The Incredible Adoption Story of Deland McCullough

Stop whatever you are doing, and watch this video. Do not pass go. Do not collect two-hundred dollars. Go straight to watching this incredible story.

I just finished it, and I am still reeling. Seriously, watch every bit of this.
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NOTE: The quality of the YouTube video above isn’t that great. If you are a cable subscriber, you should be able to view a higher quality stream at the following link: “Deland McCullough.” You can read ESPN’s companion story here.

About those Catholic School boys

I don’t have a great deal to add to the voluminous online commentary about confrontation between some Catholic School boys and protestors at the March for Life. At this point, it is clear that the initial viral narrative condemning the boys was an embarrassing whiff on the part of the media (see here and here). It appears that many people were willing to believe the worst possible interpretation of a brief video clip simply because some of the boys were wearing MAGA hats. I wonder if the video would have gotten any attention at all had the boys not been wearing those hats.

In any case, I was just thinking that it is probably a good time for all of us who use social media to remember how toxic and destructive a rush to judgment can be. People can be targeted and doxed with swift effect. Lives and livelihood’s can be overturned in a moment by an unthinking social media mob. For that reason, all of us should be careful that we not get carried away by the passion of a mob and forget basic biblical justice:

“The first to plead his case seems just, Until another comes and examines him.” –Prov. 18:17

This text is telling us that we need to reserve judgment on a matter until all sides have been heard. We need this instruction because we are sometimes tempted to believe initial reports on an event—especially if they are compelling. We also are prone to believe things that confirm our biases. And let’s face it. This was a charged political event, and almost every viewer is going to have a political bias that impacts his evaluation of evidence. That was certainly the case here. Sometimes the temptation to virtue-signal can overcome us before we even realize what we’ve done, and that failure is only exacerbated when a declaration is made before all the facts are in.

I do not mean to foreclose the possibility of spirited commentary about controversial ideas or events. All I’m saying is that Biblical wisdom would simply have us slow down. Remember your own biases. Remember that there is another side to the story. Sometimes the truth is more complicated than our biases would let us admit. And sometimes the best course of action is simply not weigh-in when so many variables are unknown. Sometimes the best course of action is not to weigh-in even when the variables are known.

Again, we would all do well to learn from this. I hope we do.

Stop the Presses! Christian teacher goes to teach at Christian school!

The Huffington Post apparently thinks it’s newsworthy that Karen Pence—wife of Vice President Mike Pence—has taken a teaching job at a Christian school. What’s so extraordinary about this? According to the report:

It’s not a school where everyone is welcome. In a “parent agreement” posted online, the school says it will refuse admission to students who participate in or condone homosexual activity. The 2018 employment application also makes candidates sign a pledge not to engage in homosexual activity or violate the “unique roles of male and female.”

“Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites,” says the application.

The application says that the school believes “marriage unites one man and one woman” and that “a wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ.” The application asks potential employees to explain their view of the “creation/evolution debate.”

These paragraphs seem designed to scandalize readers with the backwardness of the school and therefore of Ms. Pence herself. It seems lost on the writer that these kinds of moral standards in Christian schools are common. There are countless other schools just like this one all over the country, including the one where I teach. Admission and employment policies for Christian schools vary depending on the mission of the institution, but it is anything but uncommon for Christian schools to expect their employees and students to behave like Christians. Such schools are anything but newsworthy.

The real story here is that The Huffington Post thinks this is newsworthy. But it’s not just The Huffington Post. Now the story is being picked up by outlets across the country, including The Washington Post, which features this headline: “The school that hired Karen Pence requires applicants to disavow gay marriage, trans identity.” These reports represent a point of view that is scandalized by mere Christianity and that can only view bona fide Christian piety as fanatical and anti-social. It is a sign of the times that news writers could be so cut off from the way that millions of American believe and conduct their lives. But alas, here we are.

If you want to know why so many traditional believers look with skepticism at mainstream news media, look no further than the reporting on Karen Pence’s new teaching job.

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UPDATE 1: Other news outlets are now picking up this story, and the headlines are accumulating. The vast majority reflect the cynical spin of the original Huffington Post piece. For example:

NBC News: “Karen Pence to teach at school that bans LGBTQ employees, students”

Politico: “Karen Pence to teach at school that bans gay students, parents, employees”

Newsweek: “Karen Pence Has Just Taken a Job at a School That Bans LGBT Pupils”

CNN: “Karen Pence teaching art at school that bans gay students, parents”

UPDATE 2: Vice-President Mike Pence responds to critics of his wife. Watch below.

An openly lesbian speaker to teach at PCA church on this next Lord’s Day [UPDATED]

Over the weekend, I was gobsmacked by something that I read on social media. A PCA church in St. Louis is hosting an event that includes an openly lesbian speaker named Jay-Marie Hill who is coming to the church to “teach us how to not only mourn the tragic deaths of trans folx, but learn to celebrate their lives and humanity.” It is important to note that the teaching is not only about mourning the deaths of precious image-bearers (something we would all agree with). It’s also about affirming transgenderism (something every orthodox Christian must oppose).

When I first read this, I thought, “Surely this is an inaccurate report. Surely there is some mitigating piece of information that will make this not what it appears to be.” Then I followed the links and did a little poking around. No, the report is accurate as far as I can tell—at least that is what the organization hosting the event says.

The event is to be hosted by a group called “Faith for Justice,” which has as one of its founders a woman named Michelle Higgins. Higgins serves as Director of Worship at South City Church (PCA) which is hosting the event and where her father Mike Higgins is pastor.

I don’t know Ms. Higgins or her father, but I recognized her name as the one who criticized the pro-life movement in a sermon that she delivered at Urbana in 2015. I also recall an interview she gave to Red Letter Christians in which she argues that evangelical diversity must embrace transgenderism. Today I came across a sermon that Ms. Higgins delivered at a youth event in 2016, which included the following comments about Matthew 25:31-46:

Some of you know this shirt: ‘I met God. She’s black.’ Does anybody have that shirt? I have got to get me one… Have you met God? Do you know Him? She’s black… Do you know Jesus? Jesus is a trans-person of color… Your God is not heterosexual… Your God is the deepest, most forgotten, most ignored pieces of you and of your community…

The Facebook page of Ms. Higgins’ group “Faith for Justice” has a picture of the openly lesbian speaker that is slated to speak at South City Church. It turns out that Jay-Marie Hill is the founder of a transgender-affirming organization called “Music Freedom Dreams.” Her bio on that website says this:

Jay-Marie is originally from Oakland, CA. but now works out of St. Louis, MO building a very Black, very Queer life with their incredible partner, Kayla.

Notice the pronoun “their”—which is Jay-Marie’s resistance to female pronouns to refer to herself. All of this information is public and available on the internet for anyone to read for themselves.

Bottom line: South City Church is in the same presbytery as the church that hosted the controversial Revoice conference last summer. But the online description of the “Faith for Justice” event sounds far more radical than anything we read about Revoice, and that’s saying something. A PCA church in the St. Louis Presbytery is hosting an event on the Lord’s Day which features an openly lesbian teacher who refuses to use female pronouns to refer to herself.

I am not a Presbyterian, but I know and love many dear brothers and sisters who are. They are scandalized by this, as well they should be (as evidence of this, see “Overture #4” coming before the PCA General Assembly this summer). How can this be happening? I do not know. I do know that the PCA needs to get to the bottom of this and soon.

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UPDATE: The session of elders at South City Church have posted a statement tonight. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here is the first paragraph:

In the past few days, the session and pastoral staff of South City Church became aware of details concerning an event that was to be hosted on its property on January 20th, 2019 sponsored and organized by Faith for Justice, a Christian advocacy and social justice organization. Upon being informed of the details of the event, the session and pastoral staff met and determined that some of the planned elements within this particular event appeared to be inconsistent with South City Church’s theological convictions. We have thus determined that South City Church’s facility should no longer be used for the Faith for Justice event originally scheduled for January 20th. At no point was the event a South City Church event or part of a South City Church worship service.

I am grateful to read that the elders have decided not to allow the event to be held on their campus. That is a good thing. Nevertheless, this statement raises as many questions as it answers. The statement says that the Faith for Justice event is contrary to the “theological convictions” of South City Church. Nevertheless, the event hasn’t been cancelled. It has simply been moved to a PCUSA church in the area (according to Faith for Justice’s Facebook page). Also, Michelle Higgins is still a founding member of Faith for Justice and Rev. Mike Higgins is on the board of Faith for Justice (source). Why are a PCA pastor and worship director involved in an organization that is hosting a transgender-affirming event? Simply moving the venue doesn’t change that. It seems to me that the pastor and worship director’s involvement in such an organization is the far more significant issue that remains unresolved.

Is what divides us more significant than our humanity?

I just finished a long and interesting Buzzfeed piece about Ellen Degeneres. There is much that I could comment on, but there is only one item I will highlight here. The author of the article writes this:

Yes, we all have a shared humanity. But there is so much more that we don’t share—race, education level, class, marital status, ability, gender identity, the list goes on—and those are the things that directly contribute to our ability to succeed and survive in this world.

I don’t know how else to read this except as a statement that what divides us is more significant than our shared humanity. Perhaps others read right over this without a second thought, but to me it stuck out as an example of the worst kind of identity-divisiveness that plagues our culture. Are we really going to quietly acquiesce to the notion that our social divisions are more fundamental than our humanity? And yet it is presented in this article as an afterthought so self-evident that it needs no justification or defense.

The Buzzfeed article does not mention “intersectionality” at any point, but I would argue that its influence is nevertheless there. I have written elsewhere that intersectionality is an intellectual framework that does more harm than good. As a theory, intersectionality fosters a truncated view of human identity and tends to exacerbate social divisions rather than healing them. And yet, it seems to be the assumed framework of so many influencers in our society. It creates a social dynamic that incentivizes grievance based on identity. In that way, it entrenches social divisions.

No one is immune from these divisions, even the publicly affable Ellen Degeneres. The hostilities simply find new targets—even targets that were formerly lauded as heroes to the progressive cause. I do not mean to defend Ellen, Kevin Hart, or anyone else in making this observation. I’m simply observing that the prevalent identity-based way of analyzing the human condition is going nowhere to heal the human condition. We are going to need something more than what is on offer by the politics of identity.

The church is supposed to be a counterculture of people from a wide array of social groups—groups that have found reconciliation and unity not on offer by the theorists of social division. This gospel unity bears witness to a world afflicted by constant and unrelenting division. The intersectional spirit of the age seems to incentivize such hostilities, but only the gospel can overcome them (Gal. 3:28). And that is the message that the world desperately needs to hear and to heed.

Dutch Pastors face possible criminal investigation for signing the Nashville Statement

Last month, over 250 Dutch pastors and church leaders went public with their endorsement of the Nashville Statement. At least one member of the Dutch parliament also endorsed the statement. Even though they simply meant to reaffirm what Christianity has always taught for its entire 2,000-year history, the statement has been met with fierce opposition in the Netherlands.

Over the last several days, the public outcry against these leaders for their Christian convictions has been ferocious. Politicians and celebrities have publicly denounced them. The Hague, which is recognized as the international center for law and justice, flew a rainbow flag in protest of the Nashville Statement. And now, the country’s public prosecution service is “examining the statement to see if there [is] any basis for a criminal investigation,” according to a Dutch news site. The news report cites Article 1 of the Dutch constitution as possible grounds for the investigation, which states that “discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.” Continue Reading →

How can the fallen mind accept Exodus 4:22?

My daily Bible reading had me in Exodus 4-7 today where God is calling a reluctant Moses to go back to Egypt to lead the children of Israel out of slavery. This particular command from God to Moses jumped off the page at me:

Exodus 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”‘”

I have read this verse countless times over the years. What struck me today is how utterly and totally foreign a text like this sounds to fallen ears. After all, this is God pronouncing a judgment on Pharaoh, on his house, and on his dynasty—one that would take the life of Pharaoh’s own child. What kind of God does this? Continue Reading →

Top Ten Posts of 2018

I want to thank all of you who have read and interacted with this site over the last year. I am grateful for every one of you. For those of you who are interested, I give you the top 10 blog posts from 2018. This blog is a combination of content creation and content curation, which means that I sometimes write original material and that at other times I pass on to you items that I find interesting from elsewhere on the interwebs (although over the last few years the curation part has moved more and more to Twitter and Facebook). A number of items on this year’s list surprised me. Posts about John Chau appear twice on this list, and I am glad for that. Without further ado, here is the list. Continue Reading →

A Plan to Read through the Bible in 2019

In years past, my customary mode for reading through the Bible every year involved starting in Genesis and reading right through to Revelation. I estimated that about four chapters per day would get me through in under a year’s time. The method worked reasonably well, but it wasn’t without its problems. Sometimes I would miss a day (or days) and get behind, and I had no way to keep up with my progress. I needed a schedule so that I could keep myself accountable for finishing in a year.

In 2009, therefore, I did something I had never done before. I followed a Bible reading plan. I adopted Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Calendar for Daily Readings. It provided the schedule that I needed. It also outlined daily readings from different sections of the Bible. On any given day, I would be reading something from an Old Testament narrative, something from the prophets, and something from the New Testament. Although this plan provided the accountability that I needed, I found it difficult to be reading from three to four different biblical books every day. I know that not everyone is like me, but that approach lacked the focus that my brain requires. I missed reading the Bible in its canonical arrangement and focusing on one book at a time. I wished for a schedule that would go from Genesis to Revelation in canonical order. Continue Reading →

Top 10 YouTubes of 2018

It’s time for my annual posting of the Top 10 YouTube Videos of the Year (see last year’s list here). The videos below are actually not all YouTubes. There are some Twitter and Facebook videos in there too. Nevertheless, I’m gonna keep the title “Top 10 YouTubes” because most of them are in fact YouTubes and because I want to keep continuity with previous annual lists.

This ranking is totally unscientific. Only one person was polled to compile this list—yours truly. This year’s slate of videos has both humor and humanity with some other odds and ends thrown in. If you think I’ve left something out, let me know on Twitter or Facebook. I’ll think about adding it to the “Honorable Mention” category at the bottom.

If you’re interested, here are links to lists from previous years:

2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

Continue Reading →

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