In a 1968 interview, the British pastor and evangelist Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed:
“It is the evangelical Gospel and its preaching that has the greatest impact politically and socially. My best plan of doing [of influencing political-social conditions] is to produce Christian people in large numbers. And then the politics will pay attention.”
In our first story, former Focus on the Family board member Dr. Al Mohler discusses why Christians, like it or not, cannot ignore the political and social challenges of today:
- Christians Did Not Start the Culture Wars, But We Cannot Evade Them
Dr. Al Mohler in The Briefing:
Are we or are we not in the midst of what’s described as a culture war? I’m just going to say simply straightforwardly, undeniably we are. Culture war explains much of what is going on in the world around us. It doesn’t explain everything, but it explains why at the most fundamental level of our civilizational life, there is a war over what is true, what is beautiful, what is good, what should be moral, what is marriage, what does it mean to be male and female, or does it mean anything that’s subjectively true.
The point I want to make is that Christians didn’t declare the culture war. Conservative Christians didn’t decide that there would be a fundamental struggle over our society and civilization.
Christians can’t avoid it. We can’t evade it. Like it or not, someone’s going to decide what’s taught in school, in the public schools. Like it or not, someone’s going to decide what the laws are. Like it or not, someone in this representative democracy of constitutional self-government’s going decide what the definition of marriage is. Someone, like it or not, is going to decide what parental rights are. Just how far parents are understood to have the rights to raise their own children. Someone’s going to decide just how far religious liberty is to extend. Someone’s going to decide fundamental issues of reality. It’s not just speed limits we’re talking about here, it’s not just the IRS and taxation, it is the fact that in our times, the state has taken on a claim of power and authority. That means the state is largely invading the life of every single family, the life of every single home, the life of every single community.
Someone’s going to decide what the policies are, who’s going to lead, what reality is. Again, what marriage is, whether or not a boy is recognized as a boy, and a girl is a girl, whether or not you have forced conformity with a new ideology of sexual expressivism and progressivism, all that’s going to be decided, there’s no way around it. Now, honestly, the right kind of argument, I think to be found among Christians is how we are to engage these issues in the public square, and how we are to engage those with whom we disagree.
The fact is that Christians owe the society at large and every single human being made in God’s image, we owe to our neighbor love of neighbor, but we also owe to our neighbor the truth. We also owe to our neighbor righteous laws and a just system of government, and a system of laws and policies that is consistent with creation itself and the Creator’s plan in making us, for example, human beings in his image, and making us male and female, and establishing marriage as the very fundamental institution of our society.
Love of neighbor is not just being sweet and polite. Love of neighbor also means we have an inherent responsibility to seek that the laws are righteous, that the laws comport with reality, that the policies and governing structures and reigning ideologies of our time are as consistent with biblical truth as is possible. One of the patterns I see, especially on the left wing of evangelicalism, if it can be rightly described as that is the fact that the culture warrior label is often attached to people who just hold to a different political understanding. Now, there are those who misuse God in just about every conceivable way, and that’s on both sides of the spectrum.
But the reality is that I see this criticism often thrown at conservative Christians who after all, right now are in a position of having to fight for the most fundamental issues from religious liberty, and the right to pray in public, all the way to the sanctity of human life. These aren’t uncomplicated. Frankly, we do have a responsibility to engage these issues while demonstrating civic respect, and for that matter, love of neighbor, which is even more fundamental. But again, love of neighbor doesn’t end with just being respectful, it also extends to defending the truth that is essential for the flourishing of humanity.
- How Social Justice Became a New Religion
From The Atlantic:
A quick question. If someone is yelling “repent” at you in the street, are they more likely to be (a) a religious preacher or (b) a left-wing activist?
The answer depends on where you are. Last October, a crowd gathered outside Netflix’s offices in Los Angeles to protest the release of Dave Chappelle’s comedy special The Closer, which contained a long riff criticizing transgender activists. Inevitably, there was a counterprotest: a lonely Chappelle fan holding a sign that read we like dave. This went over badly. Someone took the sign from him and ripped it up. Someone else shouted in his face, and their word choice was notable. The man who liked Dave was urged to “repent.”
A similar sentiment surfaced last month, when students protested the decision of University College London to stop paying Stonewall, an LGBTQ charity, to audit the institution’s compliance with laws on diversity. That decision might sound dry and technical, but to the students, it showed the institution’s lack of commitment to LGBTQ rights. They held a sign that read rejoin stonewall or go to hell.
This fire-and-brimstone language might initially seem odd, because society is becoming less religious—in the U.S., church membership dropped below 50 percent for the first time in 2020, down from 70 percent in 1999. In Britain, where I live, the decline of organized religion is “one of the most important trends in postwar history,” according to the British Social Attitudes survey. We might expect that religious concepts—repentance, hellfire, heresy, apostasy—would have become less salient as a result. But that’s not the case. For some activists, politics has usurped the role that religion used to play as a source of meaning and purpose in our lives, and a way to find a community.
- Tragic Case in Canada Highlights Problems with Permissive Euthanasia Laws
From the Daily Citizen:
Alan Nichols was checked into a Canadian hospital over fears he might be suicidal. He had no life-threatening medical conditions. He wasn’t taking his needed medications. And he wasn’t using his cochlear implant.
Then hospital staff improperly helped him in his request to die.
On his application for euthanasia, Nichols listed one singular disability: hearing loss.
He was promptly (and legally) killed by “doctors” in Canada.
For hearing loss.
- American Academy of Pediatrics president backtracks on policy of medicalizing ‘trans’ youth
From the Post Millennial:
The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now acknowledges that “the vast majority of children” subject to “gender-affirming care” should not be medicalized, a complete reversal of the AAP’s official 2018 policy.
Moira Szilagyi responded in an open letter to an op-ed by Leor Sapir and Julia Mason in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that criticized the AAP’s suppression of debate regarding their policy to “affirm” children and teens in their transgender identities with drugs, hormones and surgeries.
Szilagyi issued a public response to the initial piece with a Wall Street Journal opinion letter, but avoided acknowledging or answering any of the main points Sapir and Mason made. However, she did make an admission, by saying that they recommend the “opposite” of “medical treatments or surgery for the vast majority of children.”
“In its recommendations for caring for transgender and gender-diverse young people,” Szilagyi writes, “the AAP advises pediatricians to offer developmentally appropriate care that is oriented toward understanding and appreciating the youth’s gender experience. This care is nonjudgmental, includes families and allows questions and concerns to be raised in a supportive environment. This is what it means to ‘affirm’ a child or teen; it means destigmatizing gender variance and promoting a child’s self-worth. Gender-affirming care can be lifesaving. It doesn’t push medical treatments or surgery; for the vast majority of children, it recommends the opposite.”
- ‘Digital religion’ offers new opportunities — and threats — for believers
From the Daily Citizen’s Zach Mettler in the Washington Examiner:
A large number of young adults are turning to “digital religion,” according to a study from the University of Waterloo.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. In March 2020, many churches went dark. Pandemic restrictions throughout the country forced them to close their doors, and, almost instantaneously, Sunday services moved online.
For many older generations, this was an entirely new experience. But for younger people, such as millennials and Gen Zers, online services were not completely out of the ordinary. In fact, many young people had given up attending church in person before COVID-19 was even around.
The University of Waterloo’s study confirms this trend. “We know that more and more people are turning towards digital mediums for spirituality such as chat groups with pastors, online sermons, and religious content on social media,” Professor Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme wrote of her findings.
6. The Bible is among dozens of books removed from this Texas school district
Students at the Keller Independent School District outside Fort Worth, Texas, went back to school Wednesday. But instead of the focus being on their return, much of the attention has been heaped on an email that was sent out the day before, instructing school staff to pull all copies of a list of more than 40 books from classrooms and school libraries.
The books that were pulled include the graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, all versions of the Bible and numerous books with LGBTQ+ themes or characters. The School Board did not say why the Bible and the Anne Frank book were removed, but parents had objected to them, according to the list.
7. Marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults reached all-time high in 2021
From the NIH:
Marijuana and hallucinogen use in the past year reported by young adults 19 to 30 years old increased significantly in 2021 compared to five and 10 years ago, reaching historic highs in this age group since 1988, according to the Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel study. Rates of past-month nicotine vaping, which have been gradually increasing in young adults for the past four years, also continued their general upward trend in 2021, despite leveling off in 2020. Past-month marijuana vaping, which had significantly decreased in 2020, rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.
Alcohol remains the most used substance among adults in the study, though past-year, past-month, and daily drinking have been decreasing over the past decade. Binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks) rebounded in 2021 from a historic low in 2020, during the early stages of COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, high-intensity drinking (having 10 or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks) has been steadily increasing over the past decade and in 2021 reached its highest level ever recorded since first measured in 2005.
- White House to announce student loan cancellation, payment pause extension Wednesday
From The Hill:
The White House is expected to announce a plan to cancel a chunk of student loan debt on Wednesday, in addition to an extension of the existing payment pause, three sources with knowledge of the situation told The Hill.
Sources said President Biden’s intended measure will include at least $10,000 in loan forgiveness for borrowers who make less than $125,000 annually, as well as another payment freeze for roughly four months.
The $10,000 figure would be the largest forgiveness of federal student loans per individual to date.
The move comes just a week ahead of the White House’s self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline. The timing has left millions of Americans waiting for guidance from the Department of Education on whether student loan payments that have been deferred since the start of the pandemic would resume next month.
- Life expectancy dropped in 2020 in every US state, mainly due to COVID: CDC
From ABC News:
Every state saw a decline in life expectancy during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new federal data published Tuesday.
The report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, looked at death data for 2020, the last year for which complete data is available.
Results found that life expectancy declined in all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 2019 to 2020, mainly due to COVID and “unintentional injuries,” such as drug overdoses, according to the report.
States with the highest life expectancy were predominantly in the West and Northeast, while states with the lowest life expectancy tended to be in the South, CDC data found.
10. Hobby Lobby’s 50-Year Retail Reign is a Testimony to Doing the Right Things the Right Way
From the Daily Citizen:
Start small. Think tall.
It was fifty years ago this past August 3rd when David and Barbara Green, along with their friend, Larry Pico, opened the first Hobby Lobby store near the Oklahoma Capitol building in Oklahoma City. It was just 300 square feet and wasn’t even David Green’s full-time job.
Having started a framing business out of their kitchen two years earlier, David and Barbara had struggled to procure a $600 bank loan to get things going. Finances were tight. Even after paying back the initial money and asking for more credit, the bank turned them down. But with the meager start-up capital, coupled with David’s salary from his job at the TG&Y – a five-and-dime-type retailer – Hobby Lobby was on its way.
Within a year, the burgeoning arts and crafts company had moved into a 1,000-square-foot building. By then, Green had quit TG&Y and devoted his full attention and energy to the growing family business. They quickly added a second store.
The company almost went bankrupt in the mid 1980s when an expansion into carrying luxury goods coincided with a gas and oil crash. Customers in Oklahoma reduced their spending to the sheer necessities. Hobby Lobby was forced to reorganize and return to their arts and crafts roots. By the 1990s the business was back in the black and on track. Stores were added and sales boomed once again.
With more than 900 stores today ringing up over $5 billion in sales each year, Hobby Lobby employs over 43,000 people across 47 states. The average store is 55,000 square feet and carries more than 67,000 different products.
How did they/do they do it?
The company does this by championing their faith, whether thru the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., which they began and now run – or closing on Sundays to enable their employees to worship God and rest. They also pay well above minimum wage and are regularly considered an excellent place to work.
As Christians, we feel good when we reinvest the money God has given us into businesses that honor Him – and Green’s pledge can and should reassure shoppers that the company’s priorities are well placed:
“Hobby Lobby has always been a tool for the Lord’s work,” he has said. “For me and my family, charity equals ministry, which equals the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that we have been blessed by God’s grace, and we believe it is because we have chosen to live our lives and to operate our business according to His Word, and we are very grateful for that.”
Keep it going, Hobby Lobby!