Women Made the Transformation Possible

Earlier we have written about the Mennonites of Paraguay’s Gran Chaco. Here’s another part of this mostly untold, remarkable story: the work of the women.

women among Mennonites made Gran Chaco transformation possibleThe unlikely success of this community of immigrants, their transformation of that hostile land, was made possible by the women. Often they were not honored or respected as their humanity deserved. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that the transformation of the Chaco would have failed had it been left to the men only.

The Mennonites came as refugees to this most desolate land in Paraguay. But, like the Hebrews who escaped slavery in Egypt, they came with a God-given vision to live as free people in their land of promise. The men and the women shared the vision for the land; they shared responsibility for the fulfillment of that vision as well.

In any society the family is the fundamental institution. This was no less so among the Mennonite colonies. Any pioneering effort includes immense hardships; the women were the glue that kept the families together and on track.

Part of the contribution was their work to maintain the community’s unique cultural and religious identity. It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, given the hostility of the environment and the lack of physical resources, for a modern-day narcissist to succeed in bringing flourishing to such a waste land. But the wives, mothers and grandmothers helped. They conveyed the cultural stories of this unique people. They called their children to be faithful to the God who had, for so many generations, been faithful to the followers of Menno Simon. Theirs was a unique tradition, rooted in “the radical wing” of the Reformation.

In addition to their culture-keeping role, the women were involved in every aspect of the pioneering life. It was women who did the lion’s share of home construction. They made the bricks that became the walls of their houses. They plastered those walls and put on the roofs.

The women also played a major role in food production. They worked in the fields, planting, cultivating and harvesting the life-giving crops that would sustain them through the winter and help provide whatever limited cash the family had. They were responsible for the summer vegetable gardens that provided the much-needed nutrition to keep the hardworking community alive.

In addition to building, planting and harvesting, each wife and mother had the primary responsibility to steward her household. It was her task to prepare the meals and allocate the limited food supply so the family could survive the long winter between harvests. In these pioneering days of toil, sickness and death, often the only food remaining by the end of winter were some beans, flour, and the occasional egg for protein.

In addition, there was no “maternity leave” when the baby was born. The Mennonite women continued to work through their pregnancy and while nursing their babies.

Alongside their husbands the women suffered greatly from the hard work and harshness of the conditions. And often the women carried an additional burden: the domineering attitudes and unjust treatment of the men in the community. This pioneer suffering built a quality into the women of the colonies that allowed the families and communities to survive and eventually prosper. Edgar Stoesz writes that “… it was the quiet, behind-the-scene strength of women that made life in the colonies possible.”

These families, refugees of war and oppression in their home countries, were pioneers in a new and strange land. They were frontiersmen and women, trailblazers in a new and harsh environment that none of them had ever experienced. It was a joint responsibility, female and male, to fulfill the cultural mandate and their God-given vision to turn a waste land into a garden.

In a lonely and trying existence, the women proved resourceful and courageous

Besides the mothers and grandmothers, another group of women contributed to the heritage of the colonies: single women, both unmarried and widows. As an example, in 1947, 950 women and 444 men arrived in the colonies. What would be the experience of these women who came without husbands?

While for many it was a lonely and trying existence, the women proved resourceful and courageous. They formed women’s villages where they proved both self-sufficient and collaborative, supporting each other as females naturally do. They worked together to survive and contribute to the growth of the larger communities.

As the colonies achieved self-sufficiency, with all the services needed to operate, many women left their homes to receive training outside the community and then returned with their newly gained skills as healthcare professionals, teachers, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the colonies and in the church.

Edgar Stoesz honestly summarizes the impact of women in the Mennonite colonies: “Women had an indispensable if under-recognized role in this rich history. By today’s standards, pioneer women were terribly restricted, but they were loved and appreciated.”

This is not a man’s world, it is God’s world. He delegated responsibility for governance of the land to imago Dei humans, both male and female. It’s too easy for men to be thoughtless, to disregard the God-given dignity and worth of their female counterparts. For the women of the Mennonite Colonies this was too often the case. But it is safe to say that the contribution of women allowed the colonies to survive and thrive. Perhaps today they are receiving the recognition they are due.

  • Darrow Miller

Related posts:

 

  
Posted in Cultural Mandate, Development, Economic Development, Women | Leave a comment

Why is the US Government Exporting Sexual Identity Politics?

sexual identity exported by USWe’ve written here before on sexual colonialism, the advancement of a libertine sexual ethic by the United States on nations around the world.

Our good friend Bob Osburn of The Wilberforce Academy just posted on this as well:

Every time I travel internationally (as I did recently to Northeast India), I’m also alerted to how others perceive US foreign policy.  To see our government through others’ eyes does not contradict my patriotism as a US citizen, but makes me much more aware of how our policies can be perceived to harm or help others.

For example, one very troubling issue in US foreign policy concerns our State Department’s aggressive advocacy of the rights of gays and lesbians.  Without question, homosexuals deserve fair and just treatment as fellow image-bearers of God.  But US government policy, especially in view of the current administration’s open advocacy of same-sex marriage in the US, alienates and offends those abroad who may otherwise share our national commitments.  Through their eyes, our call for treating homosexuals with dignity is a call to welcome immoral behavior and gay marriage. (Read Bob’s entire article.)

Bob links to a February 23, 2015 press statement from Secretary of State John Kerry in which he says:  “Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally.”

At the core?

I’m quite sure most Americans don’t realize that their government has made the promotion of a secular, libertine sexual ethic so central to its mission globally. Bob is exactly right. While leaders in our government may frame this as “defending and promoting basic human rights,” those in the receiving side of these policies in other nations often  see it as a form of sexual colonialism—the imposition of a Western, secularized understanding of sexual identity on their societies.

– Scott Allen

  
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Can We Say No? Are We Still Free?

Just Say No

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Remember the “Just Say No” campaign? It was First Lady Nancy Reagan’s project in the 80s and 90s to “discourage children from engaging in illegal recreational drug use by offering various ways of saying no. Eventually, the scope of the campaign expanded to cover violence and premarital sex as well as drug use.”

Mrs. Reagan’s campaign encouraged children to say No. Twenty years later, the current situation begs a question: Can we still say No?

Here’s a corresponding question: Are we still free?  Those two questions are closely related: the ability to say No marks the bounds of our liberty.

At the creation God made us free moral agents. That freedom meant the ability to say No, even to God! We were given the power, as imago Dei humans, to make real moral choices and, as a corollary, to take responsibility for those choices. Alas, our representative head in Eden invoked the ability and said No to God himself. And with that act, evil entered the world.

Of course in one sense we lost our freedom with that act of rebellion. In the fall, enslavement became our default. If we do not say No to our sinful impulses—lust, greed, hatred, revenge, pornography, drugs, idolatry—we become enslaved to those thoughts and behaviors. Only when we say No to our appetites are we free.

British statesman Edmund Burke (1729-1797) wisely said, “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites …. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power be placed somewhere … . It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

We have written before on the importance of saying “No” to evil and the promotion of evil in civil society. We need to say No to our own personal vices, we need to say No to the culture, and sometimes we need to say No to a corrupt government. The Christian’s arsenal for engaging in cultures of corruption and injustice includes civil disobedience.

In these days there is a fierce attempt to eliminate our freedom to say No. And if we can no longer say No, we will no longer be free.

Author and political commentator Tony Katz, writing for the online forum Townhall, calls our attention to the movement in America to eliminate our freedom to say No. In his provocative piece on RFRA he writes:

“You cannot say “No” in America.

The act of saying, “No” – No, I can’t make that cake for you. It goes against my religious beliefs. No, I can’t take those photographs. I don’t feel comfortable doing that. No, I can’t provide you service X,Y, or Z because I disagree with it – is no longer allowed in America….

The ability to say “No” is the difference between a free person and a slave. Slavery offers no chance for choice, and no ability to make decisions. Being told what to think – under direct threat of violence – is slavery. Can there be any doubt?

If a person is unable to say “No,” how, then, are they free?”

May we be people who think independently!  May we be people who say Yes to that which is good, true and beautiful. And may we be citizens who exercise our God-given freedom.

Let us say No to those things that enslave us personally and those things that enslave our culture. As the apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

  • Darrow Miller and Gary Brumbelow
  
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FGM: Coming to a Community Near You?

“Women have no need for their genitalia …” “…unless you are a whore.”

Those words were allegedly found in a pamphlet promoting sharia law in Britain. The article making the allegation, with this stark announcement, was sent to me by a friend named Ana who works in Southern Europe with trafficked women from North Africa. She knows firsthand the plight of abused women.

A global war is underway against women. It is rooted in various forms of sexist culture. One front of this war is the murder of 200,000,000 women. These females have been killed—before birth, at birth and during life—simply because they were female. We have written about this here and here. Another front of this war is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

FGM map

Globally 125,000,000 girls and and young women, mostly from 30 countries in North Africa and the Middle East where female circumcision is prevalent, have suffered this degrading, life-altering and life-threatening procedure. And as people emigrate from these areas to other parts of the world, the practice is seeded globally. The practice is growing in Britain, in Europe, and has begun to enter the United States.

FGM is growing in Britain and Europe and entering the US

While there are four basic categories of FGM, generally speaking it involves the removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy) and is often followed by the sewing up of the vulva in such a way as to prevent intercourse without disturbing the flow of urine and menstrual blood. This is seldom, if ever, done for medical purposes. Most often this hideous surgery is done in primitive conditions, using razor blades, common knives or broken glass.

Aissa, now a midwife working in London, tells the story of the day when she was six years old and her baby sister was one. They, along with many other young girls, were circumcised in her native country of Mali, West Africa. She writes of the experience: “After the pain, it was screaming that I’ll never forget. It wasn’t just mine and my sister’s screams, there were so many other girls there- all being cut. I’ve never heard screams like that again, and I don’t think I ever will.”

For more on Aissa’s experience read the article sent by my friend Ana.

FGM is a manifestation of sexist culture where men consider themselves superior to women. The imposition of FGM, though usually performed by women, is overseen by the shadowed presence of the “superior male.” Most are performed on children, girls from infancy to 15 years old. There is no health/medical necessity for this procedure; it is purely cultural. At its root are cultural practices that predate Islam.

FGM ratesBut the prevalence of FGM occurs in predominantly Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East. While not necessarily rooted in the Quran, it is practiced and sanctioned in Muslim countries. The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law “Umdat al-Salik” by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (1302–1367) seems to offer sanction for the practice among devoted Muslims: “Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris (this is called Hufaad).”

FGM is largely a cultural practice and thus justified as tradition: “Everyone does it!” It is considered necessary preparation for a young girl to become a “good woman,” ready to marry and have children. The removal of the clitoris is said to reduce the woman’s desire for sex, to inhibit sexual pleasure, and thus increase the chances that she will arrive at her wedding bed as a virgin. In some cases the clitorectomy is accompanied by sewing up the vulva in such a way as to prevent intercourse before marriage. In many cultures, the clitoris is considered “unclean” and “male.” For a woman to be “clean” and “beautiful” for her husband, the offensive body part must be cut off.

As refugee and immigrant populations come to Europe, England and the United States, they are bringing their practice of FGM with them.

FGM was outlawed in Great Britain in 1985, but not a single case has been prosecuted

In Britain, FGM is growing, as are efforts to enforce sharia law, from ethnic communities outwards. It is estimated that 66,000 girls have been mutilated in Britain. In one London hospital, 4,000 girls and women have been hospitalized since 2009 as a result of FGM. The real figures for FGM are not known because the tight communities where the crime is practiced keep it under cover. Currently FGM is practiced in larger British cities that have large ethnic communities of refugees and first-generation immigrants from cultures that practice FGM.

In 1985, a law was passed in Great Britain outlawing FGM and preventing British residents and citizens from traveling to a country where FGM is legal to have their daughters circumcised. Not one case of FGM has been prosecuted.

How can this be? Where are the national leaders who should be speaking out against this? Where are the religious leaders advocating for the recognition of the dignity of women? Why are leaders  not confronting this issue with the attention it demands? Could it possibly be that they are afraid to speak? Could it be that their consciences have been silenced by the fear of violence from radical Muslims and the pressure of cultural relativism, yes, even hatred exhibited by fundamentalist atheists? Have they walked into the same trap as the city council and police in Rotherham, where 1,400 girls as young as 11 were gang raped and groomed for being sold as wives to Muslim men by Muslim men?

A global war against women rages. It manifests itself in unspeakable gendercide, FGM, and sex trafficking, as well as “simpler” forms of violence and intimidation against women. When will it stop? Where are those willing to stand up on behalf of women in their communities and wherever FGM exists in the world?

Let us be the generation that take the motto “never again” seriously.

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because of the hope of the resurrection, we have no need to fear death. So let us live with courage! Let us be willing to pay a price to stand up for the rights of the innocent and against the evil that presses ever more tightly against our lives and culture.

  • Darrow Miller

See these posts:

Gendercide: The War on Baby Girls

On My Birth There Was No Singing: Gendercide in India

One Courageous Response to Gendercide – The War Against Females, Part 1 of 2

One Courageous Response to Gendercide – The War Against Females, Part 2 of 2

 

 

 

  
Posted in Current events, Islam, Women | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What a Janitor Can Teach Us About the Kingdom of God

I recently came across this thoughtful blog post by my friend Jim Mullins at Redemption Church in Tempe, Arizona. I passed it around at the DNA global secretariat office, and it was fun to hear many stories from my colleagues about the servant-hearted maintenance workers who made lasting impressions on them. My colleagues also gave examples of how they demonstrate honor and respect to janitors in everyday interactions, recognizing the character of God reflected in them and their work.

Do you make an effort to show appreciation to those who clean the public spaces you visit? If so, please share in the comments section below!

  • Mary Kaech

 

GOD THE GREAT JANITOR?

Many who reflect on issues related to faith and work have become accustomed to describing God as a worker. We say that he’s the Great Architect who designed the world, the Great Artist who carefully crafted each leaf, and the Great Physician who heals our wounds. How often, though, have you heard him described as the Great Janitor?

janitorSome of my friends tell me that comparing God to a janitor feels irreverent. But why? Could it be that our view of work is shaped more by our cultural idols than by the gospel of the Suffering Servant? Could it be that we lack respect for the work of janitors or the ability to see their good work as an act of image-bearing? Can a biblical vision of work reframe the way we view vocations that care for place, like janitors, maintenance staff, housekeepers, custodians, and others?

When I was in my early 20s, I worked as a janitor a few times. One time was for a Christian nonprofit, and I took the job as a way to move up the ranks—hoping to land in “ministry” eventually. Although I now lament the dualistic, discontented, and dismissive way that I approached my work, I am grateful that I met Len.

Len was also a janitor, and his life was a living sermon about a theology of work. He had a profound effect on my view of vocation long before I had the vocabulary to describe what I was seeing. Captured by the beauty of the gospel, he was a joyful steward of every inch of the facility. As I observed his life, I became convinced that janitorial work reflects the glory of God.

Here are just four of the main ways that janitors, and people with similar occupations, display the actions and attributes of God through their work.

1. Protecting Humanity Through Micro-Biological Warfare

Scripture speaks of God as our great protector (Ps. 91), and God uses janitors to shield us from many things that would otherwise harm us. In each room, especially places like bathrooms, there are viruses and bacteria that could greatly harm us, even kill us. When janitors pull the trigger on a spray bottle of bleach, they are embarking on chemical warfare against the germs that would make us sick and take our lives. By keeping us from getting sick, janitors contribute to the work of every industry, and the flourishing of all aspects of life.

A doctor cannot diagnose, a teacher cannot teach, and an architect cannot design when they curled up at home, under the attack of Salmonella or E.Coli.

2. Maintaining, Sustaining, and Serving in Humble Obscurity

Each day God sustains and maintains each aspect of the world (Heb. 1:3), and most of the time, we never even notice. He sweeps the streets through the wind and the rain, mops up our spills through the warmth of the sun, and fills the halls of the earth with air fresheners like Ponderosa Pines and Magnolias. As his janitorial staff, he employs plants, animals, chemicals, and image-bearing humans to each play a role in maintaining and sustaining the earth.

In the midst of all of this grace, God rarely gets noticed. Our every breath can be a “thank you” to God because we, the creation, have been served by our Creator. Even though our hearts are often ungrateful, and we don’t notice the faithful service of God, he continues to be the true and great janitor each day, for each of us.

When janitors pick up a mop and begin to serve the world in obscurity, they are imitating the Great Sustainer of all things. They are reflecting the image of God, and even if nobody notices, they are seen by their God as they reflect the true greatness of the kingdom of God (Matt. 20:25-28).

3. Stewardship of God’s Property

Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian, politician, and journalist, once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Janitors are stewards of places created and owned by God. Every fabric in a carpet, tile on a counter, and light bulb above our heads belongs to Christ. Regardless of who owns the deed to the property that janitors are called to steward, they should know that the property ultimately belongs to Christ (Ps. 24:1). And regardless of the name of the person who cuts their paycheck, they ultimately work for the sovereign Lord (Col. 3:23). Our God cares about places, and each janitor who reverently, thoughtfully, and intentionally tends to a particular part of God’s world is reflecting God’s image.

4. Work of Restoration

The trash cans are full, the water cooler has dwindled down to the last few sips, the carpet is stained, and somehow people have handled the paper towels like a raccoon rummages through a trashcan, leaving strips of paper all around the bathroom. It’s 4:59 p.m. and our workday is finished, but the janitors’ work has just begun. Working in the night, they restore and renew the office, so that by the next morning, it looks as good as new.

This daily work of restoration is a sign, preview, and foretaste of the coming restoration when Christ will return and “makes all things new” (Rev. 21:5). The restored facility is a foreshadow of the coming restoration of all things, and janitors reflect the image of God when they engage in this work of restoration.

Let Us Give Thanks

All of us who benefit from the work of janitors should be intentional about expressing gratitude for their good work. Let our imaginations about this occupation be shaped by the gospel, rather than the pattern of this world, which values status over service.

To those who work as janitors, or in a similar field, please be encouraged by these words from Martin Luther King Jr., who said,

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

We see your good work, and we give thanks for it. And even when it’s overlooked, your work is seen by Christ, the Lord over every clean counter and mopped tile.

– Jim Mullins

(This post originally appeared at The Gospel Coalition.)

For more on the theology of service, the call to be a servant in every area of life, see Darrow Miller’s book Servanthood: The Calling of Every Christian. This series of Bible studies is good for personal reflection, Sunday School or small group Bible study.

See these posts on related subjects:

What’s Holy About Labor

Thy Will be Done at Boeing as it is in Heaven: WORK and the Bible

Oikonomia Network: Seminaries Teaching the Biblical View of Work

 

 

 

  
Posted in Servanthood, Vocation | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

This Just In … Christians Care!

Christians care!

That’s the gist of a recent editorial from the New York Times, “A Little Respect for Dr. Foster” by Nicholas Kristof/ @NickKristof.

Kristof begins by referencing polls that indicate “gays and lesbians” are viewed more favorably than “evangelical Christians.” But he admits that Christians care: “I’ve been truly awed by [the latter] I’ve seen in so many remote places, combating illiteracy and warlords, famine and disease, humbly struggling to do the Lord’s work as they see it, and it is offensive to see good people derided.”

dr-steveKristof cites as an example the remarkable service of Dr. Stephen Foster who has spent a lifetime in Angola. And he points out that “a disproportionate share of the aid workers I’ve met in the wildest places over the years, long after anyone sensible had evacuated, have been evangelicals, nuns or priests.”

Kristof is to be applauded for his journalistic integrity; he gave credit where it was due, even at the risk of exposing the ignorance of the “liberal circles” of his acquaintance. Good for you, Mr. Kristof.

What comes as a surprise (or maybe it isn’t a surprise, on second thought) is this further evidence of a growing divide between two parties in the US and other Western societies.

On the one hand, Christians know that so much good being done today (and historically) is being done in the name of, and for the sake of, Jesus Christ. Good is what Christians do. We celebrate and applaud them, as we wrote last March, for example, in Missionaries: What Good are They?

On the other hand are people such as those in Kristof’s circles. Apparently his associates don’t know any Christians. His peer group regard Christians as “rubes.” Evangelicals are often considered uneducated, their views often summarily dismissed from serious consideration by society’s elite.

Mr. Kristof was also curious to note that “religious Americans donate more of their incomes to charity, and volunteer more hours, than the nonreligious, according to polls. In the United States and abroad, the safety net of soup kitchens, food pantries and women’s shelters depends heavily on religious donations and volunteers.”

What? Christians care?

Yes, indeed. That truth has been documented in Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.

As for his question about why social conservatives are often personally generous while resisting government programs for needy children, Mr. Kristof (and/or his readers) might have a look at What Exactly Do You Mean By “Social Justice?

Nevertheless, a word of advocacy from a writer of Mr. Kristof’s  reputation is welcome.

  • Gary Brumbelow

See also:

Compassion AND Law at the Border?

Like Father, Like Children: God’s Compassion Shows Up In His Offspring

A WORLD WITHOUT CHRIST is a World Without Compassion

 

  
Posted in Compassion, Great Commission, Mission | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Ruin of Freedom Demands the Rise of Courage, part 2

The previous post included a quotation from Martin Luther King:

Martin Luther King worked for freedom

Photo by Julian Wasser, Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.

Note King’s alternatives:

– Cowardice asks, Is it safe?

– Expediency asks, Is it politic?

– Vanity asks, Is it popular?

– Conscience asks, Is it right?

Which of these questions do you tend to ask?

I admit I’m too often afraid to say what would politically incorrect. So for expedience, I stay silent. Often, I don’t want to offend, maybe because I want to be liked! Publically asking, Is it right? can lead to trouble.

Dr. King continues:

Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it … . But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.

The culture of the West today asks is it safe, is it politically correct, and is it popular. If it is then you move forward. The question of conscience—Is it right?—is seldom asked. Why? Because we live in a world shaped by relativism. Truth and morals are relative. There is no place in the modern culture for the question Is it right? If there is no moral framework, then there are no issues! You may simply say and do what is expedient, what feels good, what does not challenge the culture.

The church should know better and be better than this. We are concerned with producing safe Christians; what is needed today is courageous Christians.

Wanted: courageous Christians

Should we play it safe and go with the flow of modern culture? In the past many Christians adopted the naturalistic paradigm of the modern world and began to redefine everything about the church. These Christians have been known as liberals. But given today’s pressure from fundamentalist atheists, too many evangelical and charismatic Christians are accommodating the same way their more liberal brethren did in the past. They are shifting at the level of principle. They are “evolving,” e.g. accepting the re-definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Dr. King’s understanding is spot on: when we are repressed by fear and capitulate to it, we surrender to our circumstances. This is cowardice!

We need courageous Christians. We need Christians who will seek what is right and take a principled stand, despite their fears. We need Christians who will move forward despite the circumstances and the consequences. My Australian friend, Letitia Shelton, has said it so well: “There seems to be something lacking in the church these days. We have done a great job at producing nice Christians, rather than dangerous Christians full of courage, ready to take risks.”

Moses’ call in Deuteronomy 31:6-7 was “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.” We are to be courageous and strong in spite of our fears. Courage does not eliminate fear, it conquers it.

Courage is the cardinal virtue. As C.S. Lewis conveyed in The Screwtape Letters, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”

Courage has a corresponding vice: cowardice. Cowardice leaves us dominated by our fears, by our desire for comfort and personal peace.

Courage acknowledges that some things more important than avoiding our fears. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ manifested this virtue. Before he went to the cross, in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord needed courage to overcome the fear of death. He indeed conquered the fear of death in Gethsemane, and then conquered death itself at the resurrection. What was more important to him than avoiding the fear of death? It was his love for his Father, his desire to do his Father’s will. It was his love for us that drove him to the cross.

We who live in Christ on this side of the cross and the resurrection need no longer live in the fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 answers the question “Why did Jesus die?”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV

He died to destroy the devil, the one who had power over death. He died to rescue we who live each day in fear of dying. The gift of life eternal, the believer’s birthright, should lead us to live in the virtue of courage. Jesus died, not to spare us from suffering, but to free us for suffering. This reality creates a space to live a life of courage.

While many business, political and religious leaders cringe before the pressure of political correctness, many common Christians are exhibiting immense courage. One example is Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s flowers in Richland, Washington. Stutzman is fighting for religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

Stutzman is being stripped of her religious freedom

The modern doctrine of “tolerance” requires tolerance of everything except moral absolutes. Stutzman  is a follower of Jesus Christ who understands that marriage is a sacred institution, established by God between a man and a woman. Such belief is deemed intolerant. She is being stripped of her religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson wants to force her assent to postmodern belief that people have the right to define themselves sexually and to re-define marriage. If she refuses to bend to the pressure of culture and the threat of the state, Stutzman could lose not only her business, but her home as well.

To witness what courage looks like today, meet Barronelle Stutzman. Or see the story produced by Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization defending Stutzman against the coercion of the state.

  • Darrow Miller

Jihadists or New Atheists: Which the Bigger Threat to Religious Freedom?

Seven Essentials to Restoring America

The Rule of Law in America: Is it time for civil disobedience?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  
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The Heart of the Matter at the Supreme Court Today

Today’s Washington Post editorial is titled, “The Supreme Court Must Finish the Job on Same Sex Equality.” In it, we read:

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case widely expected to decide a great civil rights issue of this century: what the Constitution demands on same-sex marriage.

Here, ladies and gentleman, is the now dominant view in our culture. It is how approximately 70% of young Americans, and certainly the vast majority of our cultural elite, view this matter.

First, they see it as the “great civil rights issue of this century” – an epic struggle in the long march for human freedom and dignity. Same-sex “marriage,” in the minds of millions of Americans, is the moral equivalent of the civil rights movement of the past century championed by Martin Luther King Jr. Ironically, it is almost certain that the Reverend King would find the comparison between racial equality and same-sex “marriage” both shocking and untenable.

By framing it as the great moral crusade of our generation, it effectively casts orthodox Christians in the unenviable role of villain. It is we who stand opposed to freedom, justice and human dignity. Ouch. Perhaps you feel this is unfair—to put it mildly. So do I. Regardless, this is how we are seen by many—as bigots with no greater moral standing than the Ku Klux Klan.

Given this, we must expect the demonization and cultural marginalization to increase—and to increase dramatically. This, of course, is why the current battle now being waged isn’t over same-sex “marriage” but over religious liberty. Given the starkly moralistic way that this issue has been framed, our opponents see religious liberty as nothing more than a cover for hateful discrimination against homosexuals. Thus, state religious freedom protections, or RFRAs, must be opposed at all cost.

Second, they see same-sex marriage as “something the constitution demands.”

But how, exactly, does the constitution demand same-sex “marriage?” Supporters of gay marriage point to the 14th Amendment, which was adopted in 1868, in order to addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws in response to issues related to former slaves following the American Civil War.

Here’s how the Washington Post put it today:

If the court strikes down the nation’s same-sex marriage bans, what will its reasoning be? Under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, discriminatory government policies generally must have a rational justification. This is not a difficult standard to meet, but supporters of prohibition nevertheless have failed to come up with anything plausible.

So according to the Washington Post, the 32 states that ratified a male-female definition of marriage in their state constitutions effectively adopted a “discriminatory government policy” without any plausible rationale. To “ban” same-sex couples from marriage is tantamount to unequal treatment prohibited by the 14th Amendment.

But to make a case for discrimination and unequal treatment in marriage, you must first agree on what marriage is! Here, the Washington Post editors use a deceitful tactic. They implicitly smuggle in their preferred definition of marriage in order to make the claim of unequal treatment.

What is this implicit, preferred definition of marriage that they want the Supreme Court to enshrine in law for all 50 states? Basically this: Marriage is nothing more than a genderless intuition of consenting adult romance and care-giving.

Before the Supreme Court today are two competing and irreconcilable definitions of marriage

We need to see though this deceit. Before the Supreme Court today are two competing and irreconcilable definitions of marriage, and the constitution is silent on which one is “correct.” Ryan Anderson at the Heritage Foundation has been extremely helpful at cutting though the emotional smoke screen in getting to the heart of the matter:

What is at issue [before the Supreme Court] is whether the government will recognize [same-sex] relationships as marriages—and then force every citizen, house of worship, and business to do so as well. At issue is whether policy will coerce and compel others to recognize and affirm same-sex relationships as marriages.

Because marriage matters so much, and particularly to children, and to the well-being of our neighbors and communities, the church must stand strong. We must protect and champion the truth. Marriage is a uniquely God-designed institution that exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife, to be father and mother to any children their union produces.

As Anderson says: “Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and woman are distinct and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father.”

This must not be lost. The church must be the guardian and steward of this precious transforming truth, regardless of what the editors of the Washington Post, the Supreme Court, or anyone else says.

  • Scott Allen

See also, A Call To Prayer for the Supreme Court

 

  
Posted in Culture, Current events, Family, Imago Dei | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Ruin of Freedom Demands the Rise of Courage

Events in the last few weeks in the United States may mark a turning point for religious freedom in the world.

Enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution are these words:

freedom enshrined in first amendmentCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This limitation on government perhaps marks the high water mark in mankind’s struggle for freedom. Popularly summarized as “religious freedom,” it actually enshrines the concept of the freedom of consciences as expressed in:

  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of press
  • Freedom of assembly
  • Freedom of redress from the government

The freedom of conscience is perhaps the first freedom that all others are founded upon.

The state of Indiana’s passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – RFRA, is the latest flash point in an ongoing debate that is ripping the country apart. Very simply the two sides of the debate (Is it too much to say “mortal combat”?) represent two dramatically different opinions and two radically different visions of the future of the nation.

The First Amendment enshrines freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

On one side are those who insist on a fundamental “right”[1] to define their own sexual identity. On the other side, those who point to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which enshrines freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

Certainly the culture has already shifted on this issue and that is why the dominoes are falling so quickly in terms of changing laws and government policy. To say it simply, the right to sexual self-definition is currently trumping the First Amendment.

Today we are fighting the battles over government policy. But the debate began at the level of principle. In 1992, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority in Planned Parenthood vs Casey, said a fundamental principle of our liberty was “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This phrase brought a new “principle,” the right of each individual to define, not only oneself, but even the nature of human life!

Where did this new principle come from? It was born out of the new paradigm of Darwinian ideology. In the West, Judeo-Christian theism was abandoned. Theism affirmed the existence of God and of an objective universe, where certain laws exist and certain things are fixed. The modern universe, stripped of transcendence, had no place for man as the image bearer of God. Man was reduced to an animal, a machine. Moral and metaphysical absolutes were exchanged for moral and metaphysical relativism. Man became god with the privilege of defining himself. Jeremy Rifkin exactly captures today’s context:

We no longer feel ourselves to be guests in someone else’s home and therefore obliged to make our behavior conform with a set of pre-existing cosmic rules. It is our creation now. We make the rules. We establish the parameters of reality. We create the world, and because we do, we no longer feel beholden to outside forces. We no longer have to justify our behavior, for we are now the architects of the universe. We are responsible to nothing outside ourselves, for we are the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever.

Michael Brown has his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. Brown is a popular author (of 25 books) and host of the radio show, “Line of Fire.” He opines about the public’s reaction over the events of the last few weeks and the continued erosion of religious freedom in the United States.

I am so deeply grieved over what I have witnessed this week in Indiana, Arkansas, and Georgia, as governors and legislators suddenly caved the moment the threats and shouts came their way.

Where are the men and women of moral principle and courage? Where are those who will stand up for what is right because it is right? The words of Dr. King call out to us again today:

“Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”

Oh for God’s people to awake to righteousness! Oh for God to raise up leaders with courage and conviction! Oh for men and women with backbones of steel and hearts of compassion! Pray that you and I would be among them, to the glory of Jesus’ name and for the sake of this dying world.

I was moved by Brown’s words and passion. Read his entire post here.

Dr King’s quote challenged me. It comes from a speech protesting the Vietnamese War. Whether or not you agree with King’s position, his challenge to be people of principle and courage is vital. King’s principles propelled him to lead the civil rights movement which fundamentally transformed the United States. For his courage he paid the ultimate price: he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

– Darrow Miller

… to be continued

[1] I have put the word “right” in quotations to reflect that this is a so-called right rather than a fundamental right of all people. Obviously those who support the position of sexual self-definition would consider this a fundamental right.

  
Posted in Culture, Current events, Freedom, Morality | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A Call To Prayer for the Supreme Court

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on what may be the most important case in our lifetimes. It will consider whether to change the legal definition of marriage for the entire country with a ruling expected in June.

It is hard to overstate the magnitude of this case. As the title of my latest book indicates, As Goes the Family, So Goes the Nation. Well, as goes marriage, so goes the family. If the court decides to change the definition of marriage, it will have unforeseen and far-reaching consequences, and they will not be happy ones for our nation.

Supreme_Court_US_2010So I urge you to set aside significant time between now and Tuesday to pray. Please consider inviting others in your family and church to pray as well. Pray specifically for Justice Anthony Kennedy, as his will likely be the swing vote either for or against this momentous change.

Why is This Important?

God Himself created marriage. He established it before the Fall (Gen. 2:15-25), and Jesus affirmed it (Mark 10:5-9).  He defined marriage as the life-long union of one man and one woman as husband and wife, in order to provide a stable and nurturing environment for any children produced though their comprehensive union.

What God has defined, we redefine at our peril. As Cecil B. DeMille wisely warned: “We cannot break [God’s laws]. We can only break ourselves against them.” If we redefine marriage in our laws, we will inevitably pay a high price of brokenness and pain; particularly, our children will pay the price. David Blakenhorn asks some very important questions:

Do you think that every child deserves his mother and father, with adoption available for those children whose natural parents cannot care for them? Do you suspect that fathers and mothers are different from one another? Do you imagine that biological ties matter to children?

He goes on:

Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and a father, accountable to the child and to each other … For healthy development, what a child needs more than anything else is the mother and father who together made the child, who love the child and love each other.

Why is this important? Maggie Gallagher answers directly: “Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies deserve mothers and fathers.”

God’s laws are not arbitrary. They exist for our good—for the health and flourishing of all peoples and all communities, and particularly for the most vulnerable.

The new, secularized definition of marriage that may well be enshrined as the law of the land in June has no concern for children or future generations. In fact, it is devoid of procreation altogether. According to the new definition, marriage is a relationship characterized by strong emotional feelings and sexual desire along with an intention to live together, enjoying the same government-granted recognition and privileges that have historically accompanied traditional marriage.

If the Supreme Court redefines marriage along these lines, we must assume that any relationship that more or less fits this new definition can claim a “right” to marriage. To withhold this right from any claimant will be viewed as unequal treatment and a violation of basic human rights. At the moment, the focus is on same-sex couples, but once redefined, there will be no legal basis for why it should stop there, and it won’t.

How Did We Get Here?

The redefinition of marriage is something I’ve written on before. It is a fruit of a long process of secularization within our culture—the logical result of a society that has largely chosen to ignore God, or believe that He doesn’t exist. Jeremy Rifkin defined the spirit of our age very powerfully:

We no longer feel ourselves to be guests in someone else’s home and therefore obliged to make our behavior conform with a set of preexisting cosmic rules. It is our creation now. We make the rules. We establish the parameters of reality. We create the world, and because we do, we no longer feel beholden to outside forces. We no longer have to justify our behavior, for we are now the architects of the universe. We are responsible for nothing outside ourselves, for we are the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. (Jeremy Rifkin, Algeny: A New Word—A New World, New York: Viking Press, 1983, 244).

If this is your starting point, you will inevitably redefine everything that was formerly defined within the framework of a Biblical worldview—including freedom, human dignity, sexuality, gender, marriage, and much else besides. This is where we find ourselves. These concepts have already largely been redefined within a secular framework. This secular worldview is now dominant in our most important cultural institutions: the media, government, business, and academia. It has divided the church, and it is now becoming dominant among everyday Americans at an alarming speed.

It’s hard now to believe, but between 1998 and 2012, 31 states passed laws (many were citizen initiatives) protecting the historic one-man, one-woman definition of marriage in their state constitutions.  26 of these state laws were later deemed unconstitutional on appeal. In response, states appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which will hear arguments on Tuesday.

Make no mistake, if the Supreme Court agrees to change the definition of marriage for the entire country, it will be by judicial fiat, effectively overruling the citizens in a majority of our states.

The law is a powerful teacher. If changed, the new definition of marriage will be taught as good, right and true in countless ways. Those who resist by upholding the historic, biblical definition of marriage will face an uncertain future. We’ve already witnessed an alarming campaign to strip legal protection from those who dissent on religious grounds, with states compelling Christian businesses to provide services to same-sex wedding ceremonies under threat of crippling lawsuits. Speak up, or act on your archaic beliefs about marriage in the workplace, and you may find yourself out of a job, as Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla discovered. You may even be forced to shut down your business due to mob harassment and death threats, as the owners of Memories Pizza discovered.

So let us pray. God is on the throne. We have no reason for despair. Let us do all we can to build strong marriages and strong families. Let us love our neighbors—especially those who have set themselves to oppose us. Let us continue to speak up for God’s definition of marriage, and for why it matters, particularly to our children, and for the good of our communities.

In the memorable words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

– Scott Allen

  
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