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Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cake Shop, is a brave man. Because he refused to decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony, he was hauled before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. He was fined, and faces financial ruin. But he’s still standing fast. And the Supreme Court has agreed to take up his case.
Perhaps even braver than appearing before the Supreme Court was agreeing to appear before another august panel about his Christian beliefs: I’m speaking of the daytime TV show “The View.”
Paula Faris got the ball rolling. “Did you ever ask yourself what Jesus would do in this particular situation?” she asked, and then added knowingly, “Do you think Jesus would have said, ‘I don’t accept this, but I’m going to love you anyway.’”
Of course, the audience applauded, knowing that nothing says “I love you” like baking a cake.
Phillips’s reply was pretty straight-forward: “I don’t believe He would have because that would have contradicted the rest of the biblical teaching.”
“Oh c’mon,” one hostess interrupted to more applause, “Jesus would have made the cake. Jesus can turn water into wine. He can do whatever He wants.”
And then resident theologian Joy Behar jumped in, “You’re supposed to believe the Bible and everything but … that’s a deal breaker. Jesus is gonna make the cake,” then she tosses her palms up like, “what’s the matta’w’you?”
Late last year on BreakPoint, I told you about an extraordinary bit of censorship by the French government.
What was censored was an ad featuring a smiling, happy child with Down syndrome. The ad, entitled “Dear Future Mom,” told potential mothers about the joy and love that these children can and will bring into their lives.
So, why was it banned? Because the French government believes that the ad is “likely to disturb the conscience of women” who had aborted their babies after learning that the child had Down syndrome.
Now I’m going to tell you a story about a Frenchman who saw things very differently: Charles de Gaulle.
You probably weren’t expecting to hear that. To most Americans, de Gaulle was, as one writer put it, “an obnoxious, overly ambitious man who, in the grand French manner, strutted sitting down.”
He may have been some or all of these things, but there was a side of Charles de Gaulle that few people know about, and that side revolved around his love for his daughter, Anne.
Anne was born on New Year’s Day, 1928, the third of Charles and Yvonne de Gaulle’s three children. In De Gaulle’s words, Anne was “un enfant pas comme les autres,” a child not like the other children.
A lot of college students are taught that many of the themes in the life of Jesus are merely echoes of ancient “mystery religions,” in which there are stories about gods dying and rising, and rituals of baptism and Communion.
Though this was a very popular argument at the beginning of the twentieth century, it generally died off because it was so discredited. For one thing, given the timing involved, if borrowing is going to be entertained, it should be done so as to indicate that the mystery religions borrowed from Christianity, not vice versa.
The mystery religions were do-your-own-thing religions that freely borrowed ideas from various places. The Jews, however, carefully guarded their beliefs from outside influences. They saw themselves as a separate people and strongly resisted pagan ideas and rituals.
Senior Swedish scholar T. N. D. Mettinger said that the consensus among modern scholars — nearly universal — is that there were no dying and rising gods that preceded Christianity.
Even if there might have been, these stories revolved around the natural life cycle of death and rebirth. Crops die in the fall and come to life in the spring. People expressed the wonder of this ongoing phenomenon through mythological stories. These stories were cast in a legendary form. They depicted events that happened “once upon a time.”
In 2000, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam published his groundbreaking book, “Bowling Alone.” Putnam argued that Americans’ reduced interest in civic engagement—by which he meant not only things of a political nature but also things like the PTA, Boy Scouts, groups like the Elks, and, yes, bowling leagues—had reduced the store of what is called “social capital.”
“Social capital” is what sociologist call “the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.”
This is more than theory. It gets to the heart of one of the pressing issues of our time: social and economic inequality. And while Americans, as a whole, prefer to bowl alone, this solitude isn’t equally distributed.
As Putnam documents in his most recent book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” one thing that separates children from families in the top 25 percent of households measured by income and education from their counterparts in the bottom twenty-five percent is social capital. The well-off parents featured in “Our Kids” were, if anything, exhaustingly engaged and enmeshed in far-reaching networks that made life better for their kids.
While we shouldn’t be surprised that good connections offer better-off kids a significant advantage over their poorer counterparts, there’s something else that provides another significant advantage: religious participation.
Few if any places in America pack more history per square mile than Princeton, New Jersey. Located halfway between New York and Philadelphia, Princeton has counted among its residents the likes of Jonathan Edwards, James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, and Albert Einstein, to name just a few.
It’s also been the site for some of the most important battles in American history. The Battles of Princeton and nearby Trenton in the winter of 1776-‘77 convinced the American colonies that they could win the War of Independence.
Now, another important battle is being fought in Princeton: the battle for free speech.
This past decade has seen a rise of intellectually-suffocating intolerance on college campuses. Students have learned, mostly from some of their professors, to silence those with opposing views rather than debate them.
In extreme cases, this has taken the form of intimidation and even violence, as was the case with Charles Murray’s experience at Middlebury College. A group of about 100 students not only disrupted the proceedings, some physically attacked Murray and his host, and even followed them to a restaurant.
A more subtle, yet still insidious example was what happened to Tim Keller, the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Earlier this year, Princeton Theological Seminary named Keller the winner of the 2017 Kuyper Award for Excellence in Reformed Theology.
Hope for the Hopeless: Keep Christians in the Public Square
Here’s yet another reason why it’s insane to push Christians out of the public square.
In his new book, “The Benedict Option,” my friend Rod Dreher makes a sobering and sadly accurate claim: “Christians who hold to the biblical teaching about sex and marriage, have the same status in culture, and increasingly in law, as racists.”
Rod says that it is inevitable that believers in Jesus Christ will lose their jobs—some already have—and face other forms of bullying if they don’t go along. Many in our increasingly secular culture want to chase Christians out of the public square altogether.
Among other things, that would be a disaster for half a million homeless people.
According to a new study out of Baylor University, faith-based organizations provide 58 percent of emergency shelter beds for the homeless in eleven cities across the nation. In Omaha, faith-based organizations (or FBOs) provide a whopping 90 percent of the available emergency shelter beds. In Houston, it’s 79 percent; in Indianapolis, 78 percent; in Baltimore, 74 percent. So where would all these homeless people go if Christians who do acts of compassion out of a faith perspective are no longer around?
It’s a “Christian” book featured on numerous bestseller lists for more than 100 weeks – an unprecedented accomplishment in publishing history. Almost 10 years after publication, it remains one of the top selling books at Amazon.com and a bestseller in several categories.
And now “The Shack” has been turned into a movie premiering next month that will bring its message to a whole new audience.
Some Christians might be tempted to rejoice.
But “The Shack” gives audiences false hope, telling them what they want to hear, say critics. And those who know the book and its theology contend it teaches heresy and is leading Christians astray.
Leading the effort to expose “The Shack” is James De Young, a New Testament language and literature professor at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, who holds multiple degrees from respected seminaries, including Dallas Seminary, Talbot Theological Seminary and Moody Bible Institute.
De Young is a former longtime colleague of “The Shack” author Paul Young who challenges the mega-bestseller in his blockbuster exposé, “Burning Down The Shack.”
De Young asserts “The Shack” promotes a heretical idea of “universal reconciliation,” the concept that all people will be saved.
“The danger from all of this is to distort the gospel, to give people a false hope of being able to change their destiny after death and to distort the meaning of Christ’s death,” he told WND.
“The child, yet unborn, spoke with the Father, ‘Lord, how will I survive in the world? I will not be like the other children. My walk may be slower, my speech hard to understand. I may look different. What is to become of me?’
“The Lord replied to the child, ‘My precious one, have no fear. I will give you protectors. They will love you because you are special, not in spite of it. Though your path through life will be difficult, your reward will be greater. You have been blessed with a special ability to love, and those whose lives you touch will be blessed because you are special.’”
– From an embroidered plaque sent anonymously to me when my son Trig was born
Trying to fathom what is shown in the Chicago torture video is just too much. I watched a mere few seconds of it and will watch no more. I cannot watch more. Perhaps my family and I see the torture of an innocent young man with special needs through different eyes and with a greater, undeniable sense of responsibility to help; but this story playing out today is proving unbearable.
It’s time for a screaming wake-up call, America.
My extended family discussed the tragedy last night. We concluded we do not care about arguing the legalities involved in categorizing this as a “hate crime” or not a “hate crime.” Obviously it is a hateful, hate-filled crime centering on politics and race. Proof is on tape. Debating the merits of categorizing the disgusting racist and political taunts vomited up by thugs during their brutal beating of a helpless young man is, to us, a media distraction. I leave it to others to focus on that.
My sister Heather has worked professionally in the public school system with older special needs students for decades. She and her husband have also been raising a beautiful son with autism and disabilities. My sister seems to have seen it all. Because of Heather’s years of experience in this tough arena, she could understandably have grown necessarily less emotionally reactive than others when seeing such a news report. But Heather and the family reacted with more explosive shock and disgust, mixed with such profound sadness, than perhaps expected.
She knows her precious students — and son and nephew — could never defend themselves against attacks from such evil people. That’s such common sense, though, that even the depraved creatures haughtily recording their recent brutality knew their victim was as defenseless.
The Obama administration, in the final days of 2016 and of its existence, gave a Christmas gift to Planned Parenthood. Let’s talk about how to take it back.
In the waning days of 2016, when most eyes were turned to the Trump team transition or holiday distractions, the Obama administration developed a new and reprehensible rule to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
Planned Parenthood is having a rough time lately. The organization was caught on video in 2015 trying to sell body parts of aborted babies, which is a clear violation of federal law. Then, their clear choice for president lost somewhat unexpectedly to a candidate who vividly described abortion in the final presidential debate, before promising to nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn the legality of their largest moneymaking product: ending the lives of unborn children. All of this while public opinion seems to be drifting in a pro-life direction.
Even so, Planned Parenthood has friends in high places. For example, the Justice Department did nothing to hold Planned Parenthood accountable for what the Center for Medical Progress videos revealed. Instead, CMP was hauled into court for supposedly breaking the law. And Planned Parenthood receives $500 million in annual federal funding.
That money comes to Planned Parenthood through Medicaid, the Title X family planning program, Title XX Social Services block grants, and from a Title V Maternal and Child Health Services block grant. As long as taxpayer funding doesn’t directly pay for abortions, it’s all legal. In an accounting trick, the money goes to help pay for the mammograms that Planned Parenthood doesn’t actually provide, while freeing up dollars for the organization to spend on abortion. The scandalous federal spigot for the abortion giant is wide open.
Our confidence in the gospel spurs us to serve our communities, not to shrink back when they decide they no longer need us.
As the Catholic writer Joseph Bottum has observed, we live in an anxious age.
In an increasingly diverse and rapidly changing culture, some people are anxious about shifting cultural norms, civil rights, and religious liberty. The past decade has seen a rapid transformation in public opinion and legal norms around sexuality, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, and religion in the public square—changes that have caused anxiety for a great number of traditional religious believers, including Christians, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews.
Socioeconomic disparities create other anxieties. Some people have been left jobless or underemployed by the global economy. Others confront inadequacies in housing, education, and health care in impoverished and often segregated neighborhoods and communities. And people wonder why those with greater means are indifferent to the financial burdens of the lower and middle classes.
There is, of course, an even more dire anxiety that emerges when some people prove incapable of living with our differences. In the past few years, violent men have taken innocent lives in places including a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the apartment of a Muslim family in North Carolina, a black church in Charleston, and just last week, a gay nightclub in Florida. In each of these instances, vulnerable communities became the intentional targets of mass violence, leaving others in those communities wondering about their own safety and sense of belonging in this country.