Sunday, March 27, 2011
3 - 9th Circuit holds off on allowing gay marriage ruling to take effect
The saga concerning Proposition 8, the amendment to California's Constitution that was passed in 2008 and was ruled unconstitutional by a Federal judge, registered another chapter this week, as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused a request by those who had challenged by the Amendment to lift a stay it had instituted on the original order by Judge Vaughn Walker. The 9th Circuit became involved in the appeal of the Walker ruling, and had recently sent the case back to the California Supreme Court to determine whether or not those defending the amendment in court had the "standing", or legal right, to mount the defense. California's previous Governor and current Governor, who was Attorney General when Prop. 8 was passed, have refused to defend the law of the state - it is state law because it was passed by the voters and amends the state Constitution. Here is some analysis from Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund. Ultimately, this case will probably end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The question of what constitutes marriage is foundational to our nation. If the definition of marriage is altered, it has some deep implications to the security of our society. The recognition of same-sex marriage undermines the basic family structure that was instituted by God and has been upheld in America, resulting in a detrimental departure from the nature of this beneficial institution.
2 - Apple removes 2nd Christian app from iPhone app store
It didn't take long, but the powers that be at Apple have succombed yet again to pressure from a pro-gay organization demanding that the company remove an app from its iPhone store - an app that promotes a message that contradicts the gay activist agenda. It's been described as a case of anti-Christian bullying - a blatant attempt to silence the voices of those that hold to a different view of homosexuality than the politically correct one. Those that are crying for "tolerance" of the homosexual lifestyle have proven themselves to be intolerant of Christian beliefs and morals, and in trying to silence the voice of the organization, Exodus International, it shows that in its universe, there is no room for reasoned discussion - whatever happened to the liberals' calls for "civility"? So, here's the deal - Exodus International is quite effective in helping those stuggling with homosexuality and gender identity to find deliverance from the gay lifestyle (which is called sinful, according to the Bible) and for those who experience same-sex attraction to find peace. The fruit of the labors of Exodus obviously does not pass muster for the Change.org crowd, and so they petitioned Apple to remove Exodus' ability to speak in the iPhone platform. Apple, as they did in the case of the pro-life, pro-marriage Manhattan Declaration, marched in lockstep with the gay agenda, saying that the Exodus app is "offensive to large groups of people". There are probably a host of apps that Christians could find offensive - Playboy comes to mind, perhaps some of the "gay" dating apps... Here's the Fox News story, linked to the Manhattan Declaration website. You can take action by contacting Apple directly - a link, along with a blog post by Exodus leader Alan Chambers, can be found here.
1 - State legislatures go on offense against abortion
While it has been virtually impossible to pass legislation placing any restrictions on abortion on a Federal level, the same cannot be said for state legislatures. And, this year, a host of states are seeking to pass bills that would attempt to reduce the number of abortions in their states and send a strong pro-life message to the rest of America. Just this week, South Dakota passed a bill that enacts that nation's largest waiting period, 72 hours, before a woman can have an abortion, and the procedure must be performed by a qualified doctor. This prevents women from making snap decisions and is designed to free them from coercion from family members, friends, and even abortion providers. This week, the Kansas legislature completed its passage of a bill that would prohibit all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. This follows the state of Nebraska, which already has passed such a ban. Now, according to the Family Research Council, 17 states are considering a 20-week abortion ban, armed with medical research that indicates that unborn babies feel pain after the 20th or 21st week. This includes Alabama, whose House Health Committee held a hearing this week on a similar bill, a hearing that did not result in a vote, after testimony by pro-life advocates, as well as Planned Parenthood and ACLU representatives. Also, states are taking steps to prevent any tax dollars from being used for abortion under the Federal health care plan - Utah's legislature has passed such legislation. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council gave an excellent analysis of pro-life bills on the state level in this Washington Update. There is plenty of momentum to reduce the number of abortions in states across the U.S. Short of passing an outright ban on abortion (or at least a ban except in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother's life), which could subject states to protracted court action in budget-strapped times, states are creatively taking "incremental" steps to protect life, by banning certain abortions, strengthening parental consent, toughening standards for clinic health conditions, and providing for waiting periods - all common-sense laws that will work to reduce the number of pre-born children who are losing their lives.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
3 - Christian blogosphere continues to heat up on Bell controversy, MSNBC video goes viral
It's quite unusual for a Christian book that deals with theological issues to gain traction in the mainstream media, but Rob Bell's new tome, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, has certainly generated discussion not only among Christians and Christian media, but among those whom we regard as secular journalists, such as Newsweek's Lisa Miller and MSNBC's Martin Bashir. In fact, Bashir's hard-hitting interview with Bell has become the subject of much discussion. Watch it below:
On its release date on Tuesday of this past week, Rob Bell spoke at a webcast, hosted by Miller. The following Thursday, a number of evangelical leaders, including Al Mohler, Justin Taylor, and others, hosted their own online roundtable discussion on the controversy (link to Baptist Press). Detroit radio host Paul Edwards interviewed Bashir himself this week, who admitted to being a "committed Christian" who attends Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, where Tim Keller is the pastor. Here is the Baptist Press story on that interview.
On Tuesday, Baptist Press published this overview on the book and some response to it.
In a nutshell, Bell seems to suggests that life in heaven with God may not be reserved only for those who accept Jesus as Savior, which fuels charges that Bell is a "universalist". Also, Bell reportedly suggests there is not a literal hell, and that the consequences of disobeying God in essence may place an individual in a "hell" on earth.
Because Bell is a communicator who quite commonly relies on the power of suggestion and uses challenging questions in his mode of operation, some of the reviewers whose pieces I have read have had trouble really determining what the Michigan pastor is trying to say. But, even in an atmosphere coated by suggestion, many are convinced that Bell is minimizing the cross and the nature - and exclusivity - of the gospel. If Bell is attempting to generate discussion among Christians, he has accomplished that purpose. And, maybe, just maybe, through a careful study of Scripture, we can gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the power of the cross and the rescue that God has performed through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
2 - New Hampshire girl, previously homeschooled, must continue to attend public school
There were many concerns in the Christian and homeschool community when a court ruling from New Hampshire was handed down in 2009 that directed an 11-year-old girl who had been homeschooled to be placed in public school. This ruling came in a divorce case, where the wishes of the father and mother with regard to the child's education were in conflict with one another. The original court ruling was upheld on appeal by the New Hampshire Supreme Court this week.
Of great concern to many homeschool families was the suggestion to the lower court that the mother was rigid with respect to questions of faith and that the girl would be best served by being exposed to a public school setting. However, in the view of the Alliance Defense Fund, the high court decision, like the original decision, appeared to be narrow in its focus and could not be applied broadly with respect to questions of the superiority or suitability of a particular form of education. In fact, the Supreme Court made an intentional effort to restrict broad application. To learn more, go to this report from CitizenLink.
1 - Christian relief groups continue to work to provide aid to Japan
This past Friday, 90 tons of badly needed relief supplies were sent on a 747 jet from Charlotte, sponsored by the Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, in partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. This is a great sign that despite barriers and the nuclear threat, the aid to the people of Japan is starting to penetrate the severely damaged areas. World Vision also announced that it was able to move supplies into some regions northeast of Tokyo that were in need of assistance.
These are among the tangible efforts that are designed to make headway in a daunting task to provide needed food, clean water, and other supplies to the people whose lives have been turned upside-down by the quake. Southern Baptists are moving forward, as well, as they partner with Baptist Global Response to provide the necessary supplies into the affected areas.
Prayer and partnership are key elements now in the second week following the earthquake, and will continue to be for weeks and months to come. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has a menu of member relief organizations on its website, www.ecfa.org.
In a time of crisis, people need hope, in addition to their physical needs being met - this tragedy, which reminds us that we live in a fallen and dangerous world, can be used by God, who did not cause the disaster, to draw people to Himself.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
3 - Gay activism moves forward: anti-bullying summit, another threat in Apple app store
I report quite often on The Meeting House radio show about attempts to legitimize and normalize homosexual behavior in our culture. The traditional, Biblical view of marriage and male-female relationships is being challenged on numerous fronts, from court challenges to the definition of marriage concerning Proposition 8 in California and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to more insidious attempts to silence those who would want to offer a differing view of same-sex marriage and homosexual behavior than these "activists" hold. Under the guise of such adjectives as "homophobic" or "intolerant", Christians who desire to share the negative view of homosexual behavior that is described by the Scriptures and who wish to have their voices heard are increasingly facing attempts to villify their viewpoints.
An example of this trend is seen in the activities of those behind the website, Change.org. These are the people who approached Apple in opposition to its Manhattan Declaration app late last year - an app that had been approved by Apple in October with an excellent 4+ rating, indicating no objectionable material. Now, the "Change" people are at it again, collecting petitions on their website that call for the app for Exodus International to be removed. Exodus International is an organization devoted to helping those who wish to leave the homosexual lifestyle to do so and to minister to people who are struggling with same-sex attraction with truth and compassion. Unfortunately, in some rather high-profile circles, when a church, organization, or individual Christian attempts to point out what the Bible says about homosexual behavior and speaks out about it, that person is branded as being a proponent of "hate" or bigotry. Now, in the aftermath of the appearance of Alan Chambers, head of Exodus International, on the Lisa Ling program, "Pray the Gay Away?", the profile of Exodus has increased, and has attracted the attention of those who would wish to further a false characterization of the organization.Again, it does seems as if those who would merely point out a viewpoint that does not embrace homosexuality as acceptable or normal behavior are being characterized in a negative light, and that is being seen in the increasing emphasis in our society on "bullying". As Christians, we do not believe that anyone should be bullied - based on appearance, class, culture, or even sexual orientation. Christians should work to decrease instances of bullying. However, when the definition of bullying is skewed toward the gay agenda and when information and attitudes related to bullying are used to silence Christians who would want to lovingly offer an alternative to those who embrace homosexuality or struggle with gender identity, then that is an area of concern.
So you have Christian leaders who are expressing such concern about this week's White House Summit on Bullying, which prominiently featured LGBT leaders, students, and other individuals. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said:As Christians, we don't believe that a person should be harassed for their sexuality, their physical appearance, their beliefs, or any other reason. But sadly, the Left tends to spin the issue of bullying as a uniquely homosexual problem. They hold up tragic incidents like Tyler Clementi's suicide to push for school-based curriculum and other initiatives that give homosexuals a platform for normalizing their behavior.
Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth expressed this:
There is a real danger that ‘anti-bullying’ policies will be used to curtail any speech in schools critical of homosexuality, and create curricula that discriminate against religious students who believe homosexual behavior is morally wrong.You can read Peter's complete description on the furtherance of the homosexual agenda here.
2 - DOMA defense moves to the U.S. HouseAs I reported previously, the Obama Administration and its Department of Justice, under the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder, singlehandedly decided that the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by Congress in 1996 and signed by then-President Bill Clinton, defining marriage as one man for one woman, was unconstitutional. This was not unexpected, because some pro-family leaders and legal experts had been critical of the Administration, because its attorneys were apparently not vigorously defending the Act in court.
According to the Constitution, the responsibility now shifts to Congress. And, Speaker of the House John Boehner has apparently taken up the mantle. He summoned the Bi-Partisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to decide whether or not the House would hire its own attorneys to defend DOMA. By a 3-2 vote, the BLAG approved the House mounting the defense for DOMA in pending court cases. Here is the report from Baptist Press.1 - Japanese earthquake provides ministry opportunities
Christians who wish to give to the Japan relief efforts can go to the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) website and choose from member organizations who have been verified to be responsibile with their financial stewardship. You can learn more by going to www.ecfa.org.Organizations such as World Vision, Baptist Global Response, Samaritan's Purse, and many others are sending teams in to assess the damage and to carry out ministry opportunities, bringing physical supplies and spiritual hope. Prayer for the people of Japan is certainly a priority for us as we ask for God's hand to be very evident in the midst of unspeakable tragedy.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
3 - U.S. Supreme Court upholds free speech rights of Westboro Baptist Church
In a decision that had been met with quite a bit of expectation, the U.S. Supreme Court, by an 8-1 margin, ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, which is best known for its protests at military funerals, contending that soldiers are dying for a nation that is being judged by God because of its support of homosexuality.
While a variety of groups, including evangelical Christians, find the activities of the Westboro group offensive, the issue at hand was whether or not they had the free speech rights to carry out their protests. A decision against Westboro could have had a chilling effect on the rights of other groups to demonstrate publicly in support of their beliefs. But, the one dissenter on the high court, Samuel Alito, said that the First Amendment did not permit Westboro to engage in their offensive displays, and that the Matthew Snyder, whose father was the plaintiff in the case, deserved to be buried in peace.
Christian and pro-family groups lauded the high court's latest decision. Liberty Counsel had filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of Westboro, and issued this press release. This paragraph from that press release is notable:
person’s speech, simply because it might be offensive. Free speech needs
breathing room. It is better to tolerate a person’s offensive speech than be
silenced by the force of law.
Free speech is a cornerstone principle of the history of this country. Even when we as Christians find another person or group's words or actions to be offensive, we have to keep in mind that they have the right to speak, just as we do. A huge question would deal with who actually has the right to determine what is offensive - if Westboro's words are deemed to be offensive today, could the words of preachers proclaiming Biblical truth be considered offensive tomorrow (because we know that there are many that find the speech of Christians offensive
and would like to silence our voices!)? Wisely, in this case, the U.S. Supreme Court did not open a door that could have proven troublesome to Christians in the future.
2 - Heaven, hell, and Rob Bell
Is it a declaration of belief or a provocative marketing campaign, simply raising questions in advance of a book release? This is the heart of the controversy surrounding Michigan pastor Rob Bell, who has endeared himself to thousands through his creative NOOMA videos and books such as Velvet Elvis. Now, the online discussion is raging surrounding the video trailer for his forthcoming book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, where Rob Bell asks a series of questions related to the afterlife and the nature of God.
View it for yourself:
So, what did you think? Is he merely asking a few questions from the perspective of someone that is attempting to gain a greater understanding of God and matters of eternal judgment?
Jesus rescuing us from God? Really?
But, does Rob ever state what HE believes on these questions?
Well, the video - combined with the statement from the publisher - combined with some excerpts of the book have led some to question Bell's theology. The controversy really accelerated when blogger Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition and Vice-President at Crossway Books questioned whether or not Bell is a "universalist", in other words, embracing a theology that allows people other than Christians to go to heaven and avoid hell. Before you know it, leading theologians like John Piper, Albert Mohler, and to a lesser extent, Rick Warren, were chiming in. Christianity Today has a delightful recap of the way the situation has developed. Even The New York Times has covered the brouhaha.
In the meantime, the book release date has been pushed from March 29th to March 15th.
I can see where Scot McKnight is coming from when he says:
Rob is tapping into what I think is the biggest issue facing evangelicalism today, and this fury shows that it just might be that big of an issue.As someone who believes that Jesus is the one way to heaven - the way, the truth, and the life - the only way to the Father, and therefore the way to eternal life - I have to admit, I'm a bit skeptical about where Rob Bell may be going with this new book. Perhaps we do need to reframe the argument and place it in a different context, with a less dogmatic approach, if that's possible. My understanding is that the book concentrates less on heaven and hell than on the love of God, who desires for everyone to be saved. So, I'm willing to cut Bell some slack and wait on the book to actually be released. But, one has to be very careful when you're treading on the area of theology dealing with one's personal salvation - a little latitude and you can lose the essence of the gospel. The good news is that God is not sending people to hell, but through Christ, He provides a way out of the judgment we deserve as a result of our sin.
1 - Christian broadcasters assemble for annual convention
Recently, I had the chance to attend the annual National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tennessee. This is a gathering of representatives of various forms of Christian media, including radio, television, Internet, and even church-based media. Various general sessions featured high-profile speakers such as Chuck Swindoll, Ravi Zacharias, Voddie Baucham, Jay Sekulow, and James MacDonald. Special workshops were tailored to the variety of forms of media that were present, with a major concentration on the use of social media to share the gospel message.
Faith Radio and The Meeting House had a booth in the exhibit hall again this year, and I was privileged to interview dozens of speakers, authors, and musicians, such as: Dr. Tony Evans, Kay Arthur, Dr. Frank Wright, Joni Eareckson Tada, Thelma Wells, Nicole C. Mullen, Phil Keaggy, and Bethany Hamilton (profiled in the forthcoming movie, "Soul Surfer"). I also had the chance to feature Thomas Nelson's 400th Anniversary Celebration of the King James Version of the Bible, which was highlighted in a special exhibit at NRB this year.
It was a pleasure to meet and interview these and many other notable guests. To gain a sense of this year's convention, you can visit www.nrbconvention.org.
Pakistani Cabinet minister, a Christian, slain
Boehner says House will defend DOMA