Sunday, November 23, 2014

The 3 - November 23, 2014

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, there has been response among Christian leaders in response to the President's announced action on immigration this week, a continuation of faith-based groups and leaders speaking about the issue.  Also, thousands have been speaking out in support of a large family who are featured in a long-running reality show.  And, the top story:  a major gathering on the topic of marriage recently concluded at the Vatican, and evangelical Christian leaders were among the assortment of representatives from a variety of faith groups who attended and spoke.

3 - Christian leaders respond to President's executive action on immigration

As expected, this past week, President Obama announced that he would be taking executive action regarding immigration.  According to a report on the website, the President said that:
1. "We’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over."
2. "I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed."
3. "We’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country."
Of course, as the report points out, that third area, which could affect up to 5 million illegal immigrants in the nation, is continuing to prompt debate.

The President relied on a Biblical reference in his announcement.  He said, "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger—we were strangers once, too...My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too."

Jenny Yang of World Relief is quoted as saying, "Congress should see the President’s actions as impetus to pass immigration reform that will supersede executive action as soon as possible..."

Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said that the President's action was "not the preferable delivery mechanism," but described it as a "merciful action" because it "initiates a reconciliatory prescription necessary in addressing a defacto humanitarian crisis within our borders: millions of God's children created in his image living in the shadows."

Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention disagreed with the unilateral action and said, "My hope is that the Republicans in Congress will not allow the President's actions here as a pretext for keeping in the rut of the status quo." He is also quoted as saying, "More importantly, I pray that our churches will transcend all of this posing and maneuvering that we see in Washington. Whatever our agreements and disagreements on immigration policy, we as the Body of Christ are those who see every human life as reflecting the image of God.”

Noel Castellanos, CEO and President of the Christian Community Development Association, applauded the President for "making good on his promise to give relief."  He said that he has long "urg[ed] Congress to fix our broken immigration system based on the biblical principles of love for neighbor and human dignity."  He said that, "Now it is time for Congress to finish the job by passing comprehensive immigration reform."

The Washington Times featured a report with a number of Christian leaders, including Penny Nance, chief executive and president of Concerned Women for America, who said that their stance on immigration is that “we must secure our borders and enforce the law” — and “we do not believe the president has constitutional authority to give temporary amnesty without congressional approval.”

She added, “I think it’s important to note that the president and others have been using dog whistles to [call] evangelicals, by saying that undocumented workers must ‘get right with the law...It’s true and it’s clever, in that it appeals to our core belief in redemption and restoration.”

But the question is whose idea can make that happen, Ms. Nance said. “Eleven million people are God’s children and we must choose wisely and justly. But we must also be cognizant of national security and sovereignty.”

Among religious leaders, views on immigration reform are likely to not only continue, but harden, said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a Christian think-tank and religious watchdog organization.

You can read more about the positions of Christian leaders on the issue, including a new LifeWay Research survey of pastors on it, by going to a recent edition of my other blog, The Front Room.

2 - Petition drive to remove Duggars' program countered reports that as of this past Saturday, after just two days, a petition in support of the Duggar family was poised to overtake a separate petition on attacking the family for their conservative beliefs.  The original petition drive was launched in September, and it was highlighted this week by several mainstream media outlets.   The original petition grew and was up to over 140,000 signatures by Saturday after it received that flurry of media coverage.

LifeSiteNews launched its counter-petition on Thursday, and over 2 days, it had risen to over 120,000 signatures.

The anti-Duggar petition criticizes Michelle Duggar, the mother of the large Christian family featured in TLC's "19 Kids and Counting," for opposing a "transgender" bill in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and demands that TLC yank the Duggars from the air.

Among high-profile Christians supporting the pro-Duggar petition are the Benham Brothers, whose proposed reality TV show on HGTV was cancelled after gay activists launched a campaign highlighting their traditional Christian views. They said that the effort to remove the Duggars waas part of "the same intolerant agenda that attacked our family." The brothers say that agenda "is now demonizing one of the most wholesome families in America...The Duggars have always been an example of Christian love for each other and society. It’s time for Americans to stand with them against this latest manifestation of anti-Christian bullying."

1 - Variety of church leaders, including evangelicals, address marriage at Vatican conference

This past week, 28 speakers from 14 religious traditions and 23 nations spoke at an ecumenical conference on marriage at the Vatican.  Included in the assortment of speakers were two evangelical leaders:  Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, which is a Southern Baptist congregation.
According to a story on the website,, Moore gave a message on the importance of marriage and emphasized the spiritual harm that comes from "jettisoning" the very relationship that represents Christ's relationship with His Church.  Warren offered a plan of action and charged the audience to "never give up!"
In opening the conference, Pope Francis is quoted as saying, "We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment...This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings..."

In the closing address, Warren shared these comments, according to the Christian Examiner website:
"In Hebrews 13:4 we are given this clear command: Marriage is to be honored by everyone," Warren preached. "Sadly today, marriage is now dishonored by many."
"It is dismissed as an archaic, manmade tradition, discouraged as a career-limiting choice, denounced as an enemy of women, demeaned in movies and television and delayed out of fear that it will limit one's personal freedom," he said.
"Today marriage is ridiculed, resented, rejected, and even redefined."
"What are we to do about this?"
Saying there is too much at stake, he urged "The church cannot cower in silence!"
Using Mark 10:6-9, Warren presented five convictions he said "the Owner's Manual on Marriage" gives:  1) Gender is God's idea, 2) Marriage is God's idea, 3) Sex was created for marriage, 4) Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and 5) Marriage is to be permanent.   He concluded by saying that they should "...never give up and never give in!"  He observed, "The church cannot be salt and light in a crumbling culture if it caves in to the sexual revolution and fails to provide a counter-culture witness."

The Examiner story reported that Moore spoke on Tuesday, saying people should defend one-man/one-woman marriage for the common good, but also for the sake of the Gospel.   It referred to a Baptist Press article quoting Moore as saying, "Marriage is a common grace, and we should speak...of why jettisoning normative marriage and family is harmful...Marriage 'is grounded in the natural order, bearing rights and responsibilities that were not crafted by an human state and cannot thus be redefined by any human state.'"

As the Christian Examiner pointed out, the conference was a year in the making, but coincidentally came just a month after a Vatican bishop's council stirred speculation about softening of official Catholic views on marriage, homosexuality and the family.

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