Just hours before he died on April 12, 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt prepared – but never delivered – his final message to the American people. He wrote:
“Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together, in the same world, at peace.”
We begin with a story that’s a step in a hopeful direction:
1. In the war over faith-based foster care agencies, is an end finally in sight?
From the Deseret News:
When the Supreme Court’s decision was handed down in June, it wasn’t clear that its impact would be felt so strongly or so quickly. No one denied that it was significant for the court to unanimously side with the Catholic agency, but some legal experts felt the ruling was not broad enough to shake up the national landscape.
“(The ruling) was based on very narrow grounds,” Luchenitser said, noting that the justices focused on the granular details of Philadelphia’s foster care contracts.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of the Supreme Court’s more conservative members, highlighted this fact in his concurring opinion. He argued that the majority opinion was essentially a road map showing Philadelphia officials how to revise their policies and continue excluding faith-based agencies without violating the law.
“With a flick of a pen, municipal lawyers may rewrite the city’s contract to close the … loophole,” Gorsuch wrote.
Although his concerns may be validated in the long term, the Michigan settlement shows that the ruling was still a big deal. States and cities don’t need to have Philadelphia’s exact policies on the books to feel implicated by the court’s decision, said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which was involved in both the Philadelphia and Michigan cases.
“The Supreme Court said that if you have the kind of discretion in your system that allows you to make exceptions, then you have to make exceptions for religious exercise,” she said. “It’s very common that the government has a lot of discretion to decide who gets to participate (in the system) and where kids will go.”
Even in states where that isn’t the case, the June ruling seems to be having an impact, Luchenitser said. Policymakers are looking at the Catholic agency’s win — and the broader success of religious freedom claims in recent years — and feeling pressured to accommodate conservative religious groups.
“Government officials and judges across the country are aware that the Supreme Court is trending in favor of exemptions for religious organizations,” he said.
- South Dakota Republicans Decline to Hold Hearing on Governor’s Heartbeat Bill
From The Daily Citizen:
In a move sure to cause pro-life supporters some puzzlement, a Republican-controlled committee in the South Dakota legislature has refused to consider a “heartbeat bill” offered by Governor Kristi Noem. Patterned after the Texas Heartbeat Bill, the proposed bill would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected – usually around six weeks gestation.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court has declined four times thus far since last September to block the Texas law, and it has slowed abortions in the Lone Star State significantly, the action of the South Dakota House State Affairs committee in refusing to consider the bill naturally raises questions.
As it turns out, Republicans in the South Dakota legislature haven’t suddenly turned pro-abortion, but they have offered logistical and legal reasons for rejecting the Governor’s draft.
The Republican Speaker of the House, Spencer Gosch, told The Associated Press that the governor’s timing was bad.
“They showed up late to the game last minute, even last hour type stuff and it didn’t pass,” Gosch said. “Simple as that.”
Gosch and social conservatives in the state are also worried the legislation, as written, would jeopardize an ongoing legal battle the state is already engaged in with Planned Parenthood, in which the abortion seller is challenging the constitutionality of a state law passed in 2011 requiring abortion-minded women to talk to a pro-life pregnancy resource center before obtaining an abortion.
- Black Children’s Lives Matter, Too
From the Wall Street Journal:
When you’ve lost a child, especially to violence, it’s easy for something to transport you suddenly back to the moment you found out your baby was gone. When I learned that a 6-month-old Grayson Matthew Fleming Gray was shot and killed in Atlanta last week as he rode in his car seat with his mom, my chest clenched so tightly that I had to gasp for air. My precious 19-year-old Krystal also was killed in crossfire in 2004, after she made the fatal decision to stop for gas. In those terrible moments when I’m taken back to that night, I can’t breathe.
In 2021, 311 American children under 12 were shot and killed. But I haven’t seen anyone marching in the streets demanding justice or declaring that their innocent lives mattered. On New Year’s Day, the 4-year-old niece of George Floyd was shot and wounded as she slept in her bed. Will anyone remember baby Grayson’s name besides his family, who must now find a way to live with their emptiness and grief? How can we tolerate these kinds of deaths in our communities? Why is there no outrage?
The country seems too busy arguing about ideology that doesn’t mean anything to a grieving mother and pouring millions of dollars into the race grievance industry. Some people even make reckless demands to defund the police, which will only endanger more children. If young black lives lost to crossfire don’t matter to us now, when will they? It shouldn’t take the bloodshed of even more innocent children before we become “woke” to this issue.
- California Tried and Failed Again to Create a Government-Controlled Health Care System
From The Daily Signal:
California’s “progressive” legislators recently tried, and once again failed, to establish “a single-payer” system of state-controlled health care.
The California bill, AB 1400, would have abolished virtually all private and employer-sponsored health insurance, and would have replaced it with a state-run system promising universal coverage, including for illegal immigrants.
Among other things, the measure would have the state set and control payments for doctors and all other medical professionals and would have even restricted the ability of residents to get treatment from a doctor outside of the government program.
The bill failed in the heavily Democratic-controlled California State Assembly because Assemblyman Ash Kalra of San Jose could not even muster enough Democratic support to get a floor vote on the measure. He refused to bring the bill up for a vote, let alone even a floor fight.
Aside from opposition from “moderate” Democrats and the business community, Gov. Gavin Newsom, an outspoken supporter of the “single payer” concept, was conspicuous for his silence on the measure, further angering the bill’s supporters, notably the California Nurses Association.
This is another failed attempt to reboot an old movie. Since 1997, California’s progressive politicians and their allied lefty activists have frequently tried and failed to enact a government-run “single payer” health insurance program. In 2017, the California Legislature attempted to enact it, and the effort fell apart when it became clear that the price tag would have cost at least $331 billion.
- Covid-19 Vaccines Linked to Menstrual Cycle Changes
From The Wall Street Journal:
Since widespread immunization against Covid-19 began last year, doctors and medical researchers have been fielding reports of painful cramps, delayed periods and other changes in menstrual cycles among some who got the vaccines. Now research confirms that the shots can affect menstrual cycles, with one recent study linking vaccination to a slight increase in menstrual-cycle length.
“It’s reassuring that it’s small,” Alison Edelman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University and one of the researchers who conducted the study, said of vaccines’ effect on menstrual cycles. “It’s also validating to individuals who experienced it.”
For the study, published Jan. 5 in the peer-reviewed journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the researchers tracked six menstrual cycles of about 4,000 study subjects who had received the Pfizer Inc. – BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc. or Johnson & Johnson vaccine or were unvaccinated. It showed that cycles were extended on average by less than a day after one vaccine dose, or up to two days for people who got two doses within a single cycle.
Vaccination wasn’t linked to a change in period length, nor were menstrual changes more common with any particular vaccine.
- Religious populations growing faster than atheists worldwide; 2 Christian denominations stand out: report
From The Christian Post:
Despite an increase in the overall number of atheists worldwide, new research reveals that the population of religious people is growing at a faster pace than that of their secular counterparts.
Lifeway Research has identified “7 Encouraging Trends of Global Christianity in 2022” based on data collected by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Massachusetts-based Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Specifically, the data titled the 2022 Status of Global Christianity report, demonstrates that “religious faith is growing faster than the irreligious.”
The 2022 Status of Global Christianity report includes statistics about Christianity from 1900, 1970, 2000 and mid-2022 and features projections for 2025 and 2050. The data found that the population of “religionists,” those who subscribe to a particular religion, grew at a rate of 1.27% between 2000 and 2022. By contrast, the number of atheists only grew at a rate of 0.18% in the same time period.
While the number of atheists in the world has increased from approximately 141.5 million in 2000 to about 147 million now, the number of atheists remains below the record high of 165,156,000 measured in 1970. The number of atheists is predicted to decrease to approximately 143 million by 2050. The number of religionists increased from about 5.3 billion in 2000 to roughly 7 billion now and is projected to approach 9 billion by 2050.
Another encouraging trend touched upon by Lifeway is the growth of Christianity in particular. The number of Christians worldwide increased 1.17% from 2000 to 2022.
Christian denominations that experienced the fastest growth rates are Evangelicals (1.8%) and Pentecostals/charismatics (1.88%). The increase in the number of Pentecostals worldwide is expected to continue at a rapid pace. While fewer than 1 million people across the globe identified as Pentecostal in 1900, that number is expected to top 1 billion in 2050.
7. Why Churches Should Drop Their Online Services
From The New York Times:
I think it’s time to drop the virtual option. And I think this for the same reason I believed churches should go online back in March 2020: This is the way to love God and our neighbors.
For all of us — even those who aren’t churchgoers — bodies, with all the risk, danger, limits, mortality and vulnerability that they bring, are part of our deepest humanity, not obstacles to be transcended through digitization. They are humble (and humbling) gifts to be embraced. Online church, while it was necessary for a season, diminishes worship and us as people. We seek to worship wholly — with heart, soul, mind and strength — and embodiment is an irreducible part of that wholeness.
Throughout history, the mere fact of meeting together in person to sit, sing and talk to others was never all that countercultural. Being physically present to others was the default mode of existence. But for these digital natives, the stubborn analog wonders of skin, handshakes, hugs, bread and wine, faces, names and spontaneous conversation is part of what intrigued them and kept them going to church.
A chief thing that the church has to offer the world now is to remind us all how to be human creatures, with all the embodiment and physical limits that implies. We need to embrace that countercultural call.
- Food prices skyrocketed in January, putting a heavy burden on the poorest
From The Hill:
As record rates of inflation hit the U.S. and countries around the world, one thing that’s hit people’s wallets the hardest has been food prices, which could create a dangerous situation for the world’s poorest.
A global index was released on Thursday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and it revealed that certain food prices in January hit their highest level since 2011. The prices of meat, dairy and cereals ticked up from December, while the price of oils reached their highest level since the index began tracking food prices back in 1990.
There was a small morsel of good news, the price of sugar was down 3 percent from December, marking the second consecutive monthly decline and the lowest level in the past six months.
The reasoning behind the price increases varied from persistent drought conditions in Argentina and Brazil, rising crude oil prices, transportation delays due to COVID-19, and labor shortages.
- How Digital Youth Became Unhappy – and Dangerous – Adults
From First Things:
A dozen years ago, those of us watching with a skeptical eye couldn’t decide which troubled us more: the fifteen-year-olds averaging eight hours of media per day or the adults marveling at them. How could the older and wiser ignore the dangers of adolescents’ reading fewer books and logging more screen hours?
There should have been many, many more critics. The evidence was voluminous. Even as the cheerleaders were hailing the advent of digital youth, signs of intellectual harm were multiplying.
Instead of heeding the signs, people in positions of authority rationalized them away. Bill Gates and Margaret Spellings and Barack Obama told Millennials they had to go to college to acquire twenty-first-century skills to get by in the information economy, and the schools went on to jack up tuition, dangle loans, and leave them five years after graduation in the state of early-twentieth-century sharecroppers, the competence they had developed in college and the digital techniques they had learned on their own often proving to be no help in the job market. The solution? Be more flexible, mobile, adaptive! High school students bombed NAEP exams (“the Nation’s Report Card”) in U.S. history and civics, but, many shrugged:
Why worry, now that Google is around? The kids can always look it up! An August 2013 column in Scientific American featured an author recalling his father paying him five dollars to memorize the U.S. presidents in order and reflecting, “Maybe we’ll soon conclude that memorizing facts is no longer part of the modern student’s task. Maybe we should let the smartphone call up those facts as necessary.”
- 5 Things a Former Winter Olympian’s Brain Tumor Can Teach Us About Life
From The Daily Citizen:
Horatio Alger couldn’t have scripted it any better.
On February 13, 1980, with a stiff cold breeze blowing off Lake Placid’s Whiteface Mountain, twenty-one-year-old figure skater Scott Hamilton slowly led his team into the snow-covered horse show grounds for the opening ceremony of the 13th Winter Olympic games.
Trumpets blared. Drums rolled. The colors of eighty countries circled the arena. Elected by his teammates to carry the American flag, the 5’3” Ohio native carefully steadied the stars and stripes in the leather harness strapped across his chest.
“If I start to fly away, will somebody please grab me?” he shouted, half-jokingly, to no one in particular.
“As we began the march through the stadium gates, my hat was practically covering my eyes,” he remembered. “Not a good thing for the guy leading the hundred member American team.”
The next day, the Washington Post described him as an “Olympic nobody – just a fellow who finished a respectable third in the U.S. Olympic trials in men’s singles.”
Of course, that “Olympic nobody” would eventually go on to become a highly accomplished and decorated “Olympic somebody” who took home a gold medal in 1984 and went on to win, among other honors, four consecutive U.S. and World Championships.
Scott, a three-time cancer survivor himself, enjoys a life deeply rooted in an abiding faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, considering the way Scott has managed the various tribulations that have beset him, here are five things he can teach us about the unpredictable twists and turns of life:
- Adversity is often opportunity in disguise.
- Hardship changes us – it never keeps us the same.
- Every day is a gift.
- We can’t choose our condition, but we can choose our attitude.
- All is well.