REPAIRING THE AMERICANIZED CHURCH

May 14, 2011, Winnipeg, Canada. We’d just stepped off the plane, collected our baggage, and loaded up in the two Chevy Astro vans Johnnie and Alex drove over from Camp and settled in for the five-hour trip back. As our van pulled away from the curb, we heard a horrible scraping sound. SKRRRRRR!

“Oh yeah, that’s just the brakes, eh?” said driver Alex, “Finny the fish-whisperer,” Finlayson. “It quiets down once we get going a bit, eh.”

Every time Alex touched the brakes, SKRRRRRRRR! I used to be a mechanic. It was like hearing fingernails grate across a chalkboard.

The problem was: The brakes were Canadianized.

The Canadian environment is tough on cars. Salt Corrosion destroys metal. Brake rotors disintegrate. Brake pads get stuck in the slides. Calipers stick and won’t release. Preventive maintenance is essential.

Something similar happens to churches that go too long without proper maintenance. They become Americanized. And just like that van needed an annual inspection and maintenance on its brakes; churches need a yearly inspection. We need to examine ourselves and make repairs. The founders of our Church built in our annual membership renewal so that we would have to take a look at ourselves as a church, see where we might be corroded and hanging up, where we’ve become Americanized, and make some repairs.

Americanized churches have three characteristics.

The Americanized Church is About the Individual

The Church is ‘of the individual, by the individual and for the individual’ to paraphrase Mr. Lincoln. The feelings, rights, and preferences of the individual supersede every other value. Forget sound doctrine. Forget obedience. Every spiritual value is weighed against personal peace and prosperity. If it adds to my sense of self and well-being, I embrace it. If it challenges my comfort zone or, God forbid, calls me to change my thinking and behavior, I reject it.

But that kind of church “doesn’t work,” there’s a scraping sound when it’s focused on the individual.

The Americanized Church is Optional

We show up when we feel like it. We participate when it’s convenient. We give out of our surplus. We serve until it no longer feels good. It’s optional.

Christ’s Church is his body, His physical presence on planet earth.[1]

Sometimes people say to me, “I can’t feel God in my life.” And I say, “What am I, chopped liver?”

Jesus works through the Church, his body, to meet each other’s needs. He nurtures us, cares for us, gifts us, cleanses us, and matures us for his purposes. He appointed us to do good works planned before the Church began.[2] But it doesn’t work that way if it is optional.

The Americanized Church is Cliquish

It has in groups and out groups, super-spiritual groups, and not so spiritual groups. It breaks down into socio-economic layers.

Former Christianity Today Editor, Andy Crouch, related a conversation with a 25-year-old pastor who “appeared to drive up the average hairstyling bill in the room by several dollars. ‘Yeah,’ he says, ‘we’re starting a church for cool people.’”

Cool people?

“Yeah, you know, people like us.” (He doesn’t mean himself and me; he means himself and his friends—all of whom do indeed exude a level of coolness that I could only dream about.) I fleetingly envision spot checks at the door—Old Navy allowed only on probation, white sneakers politely referred to the contemporary service down the street—but decide that coolness is probably self-enforcing.”

“Later in the weekend, after one of my presentations, he admiringly says—I swear this is an accurate quote—’You know, dude, you may not have cool hair, but you have some serious clue.’ (What a relief—the cool kids like me!).”[3]

Cliques have the right to decide who is in and who is out, who gets included, and who is excluded. SKRRRRR! But here’s the fix:

Commit to the growth of others.[4] We ask, “What’s it doing for me? If it isn’t meeting my need, I’m not going to go.” Instead – with balance – we should evaluate: will my presence be an encouragement to a weaker brother or sister? Will my service edify someone other than me?

Church membership is a commitment to do all these things and more in a community of others who are also doing them. That preventive maintenance will keep any church working well for a long time to come.


[1] Eph. 1:22-23.

[2] Eph. 2:10

[3] CT Mag. March 2002 Andy Crouch

[4] Rom. 15:1-2

FIVE REASONS TO CANCEL COHABITATION

FIVE REASONS TO CANCEL COHABITATION

Breakpoint, Christianity Today, and the Institute for Family Studies recently reported on a new Pew Research survey indicating that American evangelicals embrace premarital sex and cohabitation in increasing numbers. Writing for IFS, David J. Ayers says, “It is stunning that this has quietly come to pass among adherents to a form of Christianity that emphasizes radical obedience to an inerrant Bible, forbids all sex outside marriage, and emphasizes being distinct from “the world.”

You can read the research using the links above. But more is at stake than who is shacking up and who is not. As Ayers mentions, the first issue for Christians is obedience to Christ.  We want that to be enough, but experience tells us that it helps to have other reasons to support our choices. As a marriage counselor for 25 years, I can tell you that the most potent reasons have to do with negative relationship dynamics set in motion with premarital sex and cohabitation.

In his 2011 book, The Ring Makes All the Difference, Glenn Stanton cites five reasons everyone, not just Christians, should consider.

  1. Marriage matters, not just because it is preceded by a wedding that costs tens of thousands of dollars, but because the nature of the relationship itself makes a difference in ways you probably never imagined. Bottom line: A solemn vow made before a supportive community is a surer foundation than economic convenience and sexual passion any day.
  1. Even if (cohabiting) couples consider themselves essentially “married,” they know that they are freer to exit the relationship at any time without a marriage license. This lack of security in the mind of each partner affects how they deal with each other before the wedding and unconsciously carries over later.
  1. Marriage involves things the cohabiting couple–or at least one of them–would rather not address. Financial values, child-rearing values, and relational exclusivity—that part about “forsaking all others”—are among them.
  1. People with cohabiting experience who marry have a 50 to 80 percent higher likelihood of divorcing than married couples who never cohabited. Those conclusions are disputed but dig down in the data, and you will find enough reason to push pause on cohabitation.  
  1. All of those findings are important, but the one that stood out most, because it is the one that I deal with most often in counseling, is that cohabitation–even with someone you eventually wed– sets up unhealthy relationship patterns that carry over into the marriage. Cohabitors have fewer and weaker conflict resolution skills. They are less likely to be supportive and self-sacrificing. Most notably, “the lack of relational clarity is likely to foster more controlling and manipulative interactions to try to keep the relationship together and get the partner to do what the other desires. As a result, cohabitors are much more likely to report a sense of relational instability than their married peers.”[1]

No wonder the Apostle Paul warned us about wronging each other in these matters.

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. [2]


[1] Glenn T. Stanton’s The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Th 4:2–8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

RIGHTEOUSNESS TESTS Additions that Subtract and Divide

RIGHTEOUSNESS TESTS Additions that Subtract and Divide

A dear friend from a nearby town visited and shared a story all too common among evangelicals. Less than three years into his tenure and without warning, his new pastor imposed a righteousness test on the congregation. If the church refused to follow his lead, he would resign.

Few things surprise me after thirty years in ministry, but some just burn my biscuits. This is one of them.

What’s a righteousness test? Righteousness tests are additions that pastors, elders, and other church people make to the New Testament requirements for church membership, personal holiness, or spirituality. Like the legalists that pestered Paul’s church plants from Cyprus to Corinth, Christians who impose these tests subtract from the finished work of Christ on the Cross and divide the Church.

The Church at Galatia was a good example. Even though the first Church council had ruled to the contrary, certain Jewish believers were trying to impose circumcision on Gentile believers as a requirement for salvation.[1]

Self-designated “super-spirituals” in Corinth followed a similar pattern. Evidence of the supernatural spiritual gifts like prophecy, speaking in tongues, and words of knowledge weren’t confused with salvation. Still, they were considered signs of who was really spiritual and who wasn’t.[2]

We conservative evangelicals are no better. Consider a few of the righteousness tests we have imposed on each other over the past thirty years.

If you don’t vote Republican, you cannot be a Christian. If you don’t speak in tongues, you aren’t as spiritual as I am. If you weren’t baptized by immersion, you probably aren’t saved. If you aren’t a five-point Calvinist, you are probably a heretic. If you are a five-point Calvinist, you are probably a heretic. If you don’t participate in the latest program outlined in (insert famous Christian author here)’s book, you are a second-class church member. If you don’t believe in the pre-wrath rapture of the Church, your salvation is suspect. If you didn’t walk the aisle and pray the sinner’s prayer with visible tears of repentance, you probably aren’t saved. If you aren’t a 24-hour day, six-day creationist, you have denied the gospel. If you don’t homeschool your kids, you are worldly. The list is endless.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Simply put, we are so insecure that we need something to make us feel superior to others. Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 4:6-7.

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? [3]

The pastor I mentioned above submitted his resignation last week. The church split and my friend is grieving. My guess is, so is God.

I am not encouraging sinful self-indulgence, doctrinal ambiguity, or compromise with our post-Christian culture. But I do appeal to all evangelicals: stop imposing righteousness tests on each other. We have more important things to do and more significant problems to solve.

For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,

‘every knee will bow before me;

every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” z

12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.[4]


[1] See Acts 15:1-29.

[2] See 1 Corinthians 2 – 4

[3] The New International Version. (2011). (1 Co 4:6–7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 14:7–13). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

WHO ARE YOU? Identity is Destiny

WHO ARE YOU? Identity is Destiny

The question stumped me. I was in my early thirties, wrestling with deep disappointments, anxieties, and frustrations. Phil was a retired pastor and WWII vet who had become my mentor. Ever so gently, he asked again, “Who are you?”

My mind flashed back to some things my father had said to me in anger, to memories of singing in church and musicals, to adventures with friends, and failures as well. But did those things define me?

“I guess I don’t know,” I said.

The answer I found over the next couple of years changed my life for the better, and it can change yours too.

Some of us look in the mirror and see only disappointment. Some of us see failures or victims of childhood abuse or at least parental malpractice. Some of us see the unlovely and unloved. But that is not what God sees. Consider what scripture says about us when we become believers.

  • Col. 2:13 – You have been “made alive with Christ” and are no longer “dead in trespasses and sins.”
  • Col. 3:1 – You have been “raised with Christ,” and your life is now “hidden with Christ in God.”
  • Heb. 10: 10 – You have been “made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Christ once for all.” 
  • Rom. 5:1 – You have been justified – completely forgiven and made righteous in the sight of God. (See also 5:19)
  • Rom. 8:1 – You are free forever from condemnation.
  • 1 Cor. 1:30 – You have been placed into Christ by God’s doing.
  • 1 Cor. 6: 19-20 – You have been bought with a price; You are not your own; You belong to God.
  • 1 Thess. 1:4 & Jude 1:1 – You are loved by God, chosen by him, and called by him.

In Christ, you are a righteous, complete, accepted, beloved, and chosen person. You may not feel like it all the time or act like it. And it is not an excuse to indulge in sin.[1] But this is what God says is true of you and every believer.  This is what Christ accomplished for us. Christ exchanged your life with his. Christ secured your future in him. We were taken out of Adam’s lineage, adopted as God’s children, and given the inheritance of Christ.

But some of us have a hard time accepting that. We see ourselves as something less than God sees us, something inferior. That stifles our development because what we believe about ourselves determines our destiny.

An example.

Tom Friends of The New York Times asked Coach Jimmy Johnson what he told his players before leading the Dallas Cowboys onto the field for the 1993 Super Bowl.

“I told them that if I laid a two-by-four across the floor, everybody there would walk across it and not fall because our focus would be on walking the length of that board. But if I put that same board ten stories high between two buildings, only a few would make it because the focus would be on falling.”

Johnson told his players not to focus on the crowd, the media, or the possibility of falling, but to focus on each play of the game as if it were a good practice session. The Cowboys won the game 52-7.[1]

What kind of people will we be if we see ourselves as unholy, unlovable, unworthy, and incompetent: depressed, insecure, resentful, and angry, right? Why? Because life for a defeated Christian feels like a script you can’t remember in a play where you don’t belong, a set of expectations that are impossible to meet. It feels like crossing a two-by-four ten stories high. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead to leave us feeling like that!

Depressed people don’t dream dreams. Insecure people won’t take risks. Angry people can’t build loving relationships.

But what happens when we believe in our worth, value, competence, and goodness? We become world changers. We invest ourselves in life, in dreams that change things, and make life better for everybody.

What does God think of you? Is he proud of you? Does he love you? Who are you?


[1] See Romans 6.

 

WHO’S IN & WHO’S OUT?

WHO’S IN & WHO’S OUT?

In his novel, A Painted House, John Grisham describes a Sunday school teacher eulogizing a mean character named Jerry Sisco, who had been killed the night before in a back alley fight after he picked on one person too many.

In the words of the little boy who had seen the fight with his friend Dewayne: “She made Jerry sound like a Christian and an innocent victim. I glanced at Dewayne, who had one eye on me. There was something odd about this. As Baptists, we’d been taught from the cradle that the only way you made it to heaven was by believing in Jesus and trying to follow his example in living a clean and moral Christian life… And anyone who did not accept Jesus and live a Christian life simply went to hell. That’s where Jerry Sisco was, and we all knew it.”

Did you grow up believing that? I did.  But growing up with a belief is not the same as coming to grips with it in adulthood. Is what we learned as children valid? Is Jesus himself as categorical and exclusive as all that? 

Many years ago, I sat across the table from a man who almost lost his faith over this issue. He had friends – people he loved and respected – who had a much broader view of things. They told him he was very narrow-minded to believe that Jesus was the only way.  Would they be lost, damned for all eternity, if they refused to believe like the boys in Grisham’s novel?

We don’t have to wonder. Jesus made it crystal clear in Matthew 7:21-27.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” [1]

He followed that up with an even more exclusive statement in John’s gospel:

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[2]

Membership in the kingdom does not depend on what we say, how religious we are, or how moral we are. Membership belongs to those who believe and from that belief obey. Membership in the kingdom is not about creeds or images. It is about heart and action. Membership does not depend on what we think of Jesus.  Membership in the Kingdom of God and where we go when we die depends on what Jesus thinks of us.

What does he think of you?


[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 7:21–27). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] John 14:6 NIV

GOOD FRIDAY AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

GOOD FRIDAY AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

One of the great questions of the skeptic, the greatest objection to Christianity as we know it is: How can a good God let bad things happen to good people? How does Christianity deal with that question?

The standard answers run something like this:
 He loves us but he isn’t powerful enough to do anything about it.
 He’s powerful enough to do something but he really doesn’t love us.
 He’s not there.

But when we look at Psalm 22 and see that David prophesied all of it 1000 years before Christ quoted it from the Cross, it opens up an answer that we hadn’t considered:

God is doing something to overcome evil that we never would have dreamed.
• He is wrestling evil to the death in the body of the king of goodness.
• He is swallowing all injustice in the suffering of the just one.
• He is putting out the fire of death in the unquenchable life of the Living One.
• He is breaking the power of sin and the curse by nailing it to the Cross of the sinless one.

What did God do with the problem of evil? He absorbed it all in the person of his son who sang the great question out of the depth of his soul while nailed to a cross.

CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME FROM COVID-19?

CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME FROM COVID-19?

A visionary leader gets betrayed and kicked out of his spiritual community. He is deeply hurt and confused. He cannot see a way forward. Can anything good come out of that?

A decorated war veteran gets court-martialed, ruined by the Army and the country he seeks to serve, simply for telling the truth. Can anything good come out of that?

The world succumbs to a global pandemic, the likes of which hasn’t happened in a hundred years. Can anything good come out of that?

Several conversations, books, and documentaries posed the same question: A disaster happens. Maybe it is personal. Perhaps it is public. It could be global, but it happens, and all that people in the middle of it can see is the downside.

I’m learning that if we watch and wait, if we trust God and keep a positive attitude, there can be an upside. I’m looking for that with Covid-19, and here’s what I’ve found.

Remarkable advances have happened in medical technology and vaccine development. Scientists and pharmaceutical companies produced vaccines in record time with new methodologies. Global trade almost guarantees that more viruses, perhaps much worse, are coming. We now have the medical science to combat them.

Many people heard the phrase “supply chain” for the first time in 2020. Everyone in the logistics business is figuring out how to do it better. We also have a deeper appreciation for truck drivers, grocery store clerks, and toilet paper!

Forced isolation created powerful opportunities for personal reflection on what matters. Too many of us go thoughtlessly through life. Covid-19 forced us to slow down and consider how we spend our time.

Fear of death caused all to pause momentarily to think about our eternity. That is never a bad thing.

We appreciate and support the performing arts. Great music performed by gifted artists is a uniquely uplifting human experience. I plan to attend more concerts.  

Public worship. Nothing can duplicate the experience of the gathered church in worship. I can’t wait till we can all be together again, singing our hearts out to God and experiencing his presence in our praises.

The visionary leader was Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery. God used him to save his family and Israel, from whom came the Savior of the world. Joseph is a model for several people I know today, whose stories are still being written.

The military leader was General William “Billy” Mitchel. He foresaw the role of airpower in the 1920s. He publicly accused the War and Navy departments of “incompetency, criminal negligence, and almost treasonable administration of the national defense” for refusing to recognize it. He predicted the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and his followers successfully led the Army Air Force through WWII. In 1946 the U.S. Congress authorized a special medal in his honor; it was presented to his son in 1948 by one of his disciples, Gen. Carl Spaatz, chief of staff of the newly created U.S. Air Force.[1]

The greatest disaster happened to the man from Nazareth on what we now call Good Friday. Or was it a disaster after all?

What good can you find from Covid-19?


[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Mitchell

RECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES: 3 Steps to Conflict Resolution

RECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES: 3 Steps to Conflict Resolution

I am a pragmatic guy who likes internal combustion engines. My wife is an artist who wouldn’t know a piston from a wrist pin. But she is great with flowers and has an eye for color and style. We had a dogwood tree at our house in Georgia, a beautiful tree that had a branch growing right out into the driveway. It swiped the car every time I parked.

Someone gave me a used chain saw. I got it running and was cutting up some old trees in the backyard. Gas remained in the tank when I finished. You can guess what happened next.

My wife came running out of the house, “Why are you killing the dogwood tree!”

“I’m not killing it! I’m just taking off this branch!”

“But why?”

“There was still some gas in the chainsaw!”

You can imagine where the conversation went next. Krista and I were still learning conflict resolution skills back then. We’ve learned what works, not only in marriage but in all walks of life. Here are three steps everyone can use.

1st Slowdown

Fast is slow, and slow is fast. Misunderstanding creates most conflict, and speed aggravates it. I didn’t know how important that one branch with flowers on it was to Krista. She didn’t know how much it bothered me when it scratched the car. For all she knew, I was going to cut the whole tree down. So she was urgent to stop me. And I was impressed! It takes a brave woman to yell at a man with a chainsaw buzzing in his hands. But I was also insulted. Why is she yelling at me? Can’t she see that the branch is in the driveway?

Too many assumptions happen too fast when we rush into a conflict. Slow the communication process down; proceed with extra respect, especially if others are present. Bonus thought: never attempt conflict resolution via text or email. Assumptions multiply when we can’t hear the tone of voice or read body-language.

2nd Calm down

Get control of yourself before working through conflict. Keep your voice down. Be the NAP, the Non-Anxious Presence. When a crisis is looming, or you are already in a dispute, be the one who has self-control. If you can’t, don’t engage in discussion until you can figure out why. Take a break and, without blaming others for how you feel, take responsibility for your emotions.

For Christians, self-control is a gift of the Spirit. If you feel your temper rising, excuse yourself for a while, agree to take a breather, and tell the Spirit of God, “Lord, you say that in Christ I am not a slave. I feel enslaved to anger right now. I confess that as sin and ask you to be within me the peaceful presence that I do not have the power to be right now.” He will help.

3rd Reason instead of ranting

Ranting is popular entertainment in America, taking the place of serious discussion. But it is incredibly destructive and has no home in Christian life.

James, the brother of Jesus, said it this way.

         But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

         And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. [1]

Reason is pure, peaceable, and gentle. Reason is full of mercy. You can go a long way toward achieving this by removing two phrases from your vocabulary: “You never …” and “You always …” When we say those things, we are saying that, even though we said we forgave some insult, we never really did; even though we promised we would agree to something, internally we never did.

Ranting raises walls. Reasonableness builds bridges.

“We have met the enemy, and he is us,” said Walt Kelly’s Pogo. We are our own worst adversaries in conflict resolution. We usually rush into it, raise our voices, and rant about the issue. Slow down, calm down, reason instead of ranting, and you will eat the fruit of peace in all your relationships.


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Jas 3:13–18). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

YOU HAVE A STAKE

YOU HAVE A STAKE

“Imagine a world in which the government suddenly decreed that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east and penalized those who insist otherwise. The sun would still rise in the east and set in the west, but we wouldn’t be allowed to say so out loud, teach it to our children or organize our lives around that fact. The consequences would be absurd and dangerous. The world becomes similarly absurd and dangerous if the Equality Act becomes law.”  Mary Rice Hasson

Read any mainstream media account of the Equality Act, which the House of Representatives just passed on a party-line vote, and you will hear that it is all about making life safe and fair for transgendered people.  Read a conservative media account, and you will see something quite the opposite. I’ve read several of each, and the most charitable thing I can say about what the LGBTQ activists, mainstream media, and Democrat leaders in the house are saying about it is this: They are deeply deceived and deceiving. This proposed amendment is so bad for America, so bad for religious freedom, and so bad for women in particular that The Women’s Liberation Front is battling side-by-side with Evangelicals and conservatives of all stripes against it.

The Equality Act needs sixty votes in the Senate to pass. Ten Republicans would need to support it, and that is unlikely. Why make so much noise about it now? Because every time this bill comes up, and versions of it have come up several times over the last few decades, politicians, advocates, consultants, the corporations and financiers who support them, and ordinary voters count who is for it and who is against it. We want to think that all of our neighbors and political leaders have the courage of our convictions. Some do, but many follow the polls. The more the numbers shift in one direction or another, the more their vote is likely to change. Your voice matters more than you think. I’ve included a template for a letter to send to your Senators at the end of this post. I urge you to use it and contact your Senators today.

Another positive and child-affirming way to participate is by signing on to The Promise to America’s Children. John Stonestreet covered it in a recent Breakpoint interview with coalition leader Emilie Kao.

As John Stonestreet says, “ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have victims.” The Equality Act is a very bad idea. Whether or not you are a religious person, if you have children, if you have a profession, if you own a business or work for a non-profit, if you are an American, you have a stake in this debate. If this is the first time you’ve heard of it and wonder about all the fuss, I urge you to read Mary Rice Hasson’s piece, The Equality Act and the End of Females, quoted above.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”― Edmund Burke 

OPPOSED TO EQUALITY ACT

Letter template for communicating with your Senators.

Dear Sir,                                                                                                                      March 1, 2021

I am writing to express my intense disagreement with the Equality Act. The Equality Act abrogates my constitutional rights. Please take a stand and vote against it for the following reasons:

1. The Equality Act will designate schools, churches, and healthcare organizations as “public accommodations.” With this, schools, churches, and hospitals could be forced to accept the government’s beliefs and mandates about sexual orientation and gender identity. That would be highly intrusive and incredibly far-reaching. It will threaten everyday speech where people can be fined or lose their jobs for using the wrong name or pronouns.

2. The Equality Act will legislate that we allow boys in girls’ sports. This is anti-girl, anti-women, and anti-scientific logic.

It would also allow boys in girls’ locker rooms, men in women’s shelters, and men in women’s prisons. Anyone with knowledge of how sexual abuse begins or affects its victims will never consider voting for this law.

3. The Equality Act is immoral. It will force teachers and students to publicly pretend that a biological male is a female. Schools will be encouraged or mandated to instruct first, second, and third graders that they can choose to be a boy or a girl, or neither, or both, making biological sex (and science) a relic of the past.

Children are not developmentally capable of making such permanently life-altering decisions. If you vote for this law, you will be voting for child abuse on a national scale.

4. The Equality Act would use the force of law across all 50 states to strip Christian and other religious ministries of their right to hire people of shared faith to pursue a shared mission. Christians serve the poor, minister to drug addicts, work in adoption agencies, and thousands of other ministries with people of like mind precisely because they believe God has told them to do so. This law would force Christian organizations to hire people hostile to their deeply held beliefs. If you vote for this law, you are voting against first amendment rights and for the dismantling of thousands of Christian ministries throughout America. Is that what you are trying to achieve?

5. The Equality Act will strip health professionals of their rights of conscience. It will force doctors and medical professionals who take an oath to do no harm to engage in gender transition treatments such as hormone-blocking, cross-sex hormones, or surgery. It is obvious that a Catholic or faith-based hospital should not have to perform gender transition surgeries that go entirely against all they believe, nor should any religious medical professional have to do that in any place of employment.

6. The Equality Act would be a tool used by the government to deny or threaten accreditation to private colleges and universities if they do not satisfy the demands of the Left to apply sexual orientation and gender identity to dorms, sports, places of privacy and even teachings. The Act could be used as a weapon to threaten the availability of federal student loans and grants to students at certain disfavored religious schools.

If you vote for this law, you will be making a direct assault on women’s rights and the rights of tens of millions of religious believers across the United States. I urge you to vote against it.

PREPARE FOR CULTURAL ICE STORMS

PREPARE FOR CULTURAL ICE STORMS

Our rural Virginia county got hit hard by the recent ice storms. It wasn’t as bad as Texas, but many people who had generators were still running them and hauling “flush water” a week later. And good luck buying a generator if you weren’t prepared.

Another storm is coming, a cultural ice storm that, like Narnia’s Ice Queen, is already freezing free speech, intimidating the weak, and punishing dissenters. Most of us are unprepared. Rod Dreher is and his recent books, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post Christian Nation (2017), and Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (2020), will alert readers, all readers, not just Christians, to what’s ahead and help them develop a plan.

I know that sounds sensational. Alarmist rhetoric across media has made us wary of all warnings. But when all the signs indicate a storm is coming, it is time to ring the bell and make a plan.

Some recent examples: A friend and tenured professor at a state university tells me his department’s deputy director is pushing a diversity statement—Dreher calls it “a formal statement of loyalty to the ideology of diversity”—all faculty must sign. The situation is serious enough that he has retained legal counsel. The Virginia Values Act, which threatens freedom of conscience for all Virginians, was signed into law last July. Amazon just blocked the sale of Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally, the most scholarly, well-researched, and unpretentious book—every parent of a child in public school should read it—on the subject of transgenderism. School teachers tell me that their social media accounts are being watched, and somebody will punish them for any speech deemed out of line by school boards who are rapidly adopting state diversity guidelines. The Equal Rights Amendment will soon enshrine in Federal Law what the Virginia Values Act does on the state level. Attorneys who work in the religious freedom arena tell me that Christian business owners are increasingly at risk for business-destroying lawsuits. Politicians and policy wonks tell me the laws pursued by the left in general and the LGBTQ lobby, in particular, are meant not to secure equality of access—they already have that—but to “punish the wicked,” i.e., religious and other conservatives who disagree with them.

Meditate on that for a moment. It means using state and federal law to force agreement. Read thought police.

Dreher says, “As a journalist who writes about these issues, I often hear stories from people—always white-collar professionals like academics, doctors, lawyers, engineers—who live closeted lives as religious or social conservatives. They know that to dissent from the progressive regime in  the workplace, or even to be suspected of dissent, would likely mean burning their careers at the stake.”[1] He calls what’s happening “soft totalitarianism” and defines it thus:

Back in the Soviet era, totalitarianism demanded love for the Party, and compliance with the Party’s demands was enforced by the state. Today’s totalitarianism demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs, many of which are incompatible with logic—and certainly with Christianity. Compliance is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion, and by private corporations that, thanks to technology, control our lives far more than we would like to admit…Today in our societies, dissenters from the woke party line find their businesses, careers, and reputations destroyed. They are pushed out of the public square, stigmatized, canceled, and demonized as racists, sexists, homophobes, and the like. And they are afraid to resist, because they are confident that no one will join them or defend them.[2]

Samuel James, writing for Christianity Today, finds Dreher’s thesis unconvincing, commenting, “prophecy is tough work, and people who share the deepest religious and social convictions can nonetheless interpret all the moving parts differently.” I hope he is right. But Dreher’s cultural analysis has been dead on target so far.

Jesus rebuked his enemies by telling them, “You can read the weather, but you cannot read the signs of the times.” Rod Dreher has read the signs. Christians and others who believe in truth, reality, freedom, and justice need to prepare for what’s coming. Dreher’s insights are an excellent place to start.


[1] Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies, p. 58.

[2] Ibid, p. 8-9.