What do you hope for and look forward to?
“Hope is one of the Theological virtues,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”
We begin the week and day with a look at hope:
- Five Reasons to Remain Hopeful in a Post Christian World
Focus on the Family President Jim Daly writes:
My friend Dr. Tim Keller is out this week with his second essay in a planned four-part series on the decline of evangelicalism, and what that troubling trend means for Christians going forward.
Tim, who is courageously battling pancreatic cancer (and doing well), offers a thoughtful, candid – and hopeful – assessment about our current state of affairs. I’ve long said that leadership is knowing reality and suggesting solutions to problems. That’s precisely what my pastor friend does on a regular basis, even though he’s no longer preaching each Sunday.
Although Tim ultimately brings a hopeful message, he’s by no means myopic about where things are for evangelical Christians today. His assessment is sober-minded, acknowledging that an escalating secularism has gained steam and is infecting every category of culture, especially the “elites” who control society’s institutions.
In my thirty-five years at Focus on the Family, I’ve witnessed and experienced a fundamental shift regarding the receptivity of the Christian message not only just here in the United States but also across the globe. The secularization of Europe came first, and many warned the wave would come west. That’s exactly what happened. In Europe, empty churches have been transformed into restaurants and even bars.
Yet despite the gathering storm clouds, Tim suggests Christians can remain heartened and hopeful – and for six main reasons:
First, he suggests that even secularism has its limitations. In times of strife and trouble, where do people turn? Secularism doesn’t bring comfort or meaning. It’s hollow and vacuous. We even see it when a loved one or friend dies and someone says, “I’m sending good energy your way” instead of promising prayer.
Second, Americans must remember evangelical Christianity might be waning in practice here in the United States, but it’s growing in strength in other parts of the world, especially underdeveloped nations. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a force that cannot be stopped.
Third, and on a related note – demographics is destiny. Evangelical Christianity encourages children and large families, and where the faith is fervent, mothers and fathers are welcoming lots of kids. This is good news.
Fourth, there is a richness and depth in evangelicalism because it’s chosen as opposed to being inherited from previous generations. My mother and father’s faith is not mine. I made a very deliberate and consequential decision as a teenager to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at an FCA camp. Because I made the decision, I’m invested in it and believe in it with all my heart.
Fifth, our faith is not something we deal with only on Sunday – it’s part of who we are every day of the week, and it informs our life and activities at home and at the office. If we’re sincere and deliberate, it’s highly contagious to those around us.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Dr. Keller suggests “the promise of Jesus” changes everything, infusing hope into even the most desperate and difficult situation. He is correct. In a generation where hype has become habit and there is no shortage of bad news, the best of news is that Christ resides in power on the throne. It might be dark – but the light of Jesus will brighten our way.
- Politics and the ‘Great Confinement’
From the Wall Street Journal:
We may be on the verge of the most consequential U.S. political realignment in almost a century. The cause is Covid—or to be precise, the mishandling of the pandemic response by government, media and the scientific establishment. As the Great Depression destroyed the American electorate’s faith in Wall Street and big business, sweeping in a Democrat-dominated political order, so too has the “Great Confinement”—in the form of lockdowns, shutdowns and mandates—wrecked faith in the basic competence of American government. As in 1932, the party out of power stands to benefit.
In the U.S., the Great Confinement has left scars on the national psyche comparable to the effects of the Great Depression. This loss of faith has been compounded by government failure to deal with spiking violent-crime rates and the shocking dereliction of duty on the part of the nation’s teachers. Children and families feel as if they’ve been left stranded by the school systems they pay for with their tax dollars.
In 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt called those left stranded by the Great Depression “the forgotten man.” Today the Great Confinement has created a nation of forgotten Americans. In 1932 Democrats used national disillusion with big business to create a powerful new political coalition that gave them control of the White House for 20 years and a virtual stranglehold on Congress that lasted more than half a century. Today the Republican Party has a similar opportunity. If the GOP can capitalize on disillusion with big government by affirming its commitment to the interests of those forgotten Americans, regardless of racial or religious or regional labels, it will own Washington for a generation.
Polls show two-thirds of Americans feel the country is on the wrong track. In a recent Axios poll, 66% of Republicans, 41% of Democrats and 46% of independents said they are more fearful than hopeful about what’s in store for 2022. A Politico/Morning Consult poll shows Democrats’ approval numbers dropping by 12 points since March and President Biden’s sinking lower than that.
A political earthquake may be coming. In the 1932 election Democrats gained 97 seats in the House, giving them nearly a 3-to-1 margin over Republicans. The Democrats also flipped 12 seats in the Senate and took the presidency. Two years later Democrats picked up another nine Senate seats. No one expects the 2022 midterms to show such a dramatic result for the GOP. But last November’s elections in Virginia and New Jersey were a sign that a realignment is in the offing. Will the political class realize what’s happening in time to get ahead of what’s coming, or will they be swept along in its wake?
3. Michigan Faith-Based Adoption Agency Wins Big Settlement After State Tries to Shut Them Down
From The Daily Citizen:
A recent legal victory for religious freedom in the case of a Philadelphia faith-based child-placement agency at the U.S. Supreme Court has now resulted in a $550,000 settlement of a similar lawsuit in favor of a Catholic child placement agency in Michigan.
As part of the written settlement, St. Vincent will be allowed to continue to operate its agency without being forced to approve same-sex couples as parents. And St. Vincent agreed that if approached by any such couples, it will refer them to another agency in the state who will work with them. The state also agreed to pay St. Vincent’s $550,000 for attorney’s fees incurred in the litigation.
In an emailed statement to The Daily Citizen via legal counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Melissa Buck, one of St. Vincent’s foster parents and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said, “We are relieved and overjoyed to know that St. Vincent can finally get back to placing vulnerable children with families like ours without the threat of closure. My husband and I are the proud parents of five beautiful, special needs children all adopted through St. Vincent. We look forward to continuing to work with St. Vincent to serve kids.”
St. Vincent’s Director of Communication, Ali Pirich Busque, added, “We are overjoyed that Michigan has recognized the important role religious adoption and foster care agencies like St. Vincent play in helping children find loving homes. We look forward to putting this lawsuit behind us and continuing to work with the State to serve vulnerable children, regardless of their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.”
- Inside the Campaign to Pressure Justice Breyer to Retire
From the Washington Post:
The campaign was carried out by various groups and politicians — not always acting together, and with some delivering their messages far more discreetly than others — that culminated this past week with Breyer’s announcement that he would soon step down after serving since 1994.
Breyer’s brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, said in an interview, “Of course he was aware of this campaign. I think what impressed him was not the campaign but the logic of the campaign. And he thought he should take into account the fact that this was an opportunity for a Democratic president — and he was appointed by a Democratic president — to fill his position with someone who is like-minded.”
“He did not want to die on the bench,” Charles Breyer added.
5. Virginia Parents Sue School Board for Teaching Racism at School
From The Daily Citizen:
Nine parents are suing the Albemarle County School Board for discriminating against their children and indoctrinating them into a radical, racist ideology.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the legal group representing the parents, said the school district’s policies and teaching are “rooted in critical race theory (CRT)” which “instructs that students must be treated differently based on their race.”
“CRT is an ideology that looks at everyone and everything though the lens of race. It classifies all individuals as privileged vs. unprivileged, oppressors vs. oppressed, victimizers vs. victims, haves vs. have nots, all based entirely on their race,” ADF explains in an online article, “One School Board Is Fighting Racism with … More Racism?”
ADF explains that CRT teaches that all people must become “anti-racist” – or they are discriminatory racists. And being anti-racist “requires that people be treated differently based on their race to advance “equity.”
Being “anti-racist” is not the same as being non-racist. Not at all.
6. Don’t Blame the Pandemic for Low Church Attendance
From the Gospel Coalition:
Church attendance has been declining since the pandemic. But has the pandemic simply exacerbated a trend we hadn’t noticed?
Before we can determine how sharply church attendance has declined, we need to know how many people have been coming to church. Unfortunately, that’s difficult to determine because Americans exaggerate their level of attendance. For example, a Gallup poll taken in 2000 found that 70 percent of American adults claimed to be a member of a church, synagogue, or mosque. That doesn’t match reality.
What the latest poll results most likely reveal is that an increasing number of Americans simply do not feel the social pressure to exaggerate their claims about church attendance. Within a few years, the self–reported results might begin to reflect actual attendance more accurately. For now, though, what we should pay attention to is the trend line—which has been declining for decades.
We can conclude that fewer people feel the need to claim to be a member of a church they never attend, that large churches are growing while medium churches are shrinking, and that the decline in attendance predated the pandemic. In other words, the facts about church attendance in America are complicated. We may be experiencing a decline in “cultural Christianity,” a general shift from medium to large churches, a decline exacerbated by a global pandemic, or all these trends at once. All that we can know with certainty is that, whether attendance shrinks or grows, God will continue to build his church (Mt. 16:13–26).
7. How to Find and Keep Friends: A Guide for Middle Age
From the Wall Street Journal:
While there’s no magic wand to fix loneliness, there are things you can do to make new friends, and to rekindle or sustain the friendships you already have. Tech can help, but some of these methods are old school with a pandemic-era update. For all the strategies, you still have to take initiative—and be vulnerable.
Just ask: When our kids are little, we teach them to approach other children on the playground and ask to be their friend. Adults need to do the same—without being so literal, of course. I’ve made some good friends by chatting with other parents at my neighborhood park.
Be social, minus the media: Kat Vellos, a friendship coach and author of “We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships,” suggests inviting friends to take a social-media break with you and agree to spend the time you might have spent scrolling Instagram having a phone call instead.
Create a routine: If there’s something you need or like to do each day, such as walking your dog, try doing it at the same time, said Danielle Bayard Jackson, a friendship coach. You’ll probably notice the same people out at the same time and have ample opportunity to strike up a conversation.
Do the little things: Maintaining friendships doesn’t have to entail grand gestures. Sending friends an article or funny video that makes you think of them shows you care.
8. Pray for the Blue: Our Police Help Keep Us from Cultural Collapse
From The Daily Citizen:
The “Blue Watch” has always been a dangerous line of work, of course, but according to the FBI, 2021 was the deadliest in 20 years, excluding the 9/11 attacks. A recently released report indicates 73 police officers were killed last year alone, and 2022 is off to a tragic start with numerous police deaths across the country.
It takes a special type of person to voluntarily wade into danger each and every hour of each and every day of duty. Yet, there are nearly 700,000 law enforcement officers in the United States and all of them knowingly assume the deadly risk that goes along with the job.
They need and deserve our prayers.
The rise of police deaths is attributable, I think, to a constellation of avoidable factors:
It’s the result of open borders, decimated departments, spineless governments not allowing officers to do their jobs or backing them up when they do – along with a refusal to prosecute aggressively and deter repeat offenders.
At the root of the problem, though, is a spiritual emptiness and a rising sense of hopelessness for these offenders, many of whom hail from broken homes and who have broken hearts with little or no sense of direction.
As we pray for our men and women in uniform, let’s also pray for those who are on the edge and desperately in need of Jesus and His saving grace and assurance of a better way.
- Happy Places Have This in Common
From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Paul Batura):
The happiest places in Colorado Springs are filled with the happiest people. But the secret to happiness is really no secret at all. Contentment is best found doing what you love with the people you love to be with.
America is the only country in the world where “happiness” is included in its founding documents. Our pursuit of it is a foundational tenet and a highly valued one, which is why we don’t take kindly to being told where we can’t go or do or being mandated to do something that might violate our deeply held convictions.
But the older I get, the more I agree with Abraham Lincoln, who wisely observed, “We’re just about as happy as we make up our minds to be.”
When the legendary and prolific hymn writer Fanny Crosby, who was blind, was just 8-years-old, she wrote the following poem: “Oh, what a happy child I am, Although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be!”
I’ve worked for Focus on the Family for the last 25 years. Over 200,000 parents and children visit our welcome center and the Whit’s End soda shop each year. There’s a contagious spirit of happiness there, because kids instinctively and intuitively know how to have fun — and because moms and dads are happy when they see their sons and daughters having a good time.
Our city’s churches are happy and joy-filled places, because the people who attend them know ultimate happiness is found serving others as we acknowledge there is a power and presence in this world far greater than ourselves.
Before it becomes a destination, happiness is a decision. Americans are weary as we begin the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the very best way to overcome this lingering malaise is to choose to be happy. If you’ll do it, you might just be surprised how happy the people and places around you turn out to be.
10.Amy Schneider’s Winning Streak Ended After Being Asked To Name The Gender That Has Two X Chromosomes
From the Babylon Bee (Satire):
[Biological male] Amy Schneider’s winning streak on Jeopardy has ended. Despite holding the record for Jeopardy’s highest-earning “female” contestant ever, Schneider was defeated after being confounded by the clue, ‘this gender has two X chromosomes.’
“I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the category of ‘Grade School Biology’,” said Schneider. “I avoided the category until the very end, as basic biology has never been my strong suit.”