It was the French theologian John Calvin who suggested:
“Those who fall away have never been thoroughly imbued with the knowledge of Christ but only had a slight and passing taste of it.”
Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, once noted:
“The Christian life is very much like climbing a hill of ice. You cannot slide up. You have to cut every step with an ice axe. Only with incessant labor in cutting and chipping can you make any progress. If you want to know how to backslide, leave off going forward. Cease going upward and you will go downward of necessity. You can never stand still.”
We begin with a look at those who have struggled in both categories:
1. More Americans Left Religion During the Pandemic
From the Wall Street Journal:
Religious affiliation in the U.S. has continued to fall during the pandemic, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.
The percentage of Americans who identify as Christians now stands at 63%, down from 65% in 2019 and from 78% in 2007. Meanwhile, 29% of Americans now identify as having no religion, up from 26% in 2019 and 16% in 2007, when Pew began tracking religious identity.
Many places of worship closed during the pandemic—some voluntarily, others as a result of state and local social-distancing rules—and in-person church attendance is roughly 30% to 50% lower than it was before the pandemic, estimates Barna Group, a research firm that studies faith in the U.S. Millions of Americans moved to worshiping online, and questions linger about how many will come back in person.
A previous Pew survey, in January, found that a third of Americans said their faith had grown stronger during the pandemic—the highest share of any developed country. But overall, religious engagement trended downward at roughly the same rate as before the pandemic, according to the new Pew survey.
- In Our ‘Age of Unreality,’ Fix Your Gaze on Jesus Christ
From The Daily Citizen:
We live in an age shaped and created by unreality. Many of us believe and shape our lives around “so much that isn’t so,” not just liberals.
Indeed, there are vast swaths of Americans on both sides of the political aisle, red and blue, who live in an ill-conceived world that’s controlled and contrived. A world that’s unreal.
Our technological advancements and modern-day trinkets take our ability to live in a made-up world to the next level. This collective tendency to live in a world made of our own devices traces back to our first parents, Adam and Eve.
In Genesis 3:5, the Serpent tempted our first parents by telling them, “You will be like God.”
Now, in the modern era, our ability to live in a world we’ve created allows us to “be like God” more than ever before.
We see this in many aspects of our modern-day society.
Take social media, for example. Did you know that today’s 3,960,000,000 social media users spend an average of 144 minutes a day on social platforms?
These platforms, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, are largely devoid of real, human interaction. They allow users to share just a small piece of their lives with others, without seeing the more real, day to day joys and sorrows.
Another manifestation of our cultural obsession with unreality comes from television – of which the average American spends 3.1 hours per day watching. Television, though not inherently bad, allows us to escape from our lives and environment, and be transported to another. We become engrossed with someone else’s story, someone else’s life – and we don’t care whose as long as it’s not our own.
Now, take the ascendence of the transgender movement as another example. From the beginning of time, mankind has known that there are two distinct sexes: male and female.
Disconnecting us from reality even further, a small segment of the population truly believes they are a different gender than they really are – and a much larger segment affirms this delusional illusion.
3. Students for Life Identifies Over 100 Christian Colleges with Ties to Planned Parenthood
From The Daily Citizen:
On December 8, 2021, Students for Life of America (SFLA) released the findings of an investigation into all 784 colleges and universities affiliated with the Christian faith. They found initially that 103 of those academic institutions had some type of relationship with Planned Parenthood. That’s roughly 1 in 8 Christian schools with ties to Planned Parenthood.
According to the 37-page report, “The goal of SFLA’s Christian Schools Project is to raise public awareness of Christian school maintaining relationship with Planned Parenthood in order to encourage infracting schools to restore their Christian values by cutting ties with the abortion giant.”
For purposes of the research, a “Christian school” was defined as “an entity of higher education that has a publicly promoted heritage or affiliation with a Christ-centered church or rooted in the historic Christian faith.”
Students for Life found 784 colleges and universities in the United States that fit that description.
After Students for Life identified all 103 Christian colleges with ties to Planned Parenthood, they called and emailed each school, alerting them of the infractions and requesting that the academic institution sever all connections with Planned Parenthood.
Joy Behar: Overturning Roe v. Wade is Like Supporting Segregated Schools
From Life News:
Joy Behar suggested the Supreme Court was at fault for not yet striking down the Texas law: “I mean, if they keep throwing all these things to the states, I mean they could overturn Brown versus the Board of Education and bring back segregated schools if they want in some states, then why do we need the Supreme Court? They’re on a path to oblivion.”
Guest host, CNN Republican Amanda Carpenter, seemed to agree the Supreme Court was at fault, but she bashed Newsom’s law as “a recipe for disaster.” She worried that every divisive issue would come down to the states: “We won’t have a nationwide debate about abortion, we’ll have a 50 state debate about abortion. And now we might apply those tactics to other divisive issues like gun rights? This is a recipe for disaster.”
Hostin condemned Carpenter for saying she was pro-life but disagreeing with Newsom’s anti-gun law. She lectured her on what being pro-life actually means, and unsurprisingly, it all came down to supporting liberal ideas.
- Heritage Unveils ‘Election Integrity Scorecard’
From Real Clear Politics:
During a Zoom call at the beginning of the year, a staffer at the Heritage Foundation wondered aloud if anyone had ever compiled a database comparing all the different state election laws. The idea was that it would have to be comprehensive, detailed, and above all else, publicly available.
John Malcolm doesn’t recall who asked exactly but the question stayed with the director of the organization’s legal and judicial studies center. “I thought about it, not even for too terribly long,” he recalled, “and said that’s a really great idea: We will spend whatever time it takes to do it.” A year later, as Republicans and Democrats continue to debate access to the ballot in statehouses across the country, it’s here.
On Tuesday, Heritage will unveil the “Election Integrity Scorecard,” RealClearPolitics is first to report. According to an advanced review of the website, the goal is simple: “Assessing the status of state election fairness and security.” The premise, universal and bipartisan: “every citizen’s vote is sacred.”
Heritage, a conservative Capitol Hill think tank founded in 1973, has some practice handing out scorecards through its partner organization. Heritage Action has been grading members of Congress since the Obama administration on how closely each individual lawmaker adheres to conservative orthodoxy. The new project is similar in scope and it includes more than letter grades. Lawmakers and voters can see how Heritage ranks each state by hovering their mouse over an interactive color-coded map of the United States. They have lit up the entire country with reds, yellows, and greens to easily indicate which states have done the best to live up to the Heritage standard of running an election.
- South Dakota Governor Introduces ‘Protecting Fairness in Women’s Sports Act’
From The Daily Citizen:
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has drafted a bill prohibiting participation of transgender athletes on teams designated for females and males.
The draft of the law, entitled “Protecting Fairness in Women’s Sports,” looks similar to bills passed in a handful of states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Idaho’s law was struck down by a federal judge and is in litigation.
The South Dakota bill states:
“Any interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic team, sport, or athletic event that is sponsored or sanctioned by an accredited school, school district, an athletic association or organization, or an institution of higher education under the control of either the Board of Regents or the Board of Technical Education must be designated as one of the following, based on the biological sex at birth of the participating athletes:
(1) Females, women, or girls;
(2) Males, men, or boys; or
(3) Coeducational or mixed.
“Only female athletes, based on their biological sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls.
6. J.K. Rowling Attacked For Saying Male Rapists Aren’t Women – No Matter How They ‘Identify’
From The Daily Citizen:
J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter series, is being castigated and threatened on social media (again, see here, here and here) for saying that males who identify as women aren’t really women.
This time, she posted a tweet about the Scottish police prosecuting male attackers as women, if the male simply identifies as female. The Scottish Sun reported the news on December 11, quoting Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi, “The gender identification of individuals will be based on how they present or self-declare, which is consistent with the organisation’s values.”
There’s no requirement for a male suspect to have “transitioned” – surgically, hormonally or legally – he can just claim to be a woman.
Some applauded Rowling on Twitter, such as radio host Glenn Beck, who tweeted, “This is a woman that is an inspiration. Lots we disagree on I am sure, but I admire her courage. When you know the truth – stand and never sit down.”
7. Insurance Co. Settles for $800M in Boy Scouts Bankruptcy Case
Attorneys for the parties involved in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) bankruptcy case have reached a tentative settlement in which one of the organization’s largest insurers would contribute $800 million into a fund for victims of child sexual abuse.
For agreeing to contribute the money into the proposed trust fund, Century Indemnity Co. would be released from any further liability.
The ultimate agreement would amount to more than $2.6 billion, which would be the largest sexual abuse settlement in U.S. history.
The news of the deal comes as 82,000 sexual abuse claimants must decide by Dec. 28 whether to approve a previously announced BSA reorganization plan.
Under the plan, the BSA and its 272 local councils would also contribute up to $820 million in cash, property, and certain insurance rights into a fund for victims. In return, the local councils and national organization would be released from any further liability.
- ‘So much destruction’: Over 100 still unaccounted for in Kentucky after deadly tornadoes
From NBC News:
Flags in Kentucky were lowered to half-staff at sunrise Tuesday to honor the dozens killed after tornadoes ripped through several states, picking up homes and leveling entire towns.
More than 100 people in the state were unaccounted for, and 74 were confirmed dead, Gov. Andy Beshear said in an afternoon update before surveying storm damage in Muhlenberg County, where the governor himself lost relatives.
Twelve of the people killed were children.
“The age range has gotten even harder,” Beshear said of the storm’s victims. “Some not even getting an opportunity to experience this life.”
The youngest victim was 2 months old, while the oldest was 98, Beshear said.
- My Family’s Move to the Farm
From Public Discourse:
In his 2020 book Durable Trades, Rory Groves captures many of the economic trends that led us to make this decision. He challenges us to rethink the way we approach careers and the economy. Reviewing American history, Groves identifies twenty trades, like farming, midwifery, carpentry, brewing, and butchering, that have offered steady and family-friendly employment to family breadwinners for centuries despite wars, natural disasters, social upheaval, and even the Industrial Revolution. Rating each trade in five categories—historical stability, resilience, family-centeredness, income, and ease of entry—he recommends that we eschew both the wearisome and tenuous jobs of the service economy, as well as the lucrative but effervescent STEM jobs of the upcoming knowledge economy.
No two families—and no two situations—are exactly alike. In our case, farming was a way to enjoy the benefits of a durable trade while making up the gap between a single income and a double income. Farming isn’t like debt, which demands your service day in and day out. It’s not like a corporation, which requires an ever-accelerating growth in profits. It’s not like money, with ever-decreasing value in the face of inflation. The land will always be there. The fruits, vegetables, grains, and livestock you raise can be the same each year or different, you decide. Farming is just one durable trade. There are plenty others to learn, and through which to grow closer to God, your family, and your community.
So prayerfully discern with your family what is best for you. Your only constraint is the limits of nature. Perhaps it’s a supplemental trade, like farming, perhaps a craft like pottery or woodworking, perhaps even building, brewing, or helping others bring forth the next generation through midwifery. All of that is possible and more, because God is a God of abundance: not the false abundance of the market, but the real abundance of creation and of grace. However it makes sense for your family to participate with God in bringing forth that abundance, it’s never too late to start.
10. The Joy of Magnus Carlsen
From World Magazine:
Chess presents a wonderful chance to look at human greatness and how humans manage a spectacular gift. Magnus not only has what fellow top chess player Anish Giri called during the final game of this championship a “divine understanding” of the game, but he can cope with the immense pressure of chess at high levels. In press conferences over the years, Magnus talks a lot about “joy.”
Having that divine understanding of chess without the coping skills has led to disaster. Pop culture often focuses on tortured geniuses—even in the fictional Netflix hit about chess, The Queen’s Gambit. An American grandmaster once suggested that chess great Bobby Fischer, who grew increasingly haunted by paranoia to the point that he left chess altogether, needed to see a psychiatrist.
Magnus’ family has emphasized the importance of a balanced life to his chess career, so he is not consumed by the game. As a kid racing to the top levels in chess, he would read comics and play Monopoly with his sisters. He once said in a 2015 Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) that to be successful “you need to focus and spend time to get knowledge and understanding of different subjects. When I did that in school, I did very well. When I spent more time on chess than on school, I did less well.”
Contributing to his overall well-being in this championship was his team of seconds, or the chess experts who worked ahead of the championship to study lines of attack and defense and then to prepare for each game and respond to Nepo’s strategy around the clock during the championship.
The seconds were people not only smart at chess, but whom Magnus likes spending time with. It’s clear in a video that Magnus released after the match revealing his team, as he grins while introducing all the grandmasters and describing the team dynamics.
Back in New York in 2016, a child asked a question at a press conference during the championship: Was Magnus nervous before playing?
“I find joy in playing,” Carlsen said. “In some ways that’s the most important thing.”