President Reagan’s stunning statement of pro-life conviction

Cowboy, Ronald Reagan, Cowboy Hat, Hat, PresidentSanctity of Human Life Sunday is an annual observance held on the Sunday closest to anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion (January 22). The tradition started in 1984 on the eleventh anniversary of Roe.

President Reagan issued a proclamation marking the day, which was held on January 22, 1984. Since then, Democrat presidents have tended not to mark the day with official proclamations, while Republicans have. Nevertheless, the observance has gone on in churches across the country every year with or without the proclamation. I will be marking the day in my sermon tomorrow at our church.

Tomorrow’s observance happens to fall on the exact anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I thought it would be worth the time to revisit President Reagan’s original proclamation. It is a stunning statement of pro-life conviction, and it is cast in terms that are very rare today from people in high office. The text is below. Continue Reading →

Did President Trump just eliminate the contraceptive mandate on the first day?

Readers of this blog know that I have written extensively about Obamacare’s controversial contraceptive mandate. In fact, the most viral post I have ever written on this site was about this issue. The mandate has been controversial because it forces employers to provide coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients–even if those employers object to buying such coverage on religious grounds. The Christian owners of Hobby Lobby fought this all the way to the Supreme Court and won. But the problematic mandate still stands, and other cases are pending. 

President Trump signed an executive order that effectively overturns the contraceptive mandate. The order authorizes the HHS Secretary to eliminate administrative rules related to Obamacare. If I’m reading this correctly, that would allow the new secretary to get rid of the mandate. Here’s section two of the order:

To the maximum extent permitted by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.

I’m not a lawyer, so we’ll see how this pans out. And you can be sure I’ll be following this one closely.

Mike Pence did not sign a law allowing businesses to refuse service to gay people

If Vice-President Mike Pence thought that his public scolding from the cast of Hamilton would be the last he’d hear on the subject, he knows better now. And so do all of his neighbors. The Washington Post reports that about 200 protestors marched through Pence’s new D.C. neighborhood in order “to protest what they consider his anti-gay views.” The protestors didn’t just carry signs. They marched through Pence’s neighborhood with speakers blaring music and with some of the protestors performing obscenities in the middle of the street (there’s a video in the Post‘s coverage). The Post‘s report describes an ugly spectacle brimming with animus towards Pence and anyone else who holds his views.

Among other things, what caught my eye in this story is how The Washington Post describes Pence’s “anti-gay” offenses:

As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law allowing business owners to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender customers — legislation that sparked a national uproar and threats of boycotts until the legislature reversed course.

Anyone who remembers what happened in Indiana in 2015 should be appalled at how irresponsible and inaccurate this statement is from The Washington Post. Mike Pence did not sign a law that allows business owners to refuse service to gay people. He signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prevents the state from placing an excessive burden on religious freedom. The law doesn’t even mention gay people. The law he signed is nearly identical to the federal law which has been the law of the land since 1993. To say that the law allows business owners to refuse service to gay people is grossly inaccurate. But it sure does serve the propaganda interests of activists who want the government to force business owners to participate in gay weddings in violation of their consciences.

One crucial fact is often missed in these kinds of reports, so it’s important to reiterate. The actual business owners who have declined participation in gay weddings do not refuse service to gay people. In every instance where this has happened across the country, the business owner has had a long history of serving (and sometimes employing) gay people. The florist in Washington State, for example, had already served a gay couple for nearly a decade when she declined to participate in their wedding ceremony. She was happy to serve them. In fact, they were her friends. She just couldn’t violate her conscience and participate in their wedding. That is not discrimination against gay people. It’s simply her religious conviction that she cannot lend her creative expression to help celebrate what her faith forbids.

Contrast that situation with the fashion designers who are refusing to dress Donald Trump’s family for the inauguration this weekend. These designers object to lending their creative services to a man (and his family) who deeply offends them. There is an animus involved with their refusal that is not present in the case of florist. As Jim Campbell observes:

The designers’ objections are tinged with animosity toward the people whom they refuse to serve… They object to merely associating with Donald Trump or the female members of his family. And these fashion moguls seemingly won’t design any clothes for the Trumps, regardless of the event that they’re for.

In contrast, [Christian business owners like the florist] serve all people, regardless of their political views, race, sex or sexual orientation. What they can’t do, however, is speak all messages. So while they’ll gladly express certain messages for all people, there are some messages that they can’t speak for anyone.

I can hardly believe that these religious freedom stories are so inaccurately portrayed in the press. It’s no wonder activists are showing up in Pence’s neighborhood protesting his “anti-gay” views. But I wonder if these protestors really understand what his views are. If they are reading inaccurate reports like the one in The Washington Post, they may not know very much.

Should we avoid praying for Donald Trump by name in public worship?

Mike Kinman (rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA) explains why his church will not pray for Donald Trump by name in their public services, even though they prayed for President Obama by name. He writes:

We are in a unique situation in my lifetime where we have a president elect whose name is literally a trauma trigger to some people – particularly women and people who, because of his words and actions, he represents an active danger to health and safety.

This presents a challenge. We are rightly charged with praying for our leaders … but we are also charged with keeping the worshipping community, while certainly not challenge-free, a place of safety from harm. As I have said before, for some it could be as if we demanded a battered woman pray for her abuser by name. It’s not that the abuser doesn’t need prayer – certainly the opposite – but prayer should never be a trauma-causing act.

The question is – does saying the president’s name in prayer in this way compromise the safety of the worshipping community? Let me be clear that I believe this is a high bar … much more than “I disagree with the president” or even “the president deeply offends me.” This is the level of compromising the safety of the worshipping community.

The Bible does command Christians to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), but there is no requirement that we must do so by name. So I don’t want to go beyond what scripture says about how explicit our prayers must be. I don’t think we have to say every leader’s name in order to pray for them faithfully in public worship. Having said that, I have a few concerns about the rationale given by the rector above:

First, I am skeptical about this reluctance to name someone whom we will be referring to anyway. Let’s grant for the sake of argument that the president-elect is as scary as some people fear. I can’t help but think about the Harry Potter stories in which Harry is the only person willing to say the name “Voldemort.” No one else would utter “Voldemort” because the mere mention of his name made them fearful and anxious. Harry stood out because he knew no such fear. His willingness to say the name contrasted his courage with everyone else’s fear. Likewise, could a reluctance to say Trump’s name be catering to fear? Shouldn’t the gospel be casting out such fear?  Because the Bible commands us to pray for our leaders, we are going to pray for the president one way or the other. That means that we are still going to be referring to Mr. Trump in public worship even if we don’t say the name “Trump.” We are still going to be drawing the same person to people’s minds. If we treat him as “him who shall not be named,” I am concerned that we might communicate fear rather than courage to congregants.

Second, we have been praying for President Obama by name at our church. If we were to avoid praying for President Trump by name, I don’t know how that wouldn’t be perceived as a partisan statement (at least by some). Shouldn’t we avoid the appearance of partisanship in our prayers for our leaders?  If your tradition has been to pray generically for “the president,” then no problem continuing that in the new administration. If your tradition has been to pray for the president by name, then people will notice when you stop doing that for the new president. And they may view it as a political statement.

Third, “trigger warnings” have a poor track-record in institutions of higher education, where they have become ubiquitous. In colleges and universities, there is growing evidence that this sensitivity to “triggers” has done little to educate or to shape the character of students in positive ways. In fact, the opposite seems to have taken place, and much speech has been shut down and squelched by hyper-sensitivity to “triggers.” I can’t imagine how it would be helpful to cultivate such censorious sensitivities within the church. One could make the case that the Bible itself is just one giant “trigger.” Are we going to self-censor the “triggers” from scripture too? Many churches already do that, even though they may not admit it in so many words. And that is not a faithful path for any congregation to go down.

There is a Proverb that says this: “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). Sensitivity to triggers seems to cater to those who are constantly fleeing, even when there is no real danger afoot. If we want to teach God’s people to be as “bold as a lion,” avoiding Trump’s name is unlikely to help. In fact, it may have the opposite effect.

“I Got Gay Married. I Got Gay Divorced. I Regret Both.”

Meredith Maran had an interesting essay in The New York Times over the weekend: “I Got Gay Married. I Got Gay Divorced. I Regret Both.” In it, she describes her “marriage” to her lesbian partner in 2008 and the subsequent dissolution of their relationship in 2013. She regrets her gay marriage and divorce, but it is not because she is against gay marriage in principle. Rather she says this: Continue Reading →

Celebrities and Citizens share their “Obama moment”

The White House produced a video of celebrites and citizens sharing their most memorable moment of President Obama’s presidency. Each one relates their “Obama moment” as a final farewell in these last days of his administration.

I won’t offer much commentary on this. It is precisely what we would all expect. Still, I can’t help but notice that about half the country would mourn some of the things being celebrated as “progress” in this video. It’s a striking reminder of how divided our country remains over fundamental issues of justice and truth. And that is not likely to change anytime soon.

Should Churches Discipline Gay-Affirming Members?

Earlier today, I participated  in a debate for a radio program about homosexuality and church discipline. The program is “Up for Debate with Julie Roys,” and three of us were debating this question: “Should Churches Discipline Gay-Affirming Members?” I argued that they should. The other two guys argued that they shouldn’t. Here’s the description of the show from the website:

With same-sex marriage becoming increasingly common, more church-going Christians are affirming same-sex relationships.  Should churches discipline, and even excommunicate, these believers – or overlook the offense?  This Saturday on Up For Debate, Julie Roys will discuss this issue with Denny Burk, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, who advocates discipline and even excommunication.  Challenging his perspective is Hector Sabido, a pastor who advocates a more tolerant approach — and Tim Otto, a gay, celibate member of a so-called “Third Way” church.

The audio of the debate is now available. If you are interested in listening to our discussion, you can download it here or listen below.

When the “gender revolution” claims the children

Many of you have likely seen the special issue of National Geographic dealing with transgenderism. The entire issue—and indeed the feature article—is a case study in one-sided propaganda. It celebrates transgender identities as healthy expressions of human diversity. And it shows little to no familiarity with the contested nature of their claims or with scientific evidence that contradicts transgender ideology. The entire issue simply assumes the truthfulness of claims made by some of the most ardent transgender ideologues.

Andrew Walker and I have written a response to this at The Public Discourse, and you can read our entire argument there. I simply want to highlight one item for your consideration. National Geographic makes the case that children with transgender identities might consider medical interventions to transform their bodies to the opposite sex. This might start with hormone blockers that delay puberty, and it might end with so-called sex-change surgeries to reshape genital anatomy and reproductive structures to those of the opposite sex. And they argue that such surgeries are not merely for transgender adults, but also for transgender children.

And then, in one of the most obscene items I’ve ever seen in a major news publication, there is a picture of a 17-year old girl displaying her bare chest still bearing the scars of her recent double mastectomy. Think about this. National Geographic publishes a groundless propaganda piece and exploits the naked body of a minor child to help make their tendentious point. In response to this, we write:

The final page of Henig’s article celebrates the mutilation of minor children with a full-page picture of a shirtless 17-year old girl who recently underwent a double mastectomy in order to “transition” to being a boy. Why do transgender ideologues consider it harmful to attempt to change such a child’s mind but consider it progress to display her bare, mutilated chest for a cover story? Transgender ideologues like Henig never address this ethical contradiction at the heart of their paradigm. Why is it acceptable to surgically alter a child’s body to match his sense of self but bigoted to try to change his sense of self to match his body? If it is wrong to attempt to change a child’s gender identity (because it is fixed and meddling with it is harmful), then why is it morally acceptable to alter something as fixed as the reproductive anatomy of a minor? The moral inconsistency here is plain.

Transgender activists often act as if traditionalists are mistreating transgender persons by failing to acknowledge their identity. But I would simply ask them this question. Who’s mistreating whom in this scenario? Those who mutilate and display that naked chest of female child? Or those who try to help confused children to understand who God made them to be. These questions answer themselves.

We must call it what it is–evil.

The Washington Post reports on Dylan Roof’s sentencing for the murder of nine people in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015. The lede says this:

Six weeks after he shot and killed nine people at a Charleston church, Dylann Roof lamented in a jailhouse journal that he could no longer go to the movies or eat good food. But he still felt the massacre was “worth it” because of what he perceived as the wrongs perpetrated by the black community.

“I would like to make it crystal clear, I do not regret what I did,” Roof wrote. “I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”

The journal was the centerpiece of prosecutors’ opening bid to convince jurors that Roof, 22, deserves the death penalty for slaying nine black parishioners of the city’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015. Roof was convicted last month of federal hate crimes for the shooting, and Wednesday marked the first day in the penalty phase of his trial.

There is much to be said about this, but I want to make one observation. This is one instance in which our culture’s penchant for therapeutic platitudes will not suffice. It is not enough to say that this young man is “disturbed” or “ill” or “troubled.” Whatever else we call this, we have to acknowledge that what he did was evil. His own expressed motivations for the massacre were also evil. This young man has expressed racial animus and hatred that is abhorrent and wicked. And he freely and openly owns all of it. This is moral evil of the first order, and no one should shrink from saying so because of a cultural allergy to moral absolutes and judgments.

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