Monday, April 08, 2013

The 3 - April 7, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes another instance of labeling evangelical Christians as extreme, the suicide of the son of a high-profile minister, and a judge's ruling concerning unrestricted access for young girls to the so-called "morning-after pill".

3 - ADF posts Army training presentation labeling evangelical Christians "extreme"

A proposed U.S. Army Reserve training brief is said to contain a slide in a PowerPoint presentation labeling evangelical Christians, as well as Catholics, as "extreme" or "extremist".  The presentation, which was obtained and posted online by legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, indicates that the Army Reserve in Pennsylvania considers evangelical Christians, Catholics, and Mormons as dangerous as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and Hamas.

According to, the text accompanying the slide listing “extremist” groups defines extremism as beliefs, attitudes, feelings, and actions far removed from the ordinary:
Because “ordinary” is subjective, no religious group would label itself extreme or its doctrine “extremism.” However, religious extremism is not limited to any single religion, ethnic group, or region of the world; every religion has some followers that believe that their beliefs, customs and traditions are the only “right way” and that all others are practicing their faith the “wrong way,” seeing and believing that their faith/religion superior to all others.
The WORLD story quotes George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, who confirmed the presentation was produced by an individual without consent from or knowledge of the Army's chain of command. The presentation is more than a year old, Wright said: "After receiving a single complaint following the presentation, this person deleted the slide, and it was never again shown. … This person has apologized for any offense it may have caused, and we consider the matter closed."

Chaplain Ron Crews, Executive Director for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, also condemned the presentation.   In a statement, he said that, “Men and women of faith who have served the Army faithfully for centuries shouldn’t be likened to those who have regularly threatened the peace and security of the United States...It is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization.”

This brought to mind the 2009 Homeland Security document on so-called "right-wing extremism" that read, according to the Media Research Center's NewsBusters website:

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or ejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
Factor in the labeling of certain Christian and pro-family groups as "hate" groups, and you could conclude that this Army report is just another brick in a foundation that is being laid to discredit Christians and Christian organizations, contributing to a false narrative about people of faith.

2 - Suicide of Rick Warren's son brings attention to mental illness and depression

It was easily the talk of my Facebook news feed yesterday, as the tragic news from Southern California made headlines not only among Christians but in news media in general.   The 27-year-old son of Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Matthew, the youngest of the Warrens' three children, died of an apparent suicide on Friday night.

Pastor Warren sent an e-mail to the congregation on Saturday morning (excerpt from Christianity Today's website).   It said, in part:
You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.
But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.   
Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said “ Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?” but he kept going for another decade.
Sunday services at Saddleback included a message from the church's teaching pastor Tom Holladay, who, according to The Christian Posttold the congregation that Pastor Warren had called him earlier during the week to request him to preach to the church during the weekend. When Holladay asked what he should preach about, and what was on Warren's mind, Warren said he wanted the teaching pastor to preach about what to do on the worst day of your life – not knowing that later that week he would face Matthew's death.

Holladay's sermon was based on 1 Samuel 30, which is about David coming back from the battle and finding out that the entire town of Ziklag had been wiped out. The response of David and his people is a model for us to deal with a situation where hope seems distant, he said.

Holladay shared five things they did, and requested the audience to pray for Rick and Kay to walk through those steps:
1) Weep
2) Do not get bitter
3) Encourage others
4) Look to the future with hope
5) Attack evil.

Not only does the suicide of Matthew Warren gives us the opportunity to pray for Rick and Kay Warren, but we can be challenged as the body of Christ to look for ways to intervene in the lives of those who suffer from depression or even mental illness.  While there are those have been taught that suicide is the unforgivable sin, the church at large, I believe, has now refined its perspective to recognize that there is adversity or despondency so great that people will take their own life.   It is important to recognize the warning signs, if they are there, and take bold and compassionate steps to provide hope and direction. And, there has been a stigmatization in the church about mental health issues, and we must recognize that a battle with depression or other mental factors, which often have a chemical root, is not a sign of spiritual insufficiency.   You can certainly walk deeply with Christ but still suffer with mentally-related conditions.   Our challenge is to rush headlong and help and not run or turn a blind eye.   And, this occurrence should not be used to look at Rick and Kay Warren in a negative light.   Pastors - and many others - have been known to raise troubled's not necessarily a reflection of some sort of parenting deficiency, rather, it is a reminder that we teach the principles, we love our kids, and leave the results up to God.

1 - Judge's decision on morning-after bill alarms pro-life groups

In a ruling that has some strong moral implications, a federal judge in New York has ordered the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make the Plan B "morning-after pill" available without prescription to all women, including teenagers younger than 17 years of age.

According to a report on the CitizenLink website, the ruling comes after HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled a government panel recommendation in 2011 to sell the possible abortion-causing drug over-the-counter to girls as young as 11 without a prescription.  At the time, Sebelius said she was concerned about young girls having access to the drug without doctor supervision.

CitizenLink relates that the Morning After Pill (MAP) is a term coined to describe a series of pills given to women within 72 hours of intercourse to prevent pregnancy...The physiological mechanisms are not precisely known but there is general consensus in the medical community that these pills may operate in one of three ways:
1. To delay or prevent ovulation (the release of the woman’s egg)
2. To prevent sperm from reaching the egg, preventing fertilization and acting as a contraceptive
3. To alter the lining of the uterus (endometrium), preventing implantation of an early embryo after fertilization.

The third way is critical when you consider the traditional definition of pregnancy, which is said to begin at fertilization.   Therefore, this so-called "alteration" would result in the termination of life.

If the MAP is to be made available to a girl or woman of any age, this could lead to increased sexual activity driven by the mistaken promise of consequence-free sex.  

Reaction among Christian and pro-family leaders was swift.  Carrie Gordon Earll of CitizenLink said:  “This ruling makes no sense.  It gives young girls unsupervised access to a powerful drug without medical oversight or parental knowledge.  It puts teenage girls at greater risk to be pressured into sex and provides no way for parents to know if their daughters are using the drug as a routine contraceptive – which the drug manufacturer warns against. The Obama Administration was right to restrict this drug to adults and the judge is wrong to reverse that decision."

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, said that, "Teen girls need parents, not unfettered access to abortion-inducing drugs...Judge Korman’s decision is reckless and denies girls the protection that comes along with the involvement of parents and doctors."

She went on to say that, "We should not be making it easier for young girls to access abortifacient drugs that end life at an unknown consequence to the young girl herself."

The next step would be an appeal by the Obama Administration and the Dept. of HHS.

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