote in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago, up to 4,000 pregnancy resource centers are available for expectant mothers in the United States. Despite the criticisms of the abortion industry, Charlotte Lozier Institute in its research of 2,700 centers found that 25% of their paid staff were medically trained. The institute has shared that “consistently high client satisfaction rates reported to pregnancy centers reflect that women, men, and youth who visit centers feel respected, valued, and well cared for.” When we advocate for life, we are not advocating for just the life of the baby but also for the life of the parents. They and the baby are both made in the image of God.
If you are interested in “Preparing for a Post-Roe Future,” consider attending a special evening event on Thursday, May 12, in Orlando, Florida, before our annual Wilberforce Weekend. This event features Tim Tebow, Stephanie Gray Connors of Love Unleashes Life, Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, Erin Hawley of Alliance Defending Freedom, and Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life. Join us to learn more about advocating for the pre-born, and continuing the struggle to abortion unthinkable.
|Apr 06, 2022|
Archeological Find Proves Bible True
At the end of March, the Associates for Biblical Research published a curse. While that may seem a strange thing to do, it wasn’t their curse. The curse was written in Hebrew, inscribed on a small leaden amulet (or tablet). It was found in 2019 among materials previously excavated on Israel’s Mt. Ebal.
It’s a short curse, just 40 letters in Hebrew and only 23 words when translated to English: “Cursed, cursed, cursed—cursed by the God YHW. You will die cursed. Cursed you will surely die. Cursed by YHW—cursed, cursed, cursed.”
As recorded near the end of Deuteronomy, God called the newly freed Israelites to assemble on Mt. Ebal and to declare there, to God and to one another, the promises of obedience and disobedience. Put another way, they were to announce the blessings and curses that came with their role as God’s people.
So, what we have in the discovery of this amulet is either a remarkable coincidence—a written curse left at the very location the Bible associates with curses—or yet another confirmation of something the Bible says happened. Even better, either of these options is the least important aspect of what makes this discovery interesting. The more important aspect is potentially earth-shattering for biblical studies.
According to a professor at the University of Haifa, this discovery is “the earliest Hebrew inscription found so far.” Scholars investigating the find place the date of the inscription to around 3,200 years ago. That puts it, biblically speaking, in the time of the Judges.
The common perception among biblical scholars, however, has been that the bulk of the Bible wasn’t written when it says it was. It’s long been assumed that the early, and supposedly primitive, Israelites simply lacked the skill to come up with the written grandeur of books like Genesis and Deuteronomy. This tiny curse reveals that the right people at the right time in the right place were writing about God just as the Bible describes. Despite the confidence of the scholarly consensus, this provides proof of the Israelites’ literary ability, hundreds of years before skeptics thought it possible.
And this kind of thing keeps happening. Four years ago, a then-recent discovery of an exploding meteor wiping out a series of cities at the south end of the Dead Sea corresponded to about the time the Bible says that Sodom and Gomorrah met their fiery fate. Three years ago, an unearthed signet-seal affirmed the identity of someone mentioned in the biblical text. Two years ago, new DNA studies confirmed aspects of the biblical description of the Philistines’ origin. How many times will the Bible have to be proved right before we accept it as true?
There’s a scene in the 1990 Shakespeare spoof Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead where Gary Oldman’s character starts flipping a coin. Again and again and again, it comes up heads, over 70 times in a row! At first, he finds it strange, even amusing. As heads keep coming up, his partner in crime, played by Tim Roth, starts contriving explanations as to why the laws of probability have been suspended. They must, he concludes, be encountering a moment where the ordinary rules just don’t apply. The repeated pattern of extraordinary events meant that something special was going on.
This is what the Bible claims for itself. The Bible doesn’t claim to be true in some watered-down “spiritual” sense. It claims to be the true record of God’s intervention into human affairs. It does not describe a faraway fairy world built on wishes and dreams, but this world, the real one. It is here that Lazarus and Jesus were truly dead but raised to life again. It is in this world that actual Israelites escaped from actual slavery in Egypt. If what Scripture claims to have happened didn’t, then we may as well “eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Its reality confirms its truth.
As the Apostle Peter claimed, Christianity is not rooted in “cleverly devised myths,” but in the real account of actions in the real world. Bits of lead and clay in the dirt will never ultimately prove the Bible’s claims to the satisfaction of all skeptics, but day after day, more evidence emerges that its claims should be taken seriously by not only archeologists and historians, but all of us. In Holy Scripture, something special is indeed going on.
|Apr 06, 2022|
Reading Russia's News
A quote attributed to Greek tragedian Aeschylus says that, “In war, truth is the first casualty.”
This is a particular relevant point when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As Jon Greenberg with PolitiFact reports, in Russia “it is now a crime—punishable by up to 15 years in prison—to publish ‘fake’ information about the all-out attack on Ukraine. The government has blocked Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and news websites aimed at Russians, such as Latvia-based Meduza. It is a crime for the average citizen to publicly post information that contradicts the government line.” The government line is that Russian forces are liberators not aggressors.
According to Greenberg , Russians who want the truth have to be adaptable, and take big risks in order to join small internet groups or use virtual private networks, called VPNs. They are only being lied to otherwise.
|Apr 05, 2022|
Maryland’s Bill Allowing for Infanticide
If a preborn baby isn’t a human person with rights, when does it become one? Some abortion advocates have drawn that line at the second trimester, while very few others point to fetal heartbeat or detectable brain activity. Harder-line activists reject any abortion restrictions and insist it’s okay to kill a baby at any point right up until or even during birth. Planned Parenthood’s official stance is still to the point of viability, when the baby’s experience of pain during abortion is excruciating.
What has never been clear is why abortion supporters would draw the line at birth. At least in medical, scientific, and philosophical terms, passing through the birth canal doesn’t change anything about a child. If a tiny human is considered a disposable inconvenience inside its mother, why would six inches and twenty minutes turn them into a person with rights? This is why some, like Princeton ethicist Peter Singer, propose that parents should be allowed to kill children well after birth, especially if they are born with a disability such as Down Syndrome.
Until now, this horrifying consistency of pro-abortion logic hasn’t made it into law. But as a Supreme Court decision looms in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, legislatures in progressive states are feverishly taking steps to safeguard so-called abortion “rights” in a potential post-Roe world. In at least one case, lawmakers finally followed the logic of abortion to its awful conclusion, and left room for post-birth infanticide.
Maryland Senate Bill 669 would amend the state’s fetal murder-manslaughter statute to prevent “any form of investigation or penalty” for a person “experiencing a miscarriage, perinatal death related to a failure to act, or stillbirth.” Notice that this is not in the context of a botched abortion. Abortionists have already been caught more than a few times in the past allowing babies born alive after abortions to die.
This law would prohibit investigations in any case where a baby died after birth as a result of neglect. Making matters worse, the term “perinatal” (which just means “newborn”) is not clearly defined. Typically, as Wesley J. Smith points out at National Review, perinatal refers to baby’s first month after birth, so this bill “effectively decriminalizes death by neglect for the first 28 days of life.” “In other words,” explained the American Center for Law and Justice, “a baby born alive and well could be abandoned and left to starve or freeze to death, and nothing could be done to punish those who participated in that cruel death.”
Even worse, the Maryland bill authorizes those who are investigated for fatally neglecting an infant to sue law enforcement for civil damages. And, since even investigations are not allowed, if this bill became law, any Maryland residents could allow any newborn child to die without facing questions or consequences.
Such deadly logic won’t stop at passive infanticide, either. “Based on the current advocacy trajectory,” writes Wesley J. Smith, “such proposals will eventually extend to permitting active infanticide, which is already promoted as legitimate morally by many in mainstream bioethics, and which currently is permitted in the Netherlands upon terminally ill babies and those born with serious disabilities.”
If this bill passes, and other states attempting to sure up abortion rights follow, Americans would be openly participating in a practice that has been widely condemned in the West since the Christianization of the Roman Empire. We should all pray this measure doesn’t pass, and every citizen in Maryland of should make sure state lawmakers know what you think about it.
The rest of us should take this as a wake-up call, the first skirmish in the post-Roe fight for the sanctity of life. The Supreme Court will not end abortion. Instead, a new battle, fought state by state and life by life, will be before us. This Maryland bill is just a taste of how high the stakes in that fight will be.
|Apr 05, 2022|
Defining Religious Freedom with John Stonestreet
John Stonestreet explains the design of religious freedom, highlighting how it is the first freedom. John explains how this freedom is under attack in this cultural moment, and how Christians can respond to the increasing pressure to relinquish this right.
|Apr 05, 2022|
NCAA Fails Women Despite Boasting During Final Four
Thirteen years ago, satire news site The Onion aired a fake sports talk show announcing that March Madness would now allow four-thousand college basketball teams to compete. “All schools deserve to compete,” said the fake announcers: “This will take March Madness all the way into June!”
During this year’s March Madness tournament, the NCAA, the governing body of collegiate athletics, has been running not-fake commercials openly patting themselves on the back for all the opportunities created for women. One ad celebrated the NCAA’s embrace of Title IX, which gave female athletes the opportunity to compete in female-only sports leagues, along with greater access to scholarships and education. The self-congratulations rings a bit hollow since, just two weeks ago, the NCAA awarded a women’s swimming championship to a man.
The NCAA faces a real choice: Either acknowledge the real, consequential differences between men and women and why they are inherently relevant to physical competition, or become the organizing body that takes opportunities from women. If they choose the latter, and become a satire of themselves, the women will be the ones who suffer.
|Apr 04, 2022|
Population Control Led to Abortion
Fifty years ago last week, a government report lived up to the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
On March 27, 1972, a document known to history as the “Rockefeller Commission on Population Growth and the American Future,” called for zero population growth in America as a means to save the world. While we have no reason to doubt that those behind the document had “good intentions,” history has proven this paper a high mark of state-sponsored hubris. Not only did its proposed solutions make things worse instead of better, but it set a dark precedent for terrible crimes against humanity.
To “stabilize” America’s population, the paper called for increased regulation of immigration and, most notably given the Roe v. Wade decision just 10 months later, the legalization of and even encouraging of abortion. Still, as terrible as the consequences of the Rockefeller Commission report have been, they were the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the value and nature of human beings. It assumed, as many do today, that human beings are a net loss to the global future, that, on the whole, we take more than we give to the world.
In the mid- to late 20th century, many elites grew concerned about the growing world population. Though it had remained in the hundreds of millions for thousands of years, the human population, with the rise of new technologies and social structures, topped a billion for the first time around 1800. Another billion was added by the early 1900s. By the time this report was written, the human population was approaching 4 billion.
Because the commission assumed that every new person meant another mouth to feed from a limited supply of global food, they also assumed that more people posed a problem that must be mitigated. The Rockefeller Commission didn’t so much find a solution to a real problem, as it created a solution to an already-assumed problem. To the chagrin of its devoted supporters even today, the Commission’s recommendations were not as widely implemented as many would have liked. What does remain from the report, however, is a mindset that validated both abortion and the assumption of overpopulation, even after the predictions of global disaster turned out to be as fictional as a summer blockbuster.
In fact, since the report’s catastrophic predictions, the world population has more than doubled, from 3.8 billion people in 1972 to an estimated 7.9 billion today. Yet, instead of mass starvations and increased conflicts over resources, crop yields have increased dramatically, more than keeping pace with the mouths to feed.
Humans simply didn’t prove to be the virus so many thought they were. Rather, they were proved to be creators of new resources and innovative solutions, which makes sense if they really were made to be co-creators by the One who created all things. Created to tend the Garden of this world, humans are not merely consumers. We are producers, tasked with cultivating what was made into more than it presently is.
It’d be nice if we could simply look back and chuckle at the folly of the ivory tower crowd and their bad ideas. But, as we often say, ideas have consequences; bad ideas have victims. The sort of thinking expressed in the Rockefeller Report had very real victims— tens of millions, in fact.
In the last 50 years, over 60 million Americans have been killed through abortion. In China, where the myth of the population bomb led to the horrific one child policy, some 300 million babies were slaughtered, many against the will of their mothers. Instead of saving the planet, these vain ideas of population control have left the nations of the world with a birth dearth. Russia, China, and Japan are notably struggling to maintain their numbers even as their older population phases out of the workforce.
We are fast approaching another 50th anniversary, which I hope and pray will be an empty one. Next January is the 50-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the miscarriage of justice that usurped state laws across the country and legally grounded abortion’s malign presence in America. With the Dobbs case being decided in a matter of weeks in the U.S. Supreme Court, next January’s anniversary could arrive with Roe a dead letter.
To prepare for the next phase of fighting this evil mindset and practice that plagues our nation, the Colson Center is hosting an event on Thursday evening, May 12, in Orlando, Florida. “Preparing for a Post-Roe Future” will be held the evening before our annual Wilberforce Weekend Conference and will feature Tim Tebow, Stephanie Gray Connors of Love Unleashes Life, Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, Erin Hawley of Alliance Defending Freedom, and Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life.
Please join us as we work to bring better ideas to the world around us.
|Apr 04, 2022|
BreakPoint This Week: Toxic Masculinity & Transgender Surgeries
John and Maria discuss the challenge in culture to toxic masculinity. This week the nation reacted to displays by Will Smith and Volodymyr Zelensky. John and Maria consider a recent commentary by comedian Bill Maher who challenges the view we have of masculinity and how we value it. In this vein, Maria asks John to comment on a recent HHS announcement to push so-called "gender affirming" surgeries on minors. John references a commentary by Maria on BreakPoint that discusses the role of women, and how the church has a unique place to affirm God's design.
Maria then asks John to comment on a recent BreakPoint where John discussed "The Declaration on a New American Future." The declaration opposes a movement in the 1970s under the banner of the Rockefeller Commission on Population Growth that looked at abortion as population management.
-- Recommendations --
-- In-Show Mentions --
Will Smith apologizes for slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, calling it "unacceptable and inexcusable"
Will Smith has apologized for slapping comedian Chris Rock in the face during the Oscars on Sunday. Smith said his "behavior at last night's Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable" in a Monday night Instagram post.
ZELENSKY PROVES A LITTLE MASCULINITY IS GOOD & SEXY - ACCORDING TO BILL MAHER
Bill Maher laced into liberals who attack men for having supposed "toxic masculinity." The "Real Time with Bill Maher" host used Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and men taking up arms to defend Ukraine from the Russian invasion as examples of how masculinity can be anything but toxic.
NCAA Kicks-off March Madness Highlighting Title IX at 50th Finals
The NCAA began its Title IX at 50 celebration during the 2022 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis. The celebration commemorates the anniversary of the landmark federal law signed in 1972 that prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
What are Women For?
Our culture has long struggled with the realities of sexual difference, or “gender.” While first- and second-wave feminism generally asserted that women were equal in value to men, transgenderism now asserts that women are interchangeable with men. Notice the underlying assumption: in order for men and women to have equal value, they have to be the same thing.
The “Declaration on a New American Future” Challenges Abortion as a “Population Solution”
The Rockefeller Commission report “reflected the temper of the times,” especially the kind of catastrophic alarmism of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, a book full of predictions and arguments that have since been proven wrong. And, in the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote that factors such as “population growth, pollution, poverty, and racial overtones” were considerations in the decision that imposed legalized abortion on America.
Biden administration endorses transgender youth sex-change operations, 'top surgery,' hormone therapy
President Biden's administration has released a series of documents encouraging gender-reassignment surgery and hormone treatments for minors.
The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Population Affairs released a document Thursday titled "Gender Affirming Care and Young People." The same day, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Child Traumatic Stress Network – another subset of the HHS – released a parallel document titled, "Gender-Affirming Care Is Trauma-Informed Care."
Gender-Affirming Care Is Trauma-Informed Care
Major medical associations recognize gender-affirming care as the standard of care for transgender,gender diverse, and intersex (TGI) youth. Gender-affirming care broadly refers to creating an environment that facilitates youth to move through the world safely as the gender they know themselves to be.
Gender-Affirming Care and Young People
Research demonstrates that gender-affirming care improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender diverse children and adolescents.1 Because gender-affirming care encompasses many facets of healthcare needs and support, it has been shown to increase positive outcomes for transgender and nonbinary children and adolescents.
Gender-affirming care is patient-centered and treats individuals holistically, aligning their outward, physical traits with their gender Identity.
Gender diverse adolescents, in particular, face significant health disparities compared to their cisgender peers. Transgender and gender nonbinary adolescents are at increased risk for mental health issues, substance use, and suicide
|Apr 01, 2022|
Reasons Revealed to Why Muslims Consider Christ in Ramadan
Tomorrow is the start of Ramadan, a month of prayer and fasting for Muslims worldwide. It’s also a good month for Christians to pray for Muslims to find Christ. During this intense time for Muslims, not only are they are seeking atonement for their sins, they are actively seeking to know God.
Christianity Today cites five reasons Muslims are attracted to Christ: “the lifestyle of Christians,” “the power of God in answered prayers and healing,” “dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they [have] experienced,” “the spiritual truth in the Bible,” and “biblical teachings about the love of God.”
In recent years, scores of reports from the Muslim world testify how God has actively used dreams, visions, missionaries, and others to draw Muslims to Himself. We can pray for open hearts and additional opportunities. For 29 years now, the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World has guided Christians in their prayers for Muslims around the world. It’s also a great way to learn about Islam and teach kids how Jesus is what Muslims are really looking for.
|Apr 01, 2022|
The Movement of God During Ramadan
In 1996, American political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote a book called The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. In it, he proposed a remarkable thesis, that while in the past, especially in the 20th century, global conflicts had been primarily between nations, countries, and kingdoms, in the future, especially in the 21st century, global conflicts would increasingly be not between nation-states but between cultures, between civilizations.
These cultural fault lines, as he called them, sometimes existed within a country or existed across regions. It didn’t take very long into the 21st century to prove his theory correct. In fact, in The Clash of Civilizations, Huntington went on to predict that the hottest of these conflicts would be between religious and non-religious cultures, specifically, that what you might call the hottest of the hot would be between Islam and the West. In the time since 9/11, his predictions have largely played out.
But there has been another story dealing with Islam that has played out at almost the same time. In fact, just over the last three decades or so, we have seen a remarkable number of Muslims coming to Christ. Individuals from the Islamic world are reporting conversions—sometimes through dreams, sometimes through missions, sometimes through other means. Regardless of the manner, it has been what one missiologist called a remarkable movement of the Holy Spirit.
The reports are so numerous, in fact, that a foundation recruited a friend of mine, a scholar named Dr. David Garrison, to investigate. They sent him for several months to visit various corners of the Muslim world and to figure out where these stories were coming from. They wanted to know how legitimate these reports were. Garrison put together his findings in a book called A Wind in the House of Islam.
You see, in the whole history of the Islamic faith, there have been few reports of large movements of Muslims becoming Christians—very few in fact. About 80 percent of all such movements in history have taken place in just the last three decades.
There’s something else that’s taken place over the last three decades: Each and every year for the last 29 years, during the season of Ramadan, the most holy period for the Islamic calendar, a group of Christians led by a prayer guide have together prayed for Christ to draw Muslims to Himself. Ramadan is a very good time to keep our Muslim neighbors and Muslims around the world in prayer.
Since 1993 to be precise, the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World prayer guide has been equipping Christians to pray for Muslims during this season of Ramadan. It is an international movement that calls on “the church to make a deliberate but respectful effort to learn about, to pray for, and to reach out to our Muslim neighbors.” There is even a 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World prayer guide for kids which I have used with my own family.
The 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World is available both in a print booklet and as a digital download. You can find it by going to 30DaysPrayer.com, or come to BreakPoint.org, and we’ll tell you how to pick up a copy.
The Book of James tells us that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” This has been a movement of prayer of hundreds of thousands of Christians for decades. Let’s be a part of it.
|Apr 01, 2022|
New Research Shows That Cells Need a Designer
According to National Geographic, “More than 80 percent of the ocean has never been mapped, explored, or even seen by humans.” That’s pretty incredible, given how much the ocean matters to our lives. And new research is showing us a much smaller frontier with just as much mystery: the cell.
As Yasemin Saplakoglu recently described in Quanta Magazine, scientists at the University of Illinois have embarked on an ambitious project to map, using computers, a complete simulation of a “minimal cell.” At 493 genes, the lab-made cell they’re mapping contains far fewer genes than even the simplest natural organism. But the challenge is still proving to be steep.
“For example,” writes Saplakoglu, “no one knows what 94 of those genes do except that the cell dies without them.” One of the researchers suggests there may be “living tasks or functions essential for life that science is oblivious to.”
That’s an understatement. The more we learn, the more we should be filled with awe. After all, as Casey Luskin with Evolution News recently argued, high information structures like these have only one known source: intelligence with a Designer behind it.
|Mar 31, 2022|