Some Thoughts about Fighting the Good Fight in This Present Darkness

FRM Monsters

San Diego, CA—On our watch, a cosmic battle of epic proportions rages between opposites:  light and darkness, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, hope and despair, flourishing and decay, life and death, truth and lies.  The war is both spiritual and physical.  The conflict is both internal and external to us because the divide between good and evil runs down the center of the human heart.  These are truly the times that try the souls of men and women. Much is at stake.  Our hyper-divided nation appears closer to civil war than any other time in our history except 1862.

The threat to freedom is real.  A radical and rabid left seeks to replace order with chaos.  They are actively deconstructing everything good that has made us a beacon of hope for the world and are seeking to, by force, reconstruct a disordered, unrecognizable, and increasingly insane culture.  In the center of the cultural chopping block is the Judeo-Christian worldview which has nourished, sustained and caused our republic to flourish—until now.  The self-evident truths which have heretofore guided the greatest and freest nation the world has ever known are experiencing a full-frontal assault from the forces of darkness and evil.  These truths include the reality that God has created us equal in His image (male and female) and has endowed us with inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursued of happiness (virtue).

Darkness advances only as light retreats.  Tragically, most of the American church has been in full-blown cultural retreat for decades.  Many have been caught flat footed and tongue tied, not knowing what to say or how to respond to the growing cultural pressure, including false charges of hatred and bigotry.  We have largely abandoned our obligation to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)—whether it be preaching the full counsel of God, sharing the gospel, or opposing evil.   As such, we find ourselves marginalized to the sidelines in this epic battle—hiding in our Christian enclaves rather that engaging on the field. We have been unfaithful.  But not all is lost.  Now is the time for the church of Jesus Christ to awake, arise and engage.

Who is responsible to fight?  Everyone.  No exceptions.  But especially our pastors and Christian leaders.  In dark times, true leaders lead authentically by taking responsibility, not by making excuses.  As Germany spun out of control before WWII, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “I have made a mistake in coming to America.  I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the Christian people of Germany.  I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”  And as Sophie Scholl stated in a Nazi court shortly before her execution for participating in a leaflet campaign decrying the acts of the Third Reich, “We are Christian, and we are German, therefore we are responsible for Germany.”  We are Christian, and we are American, therefore we are responsible for America.

All is not lost.  I am very encouraged by the good work being done by many engaged and engaging organizations like the American Renewal Project.  I was blessed recently to see 700 pastors and Christian leaders at a conference in Southern California, gathering to commit to biblically impacting our lost and dark culture—to fighting the good fight—that His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Leaders challenge the flock to not just be hearers of the Word, but doers of it (James 1:22-25). A Christian leader not exercising biblical leadership that makes a difference in the world is similar to a ship with a broken rudder.  He may hold a title, occupy a position, or even head a mega-church, but the results are spiritually fruitless.

Fear is paralyzing our leaders and neutralizing our witness.  Fear of man is leading us into cultural compromise, capitulation, and assimilation.  But God has not given us to a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7).  It is time for the American church to repent and stop being so listless and passive and running away from the good fight.  Let us agree to stop giving in to the downward pressure of the “spiral of silence.”  Rather, like Scholl and Bonhoeffer, let us commit instead to taking active responsibility for our communities and our nation, exercising clear bold and courageous biblical leadership.  The flock desperately needs good shepherds to protect us, disciple us, and lead us now, perhaps as never before.  And the world desperately needs the church to be salt and light, standing without wavering or compromise for what is, and always will be, good, true, and beautiful.

CA Legislators Beholden to Leftist Special Interest Groups Refuse Reasonable Safeguards On Early Erotic Child Development (SB 673)

SB 673 Testimony

Sacramento, CA—When you strip away all of the drama, the recent battle over Senate Bill 673 essentially boiled down to one fundamental issue:  State vs. parents.  More specifically, does the state collective have the primary authority to raise and train children as it sees fit, or do parents?  Even more precisely, does California have the primary authority to teach elementary school children, between the ages of four and twelve (TK-6th grade), comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) while making it difficult for parents to ascertain what is being taught?  And can the state make it challenging for parents to excuse their kids from early erotic education?  Put slightly differently, how far will the state go to force its radical and transformative new sexual orthodoxy on our families?

Precisely just how far leftist legislators are willing to go was on transparent display on January 15, 2020 during the Senate Education Committee hearing (read “kangaroo court”) on SB 673.  This legislation arose because parents across the Golden State were having great difficulty reviewing CSE materials their seventh-grade and high school students were being exposed to under the 2015 California Healthy Youth Act (CHYA).  In many cases, school districts concealed or hid the curricula, made access extremely difficult, or flat out refused to allow parents to review it.  It soon became evident why access was limited.  Districts did not want parents to see the extreme and graphic materials because they did not want students to opt-out of the sexuality program, which they view as a positive good for all students.  But, despite widespread district efforts to conceal CSE curriculum, the truth started leaking out.  Information is power and informed and concerned parents began to organize in opposition to CSE all across the state in 2018.  As CSE was recently expanded in the California Department of Education elementary “health” framework and curricula, the collective roar of a million “mama bears” only grew louder.

CHYA allows, but does not require, that CSE is taught in elementary school.  Regarding age and developmental appropriateness, the majority of parents who have reviewed the extreme and graphic CSE materials recognize that five-year-old children are not “little adults,” and understand that CSE is “too much, too soon,” especially for younger children.

Sponsored by Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and written by citizen-parent Denise Pursche, SB 673 was a very reasonable, moderate, and commonsense bill.  It simply required transparency, accountability, and meaningful active parental choice if a school district decided to teach CSE from TK-6th grade.  First, it required that all CSE materials be posted on the internet, in languages immigrants in the area schools can understand.  Second, it required that parents actively opt-in their four- to twelve-year-old children, to make sure kids do not accidentally participate in CSE classes by failing to opt-out.  Third, it required that CSE materials are medically-accurate and age-appropriate.  Objectively, no sane person who understands child development and respects parents’ rights should have voted against it.  A no brainer, right?  Not so fast!

Joining Senator Morrell in providing testimony in support were constitutional attorney Dean Broyles of the National Center for Law & Policy and Dr. Ahmed Soboh, Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization for 70 mosques and Islamic Centers representing over 500,000 community members. In fact, it is estimated that the diverse coalition in support of SB 673 collectively represents at least 10.8 million people, including: the California Catholic Conference, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, branches of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a chapter of the NAACP, dozens of Korean Christian churches, nondenominational churches, faith-based organizations and others, as well as tens of thousands of people who submitted letters and made calls to their representatives and committee members.

Yet, after a contentious debate, the Senate Education Committee voted along party lines (5-2) to kill the bill.  Why?  Many of the leftist committee members appeared to be sympathetic to parental rights and the need for transparency, but they still voted against it.  Democratic Senators and opposition witnesses claimed to be concerned that the opt-in would create “barriers” to young children accessing CSE.

Ideas have consequences.  Bad ideas have victims.  National CSE pushing SIECUS, for example, believes that children have “inalienable sexual rights,” apart from the guidance of their parents and faith community.  Elitist purveyors of CSE for very young children see these programs as a positive social good and that they are the experts on children, not parents.  Therefore, they are more than willing to circumvent parents and conceal their dark curricula in order to achieve the “greater good” of indoctrinating our children in the name of “health.”  But the primary reason they killed SB 673 was probably that there would be hell to pay with powerful special interest groups if they had not done so.  Who are these extremist organizations pushing early erotic education in California?  Well, it’s the usual suspects: Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Equality California, NARAL, the California PTA, and the California Teachers Association, to mention a few.

But one of the more note-worthy things about the hearing was that the primary opposition “research” heavily relied upon by the ACLU and regurgitated in approximately 80% of the opposition letters evaporated during the hearing.  How?  I actually read the research cited.  Thus I was able to point out in testimony that “the research cited…[in] most of the opposition letters does not support their allegations that opt-out is preferred by parents, nor that very early sexuality education is in the best interest of children.  The RAND study strongly supports parental informed consent, here transparency and opt-in, and the CDE and AAP articles support CSE starting in fifth grade, not kindergarten or first grade. The opposition research actually supports SB 673.”  In response to questioning by Senator Ling Ling Chang, I further explained that the RAND study did not support the ACLU’s contention that parents’ wishes are more in line with an opt-out, as opposed to the opt-in proposed by SB 673.  This is because RAND did not even research whether parents preferred opt-out for early elementary sex education classes, but this was actually a limited study speculating on parental intent based only upon opt-in vs. opt-out rates for a drug prevention program at two California middle schools.  In fact, the parents were never actually surveyed about their wishes about how to object to student participation in the RAND study.  Notably, after this testimony, no one cited the ACLU’s misleading “research” during the hearing or made any attempt to rely on it.

In spite of the fact that their opposition research was debunked, the Democrats on the Senate Education Committee proceeded to embarrass themselves by maintaining a stubborn opposition to SB 673.  In so doing, they proved themselves to be, at best, ignorant of the California Healthy Youth Act (CHYA) and the resulting CSE curricula or, at worst, intentionally deceptive.  Regarding CHYA, Senator Richard Pan (D-Elk Grove) attempted to rebuke a portion of my testimony as misleading, stating that CHYA only deals with sex education, but that it does not require the teaching of “sexuality” education.  Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) quickly chimed in with her agreement with Pan’s blundering and specious statement.  But both Senator Pan and Senator Levya were wrong.  The truth is that CHYA does mandate sexuality education, specifically using the term “sexuality” seven times in the statute.  So, why would Pan and Leyva be so quick to mislead or deceive here?  Probably because “sexuality” includes a broad range of issues controversial and sensitive issues that may not be age-appropriate including, but not limited to, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, etc.  Apparently, these “public servants” on the Education Committee were trying to conceal the fact that CHYA and the unquestionably graphic and extreme “sexuality” curricula developed under the law actually do require that our children marinate in the moral cesspool of extreme “sexuality” education.  Sadly, a lack of basic integrity, candor, and transparency appears to be a dangerous problem for many California state officials involved in education.

Approximately 100 bold and courageous citizens, including parents, grandparents, pastors, and others, stood up and one by one and passionately explained why they supported SB 673.  As the spoke, they were representing the thoughts and feelings of thousands, if not millions, of California citizens.  In fact, Senator Morrell received approximately 50,000 letters in support of the bill and an online change.org petition was signed by more than 47,000 citizens.  The opposition was much smaller.  Only approximately 15 people stood up to speak in “me too” opposition to the bill, including Equality California, the ACLU, Plannned Parenthood, and surprisingly the PTA!

In her closing remarks Senator Connie Levya took to arrogantly lecturing citizens supporting SB 673.  Leyva quickly drew loud boos when she assumed parents had not read the CSE curricula and glibly announced that “there is nothing in [in CHYA CSE curricula] that is not age-appropriate.”  This was a particularly offensive Leyva lie, among many others, and the informed citizens present knew it and immediately called her out on it.  Her misrepresentations did not stop there. She proceeded to deceptively declare that the CSE curricula did not include “anal sex, sexting, cybersex, phone sex, sensation play, and kinky sex….”  But in reality, the CSE curricula are even more graphic and extreme than is revealed by Leyva’s short list.  CDE approved materials promote, or link to sites promoting, a hook-up culture, pleasure focus, sex as sport, and porn normativity, among other terrible things.  Tragically, the state is condoning the mass sexual grooming of public school students, putting them at increased risk for abuse by sexual predators and sex traffickers.

Continuing to receive loud opposition from the citizens in attendance to her lecture, Levya angrily shot back that the reason the audience had issues with CHYA and support SB 673 is “because people are afraid to talk to their children about sex.”  This naturally generated more angry boos from the crowd.  Ironically, the CHYA-ignorant Chairwoman was attacking and blaming well-informed parents and grandparents for being ignorant.  This will likely cost her a lot of votes.

In stark contrast, Senator Scott Wilk’s (R-Santa Clarita) moral clarity on the Democrat’s stubborn unwillingness to support SB 673 was quite illuminating.

He warned, “You [parents] need to stay engaged!  If you’re not sure what is going on in this building, we are having our own private version of Animal Farm.  Policymakers in this building want to raise your children….You have to stay engaged or you’re going to lose the ability to raise your own children.”

Indeed!  While on one hand the “People’s Republic of California” favors the state, the U.S. Constitution, which remains the supreme law of the land, and the U.S. Supreme Court fortunately clearly favor parents here.  For nearly 100 years, SCOTUS has repeatedly ruled that parents have the fundamental right to direct the care and raising of their children.

“The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”  Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925).

However, the one-uber-liberal 9th Circuit ruled in 2005 that the right of parents to shield their children from sexually-explicit materials essentially ends at the school house door (Fields v. Palmdale).  The good news, however, is that well-respected constitutional attorneys believe the 9th Circuit’s case subverting parental rights was wrongly decided and that this collectivist and anti-family precedent will ultimately be overturned, either by an increasingly conservative 9th Circuit or a decidedly conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

Wake up California!   We the people must demand that our public servants actually start serving the public and not extreme special interest groups bent on sexually corrupting and harming our kids.  Our children are not primarily creatures of the state of California—to forcibly indoctrinate into its radical leftist mold.  Constitutional rights, including parental rights, do not end at the schoolhouse door.  The state does not have the authority to coercively impose a new sexual orthodoxy on our children and families, especially one that deconstructs truth and undermines the free exercise of religion and the freedom of speech.  Parents, especially those raising young children, deserve transparency and meaningful choices.  Yet, in most districts parents have been misled about CHYA and the CSE curricula has been concealed from families.  The status quo is unacceptable.  Informed consent is an ethical issue and is a civil rights issue, one that the majority of our public servants in California appear insistent on ignoring, to our collective peril.  California school districts that continue to ignore parents and trample on Constitutional rights should prepare themselves to be sued.

For further information about the Senate Education Committee SB 673 hearing and CHYA, please watch:

Pre-hearing Press Conference

Post Hearing Rally

Why Religious Freedom Matters: Barr v. Beto

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Notre Dame, Indiana—It may turn out to be the philosophical equivalent of “the shot heard around the world.”  That is just how powerful and just how good the speech given by U.S. Attorney General William Barr was at the University of Notre Dame’s School of Law.  His topic: religious liberty in America.  Ironically, this spectacular speech was given less than twenty-four hours after lefty candidates spewed bigoted anti-religious threats at the CNN LGBTQ Town Hall in Los Angeles.  The two events could not have been more different.  Barr waxed eloquently about of the fundamental importance of religious freedom and its enduring importance.  In contrast, the candidates at the CNN event almost gleefully boasted, as if trying to outdo each other, about how they would disrupt and dismantle religion, piece by piece.  Barr’s winsome words were not a direct critique of the earlier CNN spectacle, but they were a fitting rebuke, nonetheless. 

William Barr spoke of the consensus about the “centrality of religious liberty” starting with the founding era, in part because of the belief that religion was indispensable for sustaining a free government.  He noted that these statesmen affirmed the Christian belief that because men, as fallen creatures, have the capacity for great evil, government should be limited. Therefore, in their experiment, they determined to put America’s future in the hands of its people.

But “[s]elf-government,” he explained, refers primarily to the capacity of each person to “restrain and govern themselves.”  William Barr noted that the ability to restrain ourselves, comes ultimately from a “transcendent Supreme Being.”  He quoted John Adams to make his point, “We have no government armed with the power which is capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”  Religion, Barr argued, provides the restraint necessary for liberty to exist by giving us rules to live by in the form of a transcendent moral order of natural law, the violation of which leads to negative consequences.

Next he turned to acknowledge that religion has been under increasing attack in America during the past 50 years.  He documented the steady erosion of the Judeo-Christian moral system by a concerted effort to drive it from the public square, with a concurrent rise of secular humanism and moral relativism.  The result?  Ballooning illegitimacy, family breakdown, growing depression and mental illness, increasing violence and a deadly drug epidemic.  According to Barr, the diminution of the moral order has brought “immense suffering, wreckage, and misery.”  Appearing to perhaps poke the CNN Town Hall participants, Barr said “Among these militant secularists are many so-called progressives.  But where is the progress?”  He decried the fact that, in spite of all of the claims of modern advancement, “no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion.”  As I have pointed out before, the problem with many liberals is not just their stubborn utopianism, but their persistent moral blindness of confusing change with progress.  As Barr point out, all change is not progress.

In the past, we have been able to count on cultural pendulum swings.  But this time, Barr is concerned that we cannot count on self-correction.  Why?  Because of “the force, fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion.”  Because the left controls the cultural places of power (entertainment, academia, etc.) and is actively marshalling them to persistently assault religion and traditional values and silence opposing voices. “One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor.  It is taking on all the trappings of a religion, including inquisitions and excommunication.”

The Attorney General next pointed out that the state has become the alleviator of all consequences of our sin and moral failings, rather than addressing the underlying causes.  Got sexual irresponsibility?  Get an abortion.  Drug addiction?  Visit a safe needle site.  Family breakdown?  The state becomes your parent.  Rather than solving problems, Barr points out, “we are underwriting them” and as a result we are becoming less free dependents of the state.

Specifically, Barr decried the way that governments are using the law “aggressively to force religious people to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith….irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith.”  Examples Barr cited include the Obama Administration’s decision to force Catholic orders to fund contraceptive and abortifacient coverage (Little Sisters of the Poor).  He also acknowledged how “California has sought to require pro-life pregnancy centers to provide notices of abortion rights,” referring to NIFLA v. Becerra, a case successfully resolved at the U.S. Supreme Court, where I served as co-counsel.

He acknowledged his boss has done a better job than the prior administration, [b]ecause this administration firmly supports accommodation of religion.” Barr noted that “the battleground has shifted to the states.”  According to Barr, “Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the public schools.”  Pause here for a second.  The Attorney General of the United States believes that “the most serious challenge to religious liberty” is how secularists are undermining the passing on and teaching of our faith to our children by adopting comprehensive sexuality education curricula that are “incompatible with traditional religious principles….often without an opt out for religious families.”  Barr listed several states, including California with our infamous “California Healthy Youth Act.”  He called this state violation of parental rights a “monstrous invasion of religious liberty.”  We here at the National Center for Law & Policy are in complete agreement, which is why we have dedicated increasing resources over the past three years to this civilization-threatening issue.

After mentioning other threats like Montana’s refusal to provide private school funds to religious schools (Blaine Amendments) and Indiana’s attempt to force Catholic schools to hire same-sex married teachers, Barr stressed the need of religious believers to remain personally faithful in this increasingly insane culture and the need to “place greater emphasis on the moral education of our children.”  Can I get an Amen?  “We cannot have a moral renaissance unless we succeed in passing the next generation our faith and values in full vigor.”  As Barr was speaking at a law school, he urged faithful lawyers that they “must be vigilant to resist efforts by the forces of secularization to drive religious viewpoints from the public square and to impinge upon the free exercise of our faith.”

In stark contrast to Barr’s careful attention to history and civil rights, within 24 hours we were treated to the progressive/socialist democratic contenders at the CNN LGBTQ con-fab.  There, first prize for most anti-religious bigoted statement of the evening goes to former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke.  CNN’s Don Lemon asked him, “Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”  O’Rourke quickly replied, “Yes. There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. So as President, we’re going to make that a priority and we’re going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”  Beto’s unequivocal statement unmasks the leftist’s hostility and hatred towards religion and should send a chill down the spine of every religious person in America.  To Barr’s point, Beto’s coercive power play is nothing short of a bare-knuckled attempt to strike fear in the already timid faithful and drive religion from the public square.  The power to tax is the power to destroy.  Clearly, the destruction of religion is on the progressive menu.

Piling on to his sustained assault on religious freedom, Beto O’Rourke said that conversion therapy “should be illegal” because it is “tantamount to torture.”  He said, “As president, we will seek to outlaw it everywhere in this country.” Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar agreed, stating that so-called conversion therapy should be illegal because it “makes no sense at all.”  Klobuchar also said she would recognize a third gender marker option on a federal level.

Having worked with the former gay and former LGBTQ community for decades I can attest that Beto and Klobuchar are wrong here.  In fact, what the left demonizes as “conversion therapy” is really non-coercive talk therapy, more aptly called “change allowing therapy,” which has actually helped thousands of people facing unwanted involving sexual orientation and gender identity struggles successfully address and overcome their problems in a redemptive way.  As this therapy is often practiced by the faithful, freedom of speech, conscience and religion must be protected here.  The bottom line is that people seeking help for unwanted sexual orientation and gender identity struggles must be free to hear about and experience the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I agree with U.S. Attorney General William Barr that religious freedom is a fundamental right, given to us by our Creator, which we dare not squander.  We must rediscover the importance of religious freedom and fight the good fight of faith and freedom so that our children and grandchildren may continue to experience the blessings of liberty.  William Barr has given us the gift of remembering what is truly important, one for which I am profoundly grateful.

 

Socialism 101: Utopian Dream or Dystopian Nightmare

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Washington, D.C.—One of the more disturbing things about the current political debate is the ascendancy and mainstreaming of socialism and socialist ideology.  Recent surveys confirm that members of the millennials and Gen-Z groups are far more supportive of socialism and redistributive economic policies than their elders.  For example, a recent survey revealed that 61% of 18-24 year olds have a positive response to the word “socialism,” while only 29% of 55-64 shared their sentiments.

Why is this important? It matters because ideas have consequences.  Good ideas can lead to human flourishing.  Bad ones have victims—they can diminish and destroy people and civilizations.  Therefore, before fully embracing socialism we should be asking some important questions.  Here, we briefly explore two important aspects of socialism.  First, what is the worldview behind socialism? Second, what has the track record of socialism been historically?

Socialism, as a utopian movement, asserts that humans are intrinsically good, and that under the right conditions, their good nature will emerge.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his later Marxists disciples believed, for example, that free from the restrictive obligations to church, family, and community, that individuals would self-actualize and experience the greatest good.  Furthermore, that the state, as a collective of many “free” individuals coming together, is the highest good and is therefore entrusted in helping to liberate individuals, ultimately dictating back to the people what is “good” for them.   In socialism, power and authority shifts away from the family, the church, and local communities to the state.  That is why socialism is called a “statist” movement.

Socialism is “soft” communism.  It is a definite step down the road of totalistic government control.  In socialism the government uses confiscatory tax schemes and redistributes resources, passing a myriad of laws than burden citizens and suffocate freedom. Communism is extreme socialism with absolute central government power and control over the means of production, distribution of resources, and nearly all aspects of life.  It has been observed the both systems lead to the loss of motivation to work hard, as the government confiscates most if not all of the fruit of your labor. Also, both communism and socialism invariably lead to diminished individual freedom and the loss of civil rights.

In contrast, the American republic was birthed by the Judeo-Christian concept of original sin—recognizing the fallenness of man.  The truth recognized here is that, being sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, our natural bent is towards selfishness and sin.  Not only is the individual corrupt and corruptible, but the state is in no better position because it is a collective of sinful individuals with power.

We believe that, though fallen, individuals have dignity and worth because they are created in God’s image.  In our experience, this led the Declaration of Independence, which acknowledged that governments exist to secure the inalienable rights given to us by God.  Those rights include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (virtue).  The U.S. Constitution acknowledged our fallenness and the corrupting influence of power by placing a separation of powers between government branches with checks and balances to keep the federal government from becoming too authoritarian and abusive.  This worldview led to the historically unprecedented protection of individual civil liberties, as our founders believed that people have inherent dignity because they are created in the image of God. Though not perfect, our system, including free market capitalism, has been the envy world, repeatedly emulated by nations desiring freedom, peace, a prosperity.

Compare socialism. Historically speaking, socialism has not faired very well at all.  In fact, everywhere it has actually been tried, it has failed.  The Soviet Union.  China.  Cambodia. Cuba. Venezuela.  Need I go on?  The socialist promise to liberate the individual from moral and economic oppression has largely backfired, leading to, at worst, totalitarianism, and at best, a crushing authoritarianism that more often than not subverts individual economic incentives and basic human rights.  Socialism’s utopian promise has, in most cases, devolved into a dystopian nightmare.

What is the actual fruit of socialism?  The utopian promise of liberation of the masses resulted rather in their actual enslavement by the very state that promised their freedom.  Oppression didn’t disappear, it increased exponentially. Socialist regimes suppressed religious freedom and decimated nearly all civil rights.  Freedom of speech was crushed.   Dissent led to the loss of our most precious human right—life, resulting in the death of millions.  When the state is God, it can do anything, including killing with impunity. It is estimated that in the 20th century communist regimes, including those of Stalin, Mao and the Khmer Rouge, killed between 85 to 100 million of their own populations.  Socialism’s fruit is rotten to the core.

Has socialism had any impact here?  Sadly, yes.  Many Americans continue to nurse and prop up the same failed utopian myths and cultural lies that produced such bitter fruit in totalitarian nations.  We can see socialism’s impact in the New Deal.  Later we saw it is the failed welfare state.  We can now see it in its rapidly growing popularity with the youth, long indoctrinated in Marxist ideologies throughout public education and in the universities.  Wake up kids!  Socialism isn’t cool!  Socialism stinks!

Is socialism the answer for the United States of America?  I submit not.  Our nation was founded on a healthy distrust of government.  For good reason. History teaches us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When we deny the Judeo-Christian worldview and reject the beautiful truth that we bear God’s image, and that we are fallen sinners, in favor of socialism’s purportedly more “enlightened” view of a godless human nature, we actually end up undermining human dignity and losing freedom.  I hope that we wake up before it’s too late.

Evangelical “leader” used as PR prop for state resolution urging pastors and churches to abandon biblical sexual ethics and denounce change allowing therapy

Low Mannoia

 

Sacramento, CA—After facing growing opposition from religious organizations and leaders, California Assembly Member Low withdrew AB 2943 in 2018, which would have declared sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) consumer fraud, causing conscientious objectors to LGBT sexual orthodoxy to be targeted and punished by the state.  Now, he has replaced that failed effort with a resolution (ACR 99) seeking to pressure all Californians, including all religious institutions and religious leaders, to voluntarily embrace a statist sexual orthodoxy, regardless of their deeply held religious beliefs.  This time, however, Low is boasting about the very thin evangelical Christian support for his new resolution, specifically that of one appeasing evangelical leader.

As currently written, by a joint resolution of the Senate and Assembly, ACR 99, the government of the state of California “calls upon all Californians to embrace the individual and social benefits of family and community acceptance….”  Furthermore, “the Legislature calls upon religious leaders with conviction to counsel on LGBT matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy…. We call upon the people of California—especially its counselors, pastors, religious workers, educators—and the institutions of California with great moral influence—especially its churches, universities, colleges, and other schools, counseling centers, activist groups, and religious centers—to model equitable treatment of all people of the state…”  (emphasis mine)

ACR 99 is a transparent attempt to chill religious speech and silence the biblically faithful voices of our pastors.  The resolution not-so-subtly pressures religious leaders, including pastors, to disaffirm biblically orthodox viewpoints on human sexuality and replace them with pagan viewpoints.  Specifically, ACR 99 asks pastors to agree that change-allowing therapies, which the resolution defames as “conversion” therapy, are always harmful and ineffective.  Apparently for Low, pastors and churches should just get on the alleged “right side of history” here and adjust their preaching and counseling accordingly.

“Evangelical leader” Kevin Mannoia, who submitted a letter in support and testified in support of ACR 99 on June 18th in Sacramento, serves as Chaplain at Azusa Pacific University (APU) and formerly served as the President of the National Association of Evangelicals.  His letter claimed the support of “some Christian pastors,” who remain unnamed, vaguely expressing “various levels of support for ACR 99….”

During the resolution hearing, Evan Low read aloud the 2018 Op-ed. Mannoia had written in support of AB 2943, which threw change-allowing therapy under the proverbial biblical bus:

“Reparative therapy is without evidence as to its efficacy and is inconsistent with Christian living. We support Mr. Low in his opposition to practices that cause harm in people. This is contrary to the nature of the Christian message, which, while calling for change in all people to be oriented toward Christ even at great sacrifice, neither favors nor supports any practice that causes harm.”

Not surprisingly Mannoia’s employer, APU, has itself struggled with remaining biblically faithful, especially regarding issues of human sexuality, and according to many respected evangelical leaders, has, in fact, failed to remain biblically orthodox under growing cultural pressure.

Elizabeth Wonning, a former lesbian who is a leader with Equipped to Love and Changed, testified against ACR 99 implication that religion is to blame for LGBT suicides, “I take exception to the belief that religion is central to the high rates of suicide among LGBT youth.  For me, and many others, faith rescued us from suicide.  The experience of discovering you are different than most other people is traumatic and troubling whether you have faith or not.  Hopelessness causes suicide.”  Ken Williams, a pastor and former homosexual, concluded his testimony with these powerful words, asking Low to respect rights of conscience and religious freedom: “And so, assemblyman Low, I am asking you, you may have the votes to pass this, but I don’t believe that you have the right to presuppose people’s consciences, or to tell them what they need to believe.  I totally support your right, and everyone you represent, to experience whatever in life that you’d like to, I have no intention to take that away.  I just am asking that my rights, and my people group would also be respected. So I, I ask for a no vote on this resolution.”

We can all agree that aversive therapeutic methods, involving coercion or physical pain, should not be employed in the context of change-allowing therapies.  However, I submit that this is not actually a current problem.  Aversive therapeutic methods are not being employed today nor have they been widely employed for decades.   Indeed, the false accusation that change-allowing therapies are harmful and ineffective was strongly rebutted by a letter submitted and signed by dozens of therapists, attorneys, and public policy organizations, confirming that change allowing therapies are non-aversive, in that they often give people hope and result in transformative change.  Indeed, the very lives of thousands of former homosexuals and former transgender individuals tell a very different story.  Sexual identity isn’t immutable.  People can and do change.

Biblically orthodox evangelical Christians cannot affirm that all change-allowing therapies are ineffective and harmful, nor can they endorse a therapeutic ban. This is true for the following reasons:  First, it is a denial that we are created in the image of God, as male or female.  Second, it is a denial of the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change the human heart.  Third, thousands of former homosexuals and former transgendered persons have been genuinely helped by change-allowing therapies—being set free from unwanted same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria.  Fourth, it would result in government coerced supression of speech, in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the further diminution of religious freedom.

Members of the Coalition for Counsel Choice repeatedly tried to warn Kevin Mannoia and other pastors about engaging with Evan Low. They specifically raised the issue that any resolution that evangelical leaders might agree upon with Assemblymember Evan Low would be a compromise of one or more of the above truths—as ACR 99 actually is.  Furthermore, they cautioned that from a public policy and legal perspective, a compromised resolution will almost certainly serve as a stepping stone toward a future outright legal ban on change-allowing therapies.   If it does, CCC members warn that history may prove that evangelical leaders will have actually been complicit in moving the cultural conversation towards an ultimate ban on change-allowing therapies with the further erosion of religious freedom—resulting in Orwellian restrictions on sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Mannoia was also specifically asked to not submit his vague and confusing “support” letter for ACR 99.  He did not listen.

Immediately after the resolution hearing, Evan Low was quick to take a victory lap, touting Kevin Mannoia as a PR prop by posting a glossy photo of himself and Kevin on Facebook, tagging all his radical friends at Equality California, the Trevor Project, the National Center for Lesbian rights and the Human Rights Campaign,  “@Kmannoia, Former President of the National Association of Evangelicals & Chaplain at @azusapacific, speak in support of #ACR99, to reaffirm our values of love and dignity while also acknowledging the harmful practice of #ConversionTherapy @TrevorProject @eqca @NCLRights @HRC”

Unfortunately, this unorthodox and aberrant behavior by one of our purported evangelical “leaders” highlights the dangers of the strategy of appeasing the enemies of the gospel and freedom in Christ.  It never ends well.  Tragically, too many Christians leaders today fear people and worship the culture, rather than fearing God and worshipping Christ. But this isn’t Christian leadership, it’s cultural surrender. To shamefully join forces with the enemies of Christ, to defame all change-allowing therapy, and to surrender to the idea that people can’t change is to surrender to the satanic lie that the Gospel has no actual transformative power.  For biblically orthodox evangelicals, that is heresy.

Christians can certainly all agree that everyone, including those struggling with same-sex attraction or gender identity should be treated with love, dignity, compassion, and respect.  Everyone deserves this, precisely because they are created in the image of God.  However, in a free society, this can and should be done without the government attempting to tell churches and pastors how they should counsel or what they should preach.  Christians, who desire to remain free, must always oppose the annexation of the church by the state.  We don’t want to have to relearn the painful and difficult lessons of the appeasing German Lutheran church of the 1930’s and 40s.

Christians ought to be concerned—very concerned—and must remain vigilant against the dark impulses of statist domination. Let’s be clear: our enemies want to silence us and thereby kill the gospel message. California, over the past five years, has been churning out a series of bad legislation targeting religious freedom and the freedom of speech, often in the name of LGBT rights (See i.e. AB 775, SB 1146, AB 1888, AB 569, AB 2943).  And History confirms that non-binding resolutions like ACR 99 often proceed more coercive, restrictive, and freedom-robbing legislation. That is why the NCLP submitted a powerful separate legal opinion memorandum explaining how ACR 99, if enacted, will chill speech and suppress religious beliefs and practices, in violation of the protections of the First Amendment.

The gospel is not fraud, consumer or otherwise.  It has the power to transform us, including our sexual desires.  Although deceptively camouflaged in the language of love and compassion, ACR 99 is a naked attempt by the government to establish progressive sexual orthodoxy and dis-establish (and destroy) religious sexual ethics. Although not binding, this resolution, if adopted, will chill the speech of pastors, churches, and Christians who are already concerned and fearful about government infringements, especially related to LGBT issues.  We can’t afford to have our voices censored and silenced by the state.  Truth is at stake.  The Gospel is at stake.

An Open Letter to Pastors

 

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Anytown, USA–Do you really believe in the power of God to transform people at the deepest level? I do! This dynamic force for good is confirmed both by the Scriptures and experience. But now that California is in the process of declaring the hope of the gospel as “fraud” and defaming the proclamation of biblical truth as an “unlawful business practice” in the Golden State, what will you do? If you are not already aware of AB 2943, a law seeking to outlaw dissent from statist sexual orthodoxy, and which poses an existential threat to religious freedom, please read this article.

We are in a Bonhoeffer moment. A Bonhoeffer moment is a time when the political and cultural pressures are so intoxicatingly powerful and intense that the church is tempted to deny her faithful biblical witness and compromise in some significant way. In Germany, a church that could have and should have confronted Hitler, chose the easier path of passivity and appeasement. Under great duress from the Nazi party, most of the evangelical church became compromised and pressed into the service of the Reich. The courageous and faithful Confessing Church was more sparsely populated by a few hundred faithful pastors, among them Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Today, the church is confronted by similar totalitarian cultural pressure points. This time it is in the form of a flurry of court rulings, state laws, and popular cultural indoctrination. The goal is to seek to defy moral gravity (i.e. reality) in the form of a brazen sexual declaration of independence—declaring evil good and good evil—radically redefining marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity. After redefining marriage in 2015, elitist pagan social engineers now want to destroy and replace the gender binary—the truth that we are all created male and female in the image of God. Consequently, I believe we now face the greatest threat to religious freedom in the history of our nation. It is as if the culture is holding a gun to our heads attempting to force us to acknowledge and celebrate as positive moral “goods” same-sex marriage, gender dysphoria, and the related transformative corruptive indoctrination of our children in public schools.

We are not alone in history. The early church faced a similar moment. Then, powerful cultural and religious leaders, desiring to silence the witness of the church and suppress the truth, ordered Peter and John to not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Without hesitating, they replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have heard” (Acts 4: 13-21). After being imprisoned for disobeying (and a miraculous release) they were hauled again before the leaders and chastised for continuing to preach the gospel. Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” The leaders wanted to kill them, but decided to let them off with a good beating. The result? They left “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” and “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:17-42).

God has not changed. Truth has not changed. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Yet, tragically today, similarly to the unfaithful German evangelical church, far too many timid and fearful evangelical pastors have not handled the cultural pressures very well. As a result, the full counsel of God is not always preached and the gospel is watered down. New Age beliefs and practices are replacing biblical truth from the pulpit. Compromise, capitulation, and assimilation are certainly not the answers. Yet, even before laws like AB 2943 are restraining us, many pastors already are self-censoring and withholding truth. This is not loving—it is profoundly unloving. Important truths like sin, repentance, discipleship, purity, and obedience (denying ourselves, picking up our crosses, and following Him) are often forgotten and are replaced by an unbiblical gospel of cheap grace and a wimpy passive faith. This is how truth dies, this is how the light is hidden, this is how salt loses its savor.

Yet, some faithful godly California Pastors like Manuel Gonzales are not backing down in the face of California’s Orwellian AB 2943. Pastor Gonzales recently declared, “I am committed to preach the gospel, and no one is going to tell me that I cannot.” My friend, San Diego Pastor Chris Clark, recently declared that he had notified his state representatives that he will not be complying with the law, if passed, “I am giving them my name, my church’s name and address, and making it clear that AB 2943 will be an unjust law and therefore I am compelled to violate it.” For more on Principled Christian Civil Disobedience, please read this article.

Having been actively involved in the fierce epic battle between religious liberty and sexual liberty for the past 25 years, I can assure you that the goal of the opposition is not inclusion, diversity and tolerance—not even close! The goal of radicals within the activist LGBT movement is to suppress and silence the proclamation of truth by the church—the gospel. Among the messages they want to suppress are: God created us male and female, sin is the problem, repentance is necessary, forgiveness is available in Jesus Christ, and that the gospel has the power to transform disordered sexuality. If you are unapologetically preaching the truth, there is or will soon be a target on you and a target on your pulpit. If you don’t have a target on you at this point, it may mean that you are not being biblically faithful. We will all stand before God and give an account for our lives.

So, what can a pastor do? First, fear God rather than men. Find your spiritual backbone, get back to the Bible, and preach the full counsel of God from the pulpit. If you are self-censoring your sermons because of cultural pressure and the fear of the opinions of people: please repent and knock it off. Allow your love to overcome your fear, remembering that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16). Your church needs a courageous shepherd who clearly and unapologetically speaks the truth and will help protect the saints from the wolves and darkness surrounding us now. Second, pray for a new reformation, a great awakening of a church that is now, sadly, in many respects culturally withdrawn, spiritually asleep, and increasingly silent. Third, actively engage (be salt and light) by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and encourage your congregation to engage and oppose evil laws like AB 2943 that threaten the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Pastor Chris Clark recently stated, responding to AB 2943, “Time to be a Bonhoeffer.” Yes, pastors, we desperately need more Dietrich Bonhoeffers, Chris Clarks and Manuel Gonzales. I am not asking you to be political, I am asking you to be biblical. Now is the time that we must boldly and courageously stand up for truth, stop capitulating to the culture, and allow your love for God and people to overcome your fear. People are desperate for biblical leadership and for the truth. Silence is not an option. We must obey God rather than men!

Rogue Nation: Birthplace of Religious Freedom Added to the List of Countries Where Christians Face the Most Persecution

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The silence was deafening as the United States, the birthplace of religious freedom, joined the infamous ranks of the world’s worst places to be a Christian—places where followers of Jesus Christ face the worst harassment and persecution because of their faith. Major American media outlets largely ignored a story of immense implications for the future of the Judeo-Christian worldview and western civilization.

This dirty dozen is a list created by the International Christian Concern (ICC), a watchdog organization formed in 1995 to protect the rights of Christians worldwide, released in its 2016 Hall of Shame Report. It was not surprising that the Islamist dominated countries of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Nigeria made the list for their persecution and killing of the Christian “infidels.” Nor was it a shock that Russia, Mexico and India were noted because of the suppression of evangelical Christianity either by people espousing other variations of Christianity or by Jesus-hating radical Hindus. It is even understandable that that the totalitarian communist/atheist states of China and North Korea were included.

Nearly simultaneous with the ICC’s report was the European Parliament’s acknowledgement that Christianity, not Islam, is the world’s most persecuted religion. The Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World, confirmed that Christians are currently the earth’s most harassed and intimidated religious group that “routinely suffer religiously motivated persecution.”

Regarding the ICC report, what raises eyebrows is the first-time-ever addition of the United States to the list of the twelve worst countries for the Christian faith.  The ICC’s explanation is as follows:

“Throughout the US, current events and shifting perceptions are causing conflicts between Christian beliefs and public sentiment. This cultural shift affects Christians businesses, organizations and individuals through legal action, free speech infringement, public expressions of faith, and employment.”

The article explains that Christians in the US are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist, and close-minded. Furthermore, Christians and all religious people are being marginalized through laws and legal action. Specific examples include Christian bakers fined $135,000 for declining to back a cake for a same-sex wedding, Intervarsity Christian fellowship losing official recognition as a student club at California public colleges, employees being terminated because of their faith, and many more. The ICC report cites that claims of “intolerance” and “inequality” are being used to bully Christians and create legal precedents that are actually undermining well established First Amendment rights, including the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.

As we celebrate the peaceful transfer of power, President-elect Trump may provide some relief for believers if he fulfills his promise to respect and restore religious freedom. The overwhelming evidence of the past eight years reveals that President Obama’s legacy must include the truth that he was no friend of religious freedom, exasperating Christians by his First Amendment undermining actions, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Trying to force Catholic nuns (The Little Sisters of the Poor) and other church groups to provide abortion-related products and services.
  • Supporting the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples (Obergefell v. Hodges).
  • The United States Commission on Civil Rights issuing its 2016 anti-religious hit piece report suggesting that sexual liberty (i.e. new anti-discrimination laws) should prevail over religious liberty claims (First Amendment protected) and asserting that “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” are code for anti-LBGT discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. (i.e. Christians are the “deplorables”).
  • The Department of Justice and Department of Education’s 2016 transgender bathroom mandate, forcing public schools to allow student access to bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding based on their perceived gender identity rather than their biological sex.

The ICC posits that part of the explanation for the change may be growing secularization, citing a Pew Research poll showing that those the total U.S. adult population identifying as non-religious jumped by seven percent in just seven years, from 16 percent to 23 percent (2007-2014). Notably, a stunning 35 percent of millennials identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular! The report, How America Changed During Barack Obama’s Presidency, confirms that those identifying as Christians also dropped seven percent, from 78 percent to 71 percent, though the share of evangelicals has remained fairly stable. So, what does this all mean?

First, it means we must recognize that there is rapidly growing public pressure on American Christians today, as many secular-progressive elite forces are seeking to drive us out of the public square into hiding and to silence us and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a time where, sadly, the church is far more influenced by the culture than it is influencing the culture. “One nation” once “under God” has become “divisible,” and divided, as we are now left “with liberty and justice for” some. Most Christians in the US are not handling the current hostile environment very well and many are simply giving in to the pressure, allowing themselves to be silenced and marginalized. Biblical resistance is required. Millennials are the most vulnerable to cultural pressure and the church must do a much better job of inculcating a comprehensive biblical worldview, passing the baton of “the faith of our fathers,” to them.

Second, it means, as I have been warning others for more than a decade, that we are rapidly moving from “soft” persecution towards “hard” persecution of the church in a place formerly known as the land of the free and home of the brave. It is true that while some of us are losing our livelihood, we are not being imprisoned or killed yet, but if the pendulum keeps swinging in its current direction, those prospects may not be far off. The separation of sheep and goats, already well underway, will continue and accelerate. Do not be alarmed that many you thought were authentic believers were only pretending. We need to realize that persecution is a normal part of being a Christian and gird our loins accordingly.

Third, it means that if we value our freedom and the gospel of Jesus Christ, we had better wake up, engage the culture by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and fight the good fight of faith by actively pushing back culturally, politically, and legally. The American “health and wealth gospel” will be nakedly unmasked for the fraud that it always was. This is not the time for wimpy, half-hearted, “fluffy-bunny” Jesus or “comfortable” Christianity. Those days are long gone in America.  But do not despair!  We have the hope and confidence that our ultimate victory is secure in Jesus Christ. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness had not overcome it (John 1:5).

Ready or not, Biblical promises of persecution are about to get very “real” and, especially for the unprepared, it’s going to be a rough ride. You are not alone. There is a strong remnant. You are surrounded by a cloud of faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Be much in the Word, prayer, and fellowship. Be filled with the Spirit. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.