Saturday, September 25, 2010

The 3 - September 25, 2010

This week on my week-in-review feature, "The 3", an education showdown continues in the Lone Star State, influencers of the culture with regard to matters of faith meet in 2 locales, and Congress deals with some issues that are relevant to Christians and Christian organizations.

3 - Texas BOE approves balanced approach to Islam

The textbook battle continues to attract attention in the state of Texas, where the state school board earlier this year approved standards that would, among other things, reinforce the concept of American exceptionalism and place a greater emphasis on the role of religion in the history of the country. And, just this week, the school board voted 7-6 to make sure that the treatment of religion was balanced, essentially attempting to ensure that there is not what is considered a pro-Islam, anti-Christian bias. Apparently, board members saw a trend toward making Islam and its impact on world history more prevalent in history textbooks, and felt this resolution was a necessary step. Here is the story from The Christian Post.

There are a lot of eyes watching this textbook case in Texas, because textbook authors and manufacturers will be writing in order to comply with the standards that are passed in this large state. This would no doubt influence many school districts and their curriculum.

2 - Media members who cover religion convene in Denver, Christian counselors meet in Branson

Some large conferences have been scheduled this week involving some groups of influencers. The Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) had its conference in Denver, and a wide variety of religious streams were represented, from Rainn Wilson of The Office, who is a Buddhist, to evangelical seminary leader Dr. Albert Mohler.

This is an important gathering, because the role of religion in American life cannot be underestimated. Even though this is not a distinctly Christian gathering, nonetheless the Christian worldview perspective was included, and hopefully writers can perhaps be more aware of and evenhanded with covering the perspective of Bible-believing Christians. The RNA website is

Also, the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) gathered in Branson, Missouri for its National Christian Counseling Conference, where they heard from a number of high-profile speakers, such as Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. Larry Crabb, as well as a variety of workshop leaders, who offered their perspective on many topics that can help in addressing some of the struggles that Christian people face. Dr. Tim Clinton is President of the AACC. The website is

1 - U.S. Senate turns back 2 bills with faith-based implications

This week, the U.S. Senate failed to cross the 60-vote threshold necessary to move 2 bills forward which would implement policy that contrasts with the viewpoints of many Christians or Christian organizations. One bill, a Defense Authorization bill, also contained amendments that would rescind the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy with respect to homosexual behavior and would allow taxpayer funding of abortion at overseas military hospitals. Because of those amendments, Republicans refused to vote in favor of the cloture motion, which would have moved the bill forward. 2 Democrats joined 37 Republicans in turning the legislation back. Here's the take from CBN News.

Just 2 days after that bill failed to move forward, the second attempt to force the DISCLOSE legislation through the Senate failed to reach 60 votes. The DISCLOSE Act was introduced in response to the Supreme Court decision earlier this year on campaign finance, and would have forced organizations that sponsor ads during a political season to follow strict disclosure rules, including the possibility of releasing donor names, and forcing the head of the organization to appear in the ad. Opponents claimed free speech concerns, and at the end of the day, the bill again failed to reach the 60-vote threshold. Here is the story from CitizenLink.

Again, this shows the determination of the leadership in the Senate to move legislation forward that runs counter to the Judeo-Christian values to which so many Americans deeply hold. There are serious concerns about the potential repeal of the DADT policy and the effect on troop morale, unit cohesiveness, the moral fiber of our armed services, and even health concerns. The DISCLOSE Act represents yet another attempt to get to the donor lists of organizations, including Christian and pro-family organizations, who respect the privacy of those who donate. If donors' names are released, resulting in a decline in income, then the message of these vital organizations becomes less impactful.

Honorable Mention:

"40 Days for Life" launches in record number of locations

GOP includes social issues in "Pledge to America"

Senate takes up controversial judicial nominees

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The 3 - September 18, 2010

This week's edition of "The 3" includes another gathering in DC, this time featuring so-called "values voters". Also, invitations spread throughout America in association with "National Back to Church Sunday", and the Pope came calling in Great Britain.

3 - "Values Voters" assemble in the nation's capital

The effect of the so-called "values voters" has been debated over the past few years, especially after the 2004 elections, when this subset of the electorate was said to have played a vital role in the re-election of George W. Bush. On ballots across America that same were marriage amendments, affirming marriage as one man for one woman.

While many think of the "values voters" as those basically concerned about life (abortion) and marriage, the focus has broadened somewhat to include a number of issues that I believe have a moral component. The size of government has become an important issue for this particular group of voters, which in many cases is motivated by a deep adherence to Judeo-Christian values. In this election cycle, we are seeing a true anti-establishment, anti-incumbency sentiment that is calling for a change - to a more restrained, values-centered government. These candidates, such as Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, and Christine O'Donnell, are pro-life and pro-family, in addition to being fiscal conservatives who are calling for restraint in the government's practices.

Against this backdrop, some 2000 people gathered in Washington, DC to attend the Values Voter Summit, with its lead sponsor, FRC Action. Here is some coverage from CitizenLink about the 2010 Values Voter Summit. Particularly notable is the Presidential straw poll that was taken at the Summit, where Indiana Representative Mike Pence narrowly won over former Arkansas Governor and 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee. Here are the results, from FRC Action.

2 - Thousands of churches take part in "National Back to Church Sunday"

Amid reports of church attendance in decline in some sectors of America, Outreach, Inc. and LifeWay Research teamed up to try to motivate church members to invite people to return to church. September 12th was "National Back to Church Sunday", and the results were quite impressive.

Not only did over 3800 churches participate, but some 1.4 million invitations were sent out by church members across America. At churches who participated, the average attendance was up 26 percent. And, the stories are continuing to be submitted to the sponsors. Here is a recap from the website,

Also, recently, Outreach released its list of the 100 Largest and 100 Fastest-Growing Churches
. Here's the press release about the list an some of the dynamics of it.

1 - Pope visits U.K., meets with Anglican church head

The visit of Pope Benedict to the United Kingdom this week had a number of significant elements. Perhaps most striking about the visit was the willingness of the Pope to address some of the abuse issues that have affected the Catholic Church over the past decade. Certainly the openness that was shown could be considered a positive sign in the process of healing the church is experiencing. Here's a report from the Catholic News Service.

Also, the Pope met with the head of the Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. In light of an announced outreach by Catholics to Anglicans departing the church, this dialogue could be regarded as helpful in bringing understanding between these two large church bodies. Here is the take from The Christian Post on the meeting.

And, the papal visit highlighted possible tensions with Islamic fundamentalism as 6 men were arrested in a possible assassination attempt, presumably by terrorists from North Africa. Here is a report from the Telegraph from the U.K.

This papal visit to the U.K. brought with it some significant implications for people of faith around the world, as what this influential leader says and to whom he says it are worth paying attention to.

Honorable Mention:

Luis Palau energizes and encourages thousands in San Diego

Nebraska coach vows to continue to share Biblical perspective in schools

Children of Christian artists face health challenges
Matt Hammitt - Sanctus Real
Aaron Shust

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The 3 - September 11, 2010

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, spotlights a judge's ruling on the military's policy on homosexual behavior, the response to the proposed burning of the Koran at a church in Florida, and Christian involvement in commemorating the September 11 tragedies.

3 - Judge rules "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" unconstitutional

The military has been following a Clinton administration-era policy on homosexuals in the military that is known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Actually, the official position of the military is that homosexual behavior is prohibited, but when President Clinton attempted to change that position, it was met with solid opposition, so, in a compromised stance, military officials were directed to not ask if a military member was gay.

President Obama, in an attempt to satisfy one significant part of his base, the powerful gay lobby, has made the repeal of this policy a major priority. In fact, since laying down the gauntlet at this year's State of the Union address, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called for a "study" of the matter, but since he and the President support rescinding the policy, one would anticipate that the study will be done in order to place homosexuality in the military in a positive light. Legislation is also under consideration in Congress, as the House has already voted for a repeal.

Against this backdrop, the judicial branch has jumped into the action, with one Federal Judge declaring the policy to be unconstitutional. This was a ruling in a case where the Obama Justice Department was actually "defending" the policy, which the Administration opposes and wants to rescind. So, this is no surprise, and will no doubt go on to a U.S. Circuit Court for an appeal. A comprehensive report is found in The Christian Post.

The controversy over gays serving in the military continues, with a number of Christian leaders expressing concern over affirming this type of behavior in our armed forces, as well as over the effect that rescinding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will have on the cohesion and effectiveness of our troops.

2 - Proposed Koran burning brings violence, dialogue

As of press time on September 11, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida will not be holding a ceremony where the Muslim holy book, the Koran, will be burned. Pastor Terry Jones had announced this event, which drew a major media emphasis, turned toward this small congregation of roughly 50 people. Muslims overseas demonstrated against the event, and leaders of government and faith urged Jones not to conduct the ceremony.

At the end of the day, Pastor Jones made the right choice. If we regard fundamentalist Islam and those who practice it as our "enemy", the Bible still does not permit us, I believe, to take provocative action against all Muslims by desecrating what they see as a sacred book. We are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. That doesn't mean to acquiesce to persecution (and it's important that we speak up against the persecution of Christians around the world), but to respond in kind or take inflammatory action is not the correct response, either.

The dialogue has been quite revealing in light of the controversy. There was an attempt by the pastor to link his Koran burning to the mosque at ground zero, which many view as a provocative action - a symbol of Islamic "victory" at the site where thousands lost their lives. In fact, Jones had said that he had cancelled the burning ceremony because the planners of the Ground Zero mosque had abandoned their plans...when it was revealed that no such deal was made, Jones still attempted to arrange a meeting with the imam of the planned New York City Islamic center.

The excellent point was also made that Christian symbols and the Bible are desecrated all over the world, including the Muslim world - perhaps the over-the-top attention given to this controversy will help to expose the rude types of Christian hostility that are perpetrated in some nations of the world. Dr. Bryant Wright, Pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church outside Atlanta and newly elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote an excellent piece that puts these controversies in perspective. Here's a report from the Associated Press posted on CBN, along with links to related stories.

1 - Christians remember 9/11 tragedies

While we remember the thousands who lost their lives on this day in 2001, we also attempt to identify and sympathize with the families of the victims, for they, too, were victimized as they were personally affected by faith-based terror. The members of the Awakening America Alliance were using this day as a foundation for deeper and more concerted prayer for our nation through its "Cry Out America" emphasis. Not only was there a gathering of Christian leaders at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, but there were events planned for county courthouses across America.

This press release illustrates the heart of this prayer movement and shows the cross-denominational leadership of the Alliance.

Some Christian and conservative leaders also gathered at the site of the proposed Islamic Center/mosque at Ground Zero in New York City to honor the fallen victims of 9-11 and to register their concern about such a center being constructed at the site. Among the scheduled speakers was Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, which has filed suit to stop the construction, saying that the building on the site currently is historically significant and that the Muslim group is receiving preferential treatment in the process.

Luis Palau crusade in San Diego creates excitement

Another step in court battle over embryonic stem cell research

New Stephen Hawking book and faith response

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The 3 - September 5, 2010

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, highlights an appeals court ruling on that tricky college-Christian group relationship, the death of an Army chaplain in battle for the first time in 40 years, and the call to Christians across America to pray, underscored by TheCall in California this weekend.

3 - Appeals Court rules that university cannot deny funds to religious group

The relationship between colleges and universities and the students that attend them has become an increasingly troublesome one, as certain institutions, in attempting not to "establish" religion, are creating an atmosphere that does not treat Christian groups in an equal manner, according to the Constitution. Case in point: the recent ruling in Wisconsin, as the University of Wisconsin had attempted to restrict student activity fees from helping to fund a Catholic group on campus, when other student groups were receiving funding. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that UW was incorrect, and that all student groups, including religiously-oriented ones, should be treated equally and fairly. Here's the story from the Alliance Defense Fund.

Interestingly enough, the court referred to Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez in its ruling. That's the case that stated that Christian student groups who wished to be recognized on the Hastings Law School campus could not restrict their membership or leadership to only people that adhere to their beliefs and philosophy, i.e. Christian beliefs. The 7th Circuit used the CLS decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to tout equal treatment for all organizations. Hastings was viewed by Christian legal experts as a restrictive ruling that stymies freedom of association.

And, the word has circulated that in light of the Hastings decision that Christian organizations who operate on college campuses are evaluating their participation on those campuses. Most notably, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has reportedly stated it is examining its relationships with various campuses.

2 - First Army chaplain to lose his life since Vietnam dies in Afghanistan

For the first time since the Vietnam era, an Army chaplain has lost his life in wartime service to his country. 43-year-old Dale Goetz was killed near Kandahar Province in Afghanistan when an explosive device went off near his convoy. Here's the story from TIME magazine.

This incident does remind us of the sacrifice that those who are called to be chaplains make. While they are not sent directly into combat, still they encounter dangerous situations as they attempt to encourage and counsel our troops, including those who are serving in war. And, this type of atmosphere calls for someone who is not only grounded in his faith, but also someone who can provide strength and wisdom for soldiers who perhaps are struggling with some faith issue.

- TheCall reminds Christians to stand in the gap

Saturday in Sacramento, California, thousands of Christians gathered in a prayer meeting, solemn assembly, and worship service all rolled into one, as Lou Engle, Jim Garlow, Harry Jackson, and other noted Christian leaders spent time encouraging a large audience to respond to God's call to intercede for our nation. Here's the report from The Christian Post.

While some press reports viewed the latest in a series of TheCall events as being a political rally, history teaches us that this movement is about a Christian response to some social issues, recognizing that prayer and repentance, calling upon the name of Jesus Christ, are essential elements in seeing our country recapture the great vision of our Founders for morality and religious freedom. It is notable that this latest event took place in a state that is the center of controversy for same-sex marriage, which many view as a frontal assault to the God-ordained institution of marriage.

I believe that God is calling His people to pray in this seemingly desperate hour for our nation. Prayer efforts have been sponsored by a number of organizations, including National Religious Broadcasters, Southern Baptist pastors, and the North American Mission Board, as well as pastors such as Michael Youssef and Charles Stanley. With important elections on the horizon, and with an overall dissatisfaction with the direction of our country, I believe that Christians have a great opportunity to provide hope for an entire nation, as we share the message of salvation and pray that the Lord will turn hearts to Him.

Honorable Mention:

TX Appeals Court rejects same-sex divorce

OK to erect 10 Commandments monument on capitol grounds

Sojourners-Soros monetary connection admitted