Friday, February 25, 2011
3 - Outspoken Christian wins Daytona 500
If you were one of a comparative handful of NASCAR fans who may have been following 20-year-old Trevor Bayne on Twitter the week leading up to the Daytona 500, you would have found a few messages related to his faith in God. Trevor, you see, is a devoted Christian who desires for his racing activity to provide a platform for him to share his relationship with Christ.
And, what an incredible opportunity that the driver, who had only committed to run part of a season with Wood Brothers Racing, was given on Sunday, as Trevor won the Daytona 500 in a thrilling finish, holding off more seasoned drivers such as Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.
In this Baptist Press profile, you can see the commitment to Christ that Trevor Bayne desires to display. Trevor is one of a number of believers that permeate the NASCAR culture. Through Motor Racing Outreach, drivers and their teams are able to fellowship together and attend chapel services. Also, there is outreach to the fans, such as Alabama's Raceway Ministries, which "set up shop" at campgrounds surrounding the annual races at Talladega.
2 - Afghan convert released from prison
Even though some of the details might be sketchy and some of the reporting suspect, there is clear evidence that 46-year-old former Muslim Said Musa has been released from prison in Afghanistan. Musa is an amputee, a military veteran, and father of six children who was imprisoned on charges of apostasy, which means basically leaving Islam. He and others were shown in a worship service that was broadcast on television last May, and he was subsequently arrested. The penalty for apostasy in Afghanistan is death.
According to Compass Direct News, Musa had been writing letters about his plight, and the last one, dated February 13, said that authorities from the capital of Kabul had visited him and offered him asylum. He was reportedly released on February 21.
A number of Christian leaders had become involved in speaking out for Musa. In this Christian Post piece, you can read that high-profile leaders such as John Piper, Rick Warren, and David Platt had tweeted messages of support. Some called on the Obama administration to put pressure on the Kabul government.
Open Doors USA head Carl Moeller had some strong words for the U.S. Government, and reminded us that Afghanistan is third on its "World Watch List" for Christian persecution. He mentioned that another Afghan is currently imprisoned merely for sharing a New Testament.
When we consider the large number of Christians who are facing persecution these days, we recognize the huge need for prayer, as well as the importance of the United States taking the initiative to protect Christian believers.
1 - Obama administration, Justice Department say they'll no longer defend DOMA
Attorney General Eric Holder, on behalf of the Justice Department and the White House, has stated in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that his department will no longer defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which states that marriage is defined as one man for one woman. This is not completely unexpected, in that the defense of the Act by the Administration in recent court cases has been characterized as rather tepid.
CitizenLink has a report on this development. The Act, passed by Congress and signed by then-President Clinton in 1996, has been defended successfully in court as being constitutional, even though the Adminstration said it now believes that it is not. There are pending legal challenges to the Act.
Now, the defense of marriage in America falls to Congress. Perhaps lawmakers will pass a resolution in support of DOMA, and appoint strong counsel to vigorously defend the institution of marriages. The government has a compelling interest to defend the institution of marriage on the Federal level, because strong families and stable environments for children are foundational for our country. The sustenance of our population through procreation contributes to the government's responsibility to defend marriage. '
Interestingly enough, this is another instance where public officials, who are charged to defend the law, have chosen not to defend a law they don't like. This also happened in California, where the Governor and Attorney General refused to defend Proposition 8, the marriage amendment there. When public officials desert the law of the land and the will of the people, they have neglected their constitutional duty, and it's important that citizens pay attention to the behavior of their elected leaders.
Former Kansas AG facing scrutiny because of pro-life stand
"The Grace Card" opens this weekend
Saturday, February 19, 2011
3 - White House changes rules regarding conscience protection
For some time now, there has been concern that health care workers would be forced to take part in activities that violate their deeply-held beliefs, such as participate in abortion or prescribe medication that would contribute to the taking of a human life, or face dismissal from their career field.
During the Bush administration, the White House issued guidelines that would provide for conscience protection for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others. This week, the Obama adminstration abandoned those Bush-era provisions and issued new guidelines that remove some of those conscience protections. Here's the word from the 16,000 member Christian Medical Association.
So, without evidence that these conscience provisions resulted in a reduction in the quality of medical care, the White House has changed the rules of the game, which could result in some medical professionals leaving the field. But, is it any surprise, with a new wave of pro-life sentiment sweeping the country, and with pro-abortion organizations such as Planned Parenthood coming under closer scrutiny, that those who favor the destruction of human life through abortion are essentially "fighting back"?
2 - CA Supreme Court agrees to address who can defend supporters of Proposition 8
After a ruling last year by Federal district judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco creating a "right" to same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took up the case. One of the issues at hand was who, in fact, had the legal right to represent the over 7 million California voters who approved Proposition 8, the amendment to California's constitution that defined marriage as one man for one woman. Typically, in this sort of situation, a state constitutional officer would appeal on behalf of state law, but here, neither then-Governor Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General, now-Governor Jerry Brown would defend this new law.
So, the 9th U.S. Circuit, deciding not to address this topic of "standing", as it's called, sent the matter back to the California Supreme Court. This is the same court that allowed supporters of Proposition 8 to defend the amendment's constitutionality in the first place, the same court that had held that Proposition 8 was constitutional. Here is a report from CitizenLink. Generally, pro-marriage groups such as ProtectMarriage.com, which was the leading group supporting Proposition 8, and the National Organization for Marriage, are pleased with the ruling. Expectations are that the case will reach the U.S. Supreme Court, but this move by the appeals court definitely slows down the timetable.
1 - U.S. House votes to defund Planned Parenthood
It's been a miserable last few months for the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. Polling data is showing that the nation is trending more pro-life. The health care law that PP and other pro-abortion organizations supported is coming unraveled in the wake of court defeats, states opting-out of abortion being funded by taxpayer dollars, and the moves to repeal and defund the overall structure.
Then, Planned Parenthood centers were shown on hidden camera video to aid and abet representatives of underage girls seeking abortion, STD treatment, and contraception. These videos were released by Live Action, a pro-life advocacy organization, and gathered news coverage by a number of national news organizations.
This round of incriminating videos added one more card to the shaky house of cards that Planned Parenthood has built for itself, and 240 members of the U.S. House of Representatives said, "enough is enough", voting to discontinue government funding of the organization, which had been receiving some $363 million per year in taxpayer money. An amendment to the government funding bill was passed on Friday, sponsored by Congressman Mike Pence, which discontinues funding for Planned Parenthood. Here is coverage from LifeNews.com.
This legislation still has to pass through the Senate, as well as travel to the desk of President Obama, who was supported heavily by PP and abortion proponents. But, the message has been sent, and it's reflective of a number of Americans who do not want their tax dollars funding abortion and other objectionable activities in which Planned Parenthood is involved.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
3 - Egyptian President resigns, future unclear for Christians in the nation
After indicating that he would stay in power and preside over a transition to a new government, Egyptian President Hosni Muburak reversed course and resigned from the position he had held for some 30 years. There are plenty of religious implications in this overall situation, as we covered last week: there is the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood becoming a player in the governing of Egypt, possibly resulting in a more Islamic fundamentalist-oriented structure. Also, the future of Christians there is somewhat in doubt.
Even though Mubarak was regarded as an ally to the U.S. and Israel, Egypt still had a negative record regarding persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors' World Watch List, on which it was listed at #19. Recently, in Alexandria, 21 Coptic Christians lost their lives in a New Year's Eve bombing at a church. And the situation could worsen for Christians if there were a greater Islamic fundamentalist influence. Dr. Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA, is quoted by Mission Network News as saying: "Given recent polling data, if an election were to be held tomorrow, it's quite likely that Islamic extremists would have a significant--if not dominant--role to play in the new government." That quote is contained in this story from the Open Doors website.
The military is in control in Egypt now, and recently granted the demands of the protesters involved in street demonstrations for the last 3 weeks by dissolving Parliament. There will likely be a new government in Egypt by this fall, and if the well-organized Brotherhood seizes seats in the new Parliament, then it could have a dramatic effect on the future of the nation and the entire region.
2 - "Art of Marriage" works to strengthen marriages
The reports are still coming in, but the indications are that FamilyLife's The Art of Marriage event was an overwhelming success, as hundreds of sites across America have signed up to host the video-based event...many held their events this weekend to correlate with Valentine's Day; still others have scheduled their events for weekends later this spring.
The Art of Marriage is a new one-and-a-half day video event built on the same content as the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. It's designed to be used by churches, small groups or as a community wide event. The Art of Marriage features well-respected pastors and experts on marriage and family in the video presentations. For more information, you can visit http://www.theartofmarriage.com.
1 - Christians evaluate CPAC commitment
The Conservative Political Action Conference has concluded in Washington, DC, and was marked by some 11,000 conservatives from a variety of stripes gathering to hear speakers, collect information, and network with philosophically similar people and groups. The assortment of people included defense conservatives, economic conservatives, and social conservatives, encompassing 2nd Amendment advocates and Tea Party sympathizers. Ronald Reagan spoke of the "three-legged stool" of defense, the economy, and social issues - recognizing that to govern from a conservative perspective, these three threads must work together.
The conference even included, as a sponsor, the gay Republican group, GOProud, who embrace economic conservatism, but have a far different view on the sanctity of marriage than many so-called social conservatives, which includes a number of evangelical Christians.
And, while speakers like Rick Santorum attempted to underscore the importance of social conservatism, which includes (but is not limited to) life, marriage, and religious liberty, and panel members like Bishop Harry Jackson made a strong case for supporting the institution of traditional marriage, there were some in the pro-life and pro-family movement who stayed away from CPAC this year. Family Research Council is one example of a high-profile organization that decided not to sponsor CPAC because of its acceptance of GOProud as a sponsor. CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, decided to sponsor the event and be very visible there, devoting itself to being a voice for life and marriage. Both approaches have merit - FRC and others want to enact change from outside the event, making a statement by their conspicuous absence. CitizenLink and similar organizations, also concerned about what they see as an broadening of the basic principles of CPAC by admitting groups like GOProud, remain on the inside, attempting to change hearts and minds through engaging conversations.
CPAC is quite influential in the conservative movement, and it's vital that Christian groups are engaged in the so-called "social" issues, while also seeking to influence in the areas, such as the economy. I definitely think there is a moral component at work when a government exceeds the authority outlined in the Bible, and when it spends beyond its means. CPAC represents a segment of American society that includes Christian conservatives, and they have a distinct and critical voice in that stream of political consciousness.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
3 - New undercover Planned Parenthood videos show complicity with trafficking
The hard-working young people at Live Action are at it again, revealing potentially damaging information about the nation's largest abortion provider, which receives millions of dollars per year in taxpayer dollars. In the latest undercover videos from Live Action, one clinic manager in New Jersey and one clinic employee in Virginia are shown aiding individuals involved in sex trafficking, who are attempting to arrange abortions, STD testing, and contraception for their underage clients. After initially calling the New Jersey video a "hoax", Planned Parenthood fired the New Jersey manager seen on the video. Here is the story from the Live Action website on the situation there.
Here is the story on the Virginia undercover videos.
Already, there is a campaign in Congress to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving over $350 million annually in tax dollars. Here is a story from Fox News about this effort, which is supported by a host of pro-life, pro-family organizations.
This new series of videos shows the corruption that surrounds the abortion industry. In addition to the participation in this heinous procedure of taking an unborn human life, abortion clinics operate without the type of regulation that is found in other medical facilities, and, as the Live Action videos have shown not only now, but in the past, are potentially involved in questionable, even illegal activity.
2 - Super Bowl offers opportunity to showcase faith
With the Super Bowl coming up in just a few hours as this blog is being composed, I want to highlight the opportunities that Christian players have had this week to share their stories of faith. During the media events, players are asked a variety of questions, and the faith perspective is one that frequently emerges.
Take, for instance, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Baptist Press quotes Rodgers as saying that he tries to follow the example of Jesus, "leading by example". Here is a feature story on Rodgers' faith journey. Rodgers takes his leadership role very seriously, and apparently depends on the Lord to direct his path. Other Packer players who have a strong faith story include wide receiver Donald Driver, who was a finalist for the FCA's Bart Starr Award (which was won by New Orleans QB Drew Brees), and Ryan Pickett, who was a spokesman for a noted anti-pornography campaign that is being observed in churches across America today.
Veteran coach Dom Capers, who is now a Packers assistant after serving as a head coach in the NFL, is also someone who emphasizes the importance of faith, as this Baptist Press piece points out.
On the Steelers sideline, Christian leadership can be found in the persons of Head Coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Here is a profile from Baptist Press.
Other Steelers who embrace faith in Christ include offensive lineman Tony Hills, who was baptized at the Steelers' practice facility earlier this year, and punter Daniel Sepulveda, who is featured in the high-profile "I Am Second" campaign. More on Steelers' players who embrace faith in Christ can be found in this Baptist Press article.
The Super Bowl gives an enormous platform for Christian players, who are, like their teammates, scrutinized by a host of media outlets. Fortunately, the subject of personal faith is not one that is off-limits, so inspiring quotes abound on the subject, which can be inspirational for all football fans, including young people who look up to these individuals as role models.
However, the faith message is apparently not one that is acceptable to the people at Fox Sports, who rejected an ad by the Fixed Point Foundation of Birmingham, AL, that has as its centerpiece the verse, John 3:16. Here is a New York Times report on the ad, which promotes the Foundation's "Lookup 3:16" campaign. The spot will reportedly be placed locally in some markets, including Birmingham. Check out www.lookup316.com for specifics on the campaign and to view the commercial.
1 - National Prayer Breakfast features President Obama, others
This week's National Prayer Breakfast again featured President Obama, attempting to enunciate his own personal faith amidst the national perception that he could be a Muslim, and the evaluation that his policies are not consistent with evangelical Christianity. The President encouraged attendees to use their faith as a foundation for greater civility, and talked about how his faith had been strengthened over the past 2 years. Here is a report from the Kansas City Star. Obama also mentioned the Tucson shootings and the turbulent situation in Egypt.
In fact, astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was critically wounded at the Tucson incident, gave the closing prayer, issuing the hope that perhaps good would come out of the tragedy. He also expressed his faith in God, the Creator, as he has had the opportunity to see Earth from aboard a spaceship on 3 occasions. Here is a story from CNN's "Belief Blog".
Also at the National Prayer Breakfast, one of the rescued Chilean miners, Jose Henriquez, talked about how faith inspired and galvanized those trapped underground, and how they were encouraged by the Bibles that were delivered through the supply tubes into the mine shaft. Again, here is some material from the CNN "Belief Blog".
These and similar events serve to remind us of the deep thread of faith that is present in our national consciousness. In these times, where some individuals and organizations are attempting to minimize or eradicate the rich faith tradition we enjoy as Americans, this was an event that reinforces the faith element that has been present and foundational since the formation of our nation.