Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste

BreakPoint Daily

Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste

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How COVID has Enabled Religious Persecution.

The devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being tallied, both in terms of lives and livelihoods lost. In addition to the millions dead, the millions more who’ve been infected (including some who face long-term physical damage), there’s the psychological and emotional harm of extended isolation, and the millions who face financial ruin. In the midst of all of that, we are now learning of another, less obvious, but just as deadly fallout from the pandemic.

Each January, Open Doors, an organization committed to “serving persecuted Christians worldwide,” releases their World Watch List. The list documents the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian, highlights global trends in religious persecution and provides unique insights into the global persecuted church…

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“‘Wall of separation – a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution”

American Minute with Bill Federer

Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci wrote:
“Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. 
Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.

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Today’s BreakPoint:

BreakPoint Daily

Two articles from The Colson Center for Christian Worldview a ministry that equips Christians to live out their faith with clarity, confidence, and courage in this cultural moment.


 

Evolutionary Psychology, Natural Selection, and Human Misbehavior

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The Post-Pandemic Church and Pre-existing Conditions

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Why So Many Governors and Other Local Officials are Violating Religious Liberty

Many of you know I have from the beginning, advocated for a biblical stand on the COVID-19 orders from our Government Representatives. (SEE COVID-19 and the CHURCH) In it I noted “As long as the government is not asking, recommending or issuing guidelines that are illegal, immoral or unethical…” I believe that the guidelines issued initially were based upon the best available data. Were they all smart no, but illegal, immoral or unethical not that either.

HOWEVER, as we are moving forward and more and more business are being allowed to open any further restrictions upon the SAFE gathering and fellowship of the church body would be at the least immoral or unethical and if challenged  in court found to be illegal. As the authors point out ‘if liquor stores can open so too should churches’; for if man can feed the body with spirits he certainly needs a place to nurture the body with the Spirit.

BreakPoint Daily

Why So Many Governors and Other Local Officials are Violating Religious Liberty

Illinois

JOHN STONESTREET  WITH DAVID CARLSON

Whoever said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” was certainly correct. Especially in times of crisis. For instance, it took a lawsuit to convince Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker to allow religious people to leave their homes to exercise their freedom of religion. Under his original executive order, the governor would permit “Essential Businesses and Operations” to have gatherings of 10 or more people, but not religious gatherings. Even stay-in-your-car drive-in services, as Pastor Steve Cassell of the Beloved Church found out when he was issued a cease and desist order, were forbidden with threats of arrest and prosecution.

Cassell and the Thomas More Society responded by filing a lawsuit. As Thomas More senior council Peter Breen said, “Keeping liquor stores open but indefinitely shutting down churches and religious ministries violates our constitution and our most basic liberties. If liquor stores are ‘essential,’ so are churches.” The governor quickly issued a replacement executive order explicitly allowing the free exercise of religion, as well as permitting gatherings that comply with social distancing.

Governor Pritzker is particularly easy to pick on here, but he’s certainly not alone. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued an order that exempted “26 types of secular activities from its gathering ban” but specifically prohibited “churches and other religious services or activities” with 10 or more people, even if they obeyed social distancing requirements. That order only lasted until the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit. The governor has since issued a new order that didn’t single out churches.

Still, as ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said, “It’s a shame that it took a federal lawsuit … in order to finally prompt the governor to issue an order that she could easily have issued in the first place: one that doesn’t … unconstitutionally target churches.”

It is more than a shame, actually. It’s revealing. Because from governors’ mansions to city halls across the country, from major metropolises like Bill de Blasio’s New York City to small cities and even smaller townships in the Bible Belt—like Chattanooga, Tennessee and Greenville, Mississippi—state and local officials are demonstrating just how badly they understand America’s First Freedom. It’s bad enough that, as another ADF official admitted, ADF and the Thomas More Society and other religious freedom groups “can’t possibly monitor every situation across the nation.”

Last week on Twitter Southern Seminary professor Andrew Walker wondered aloud on Twitter, why there has been such a “general mismanagement of religious liberty at the gubernatorial and municipal levels”?

I think, like so many other things I could point to during this time, this is a problem COVID-19 certainly didn’t create. So many cultural fault lines and foundational weaknesses of our theology and society are being revealed and exploited during this pandemic.

Specifically, I think Princeton Professor Robert George best articulated why we are seeing so many local officials fail so miserably on religious liberty right now, during an episode on the BreakPoint Podcast. Too many Americans, he told me, including lawmakers and even Christians—“essentially see (religion) as a hobby… like football, or going to the ballet, or collecting stamps.” These things are, of course, non-essential.

“But in our constitutional tradition,” George continued, religion “is singled out for special care… Our founding fathers, who bequeathed to us this great constitutional government … understood that religion has to do with the conscience.”

Of course, the government is fully entitled to curtail religious freedoms in a national emergency. That’s something recognized by both constitutional scholars and theologians, both contemporary and in the past. And in our podcast conversation, Dr. George clearly articulated the specific conditions under which religious freedoms might be limited by the state. First, the government must show a compelling interest when limiting full freedom of expression, such as public safety. For example, slowing the spread of COVID-19 could be deemed a compelling interest.

Second, the state cannot single out religious activities for restrictions that do not apply to other areas of life. This is a point Governor Pritzker and others are clearly struggling to grasp.

Third, if a compelling interest exists, the government must only curtail religious liberty in the least restrictive way possible. Any restrictions imposed cannot be more burdensome than necessary. For example, as Mayor de Blasio of New York clearly missed in his irrational threats against churches, restrictions must be temporary.

Look, we’ve clearly reached a point where we must re-educate ourselves, and our lawmakers, about the privileged place of religious freedom in our form of constitutional government. Religious freedom is not a second-class right and religion is not another lifestyle choice or a “hobby.”

But when Governor Pritzker announces, like he did last week (even after having his first idea smacked down) that bans on gatherings with 50 or more people—including churches—will stay in place for more than a year until a vaccine is developed? Good heavens, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

I mean, Governor Pritzker has a law degree, from a law school that bears his family name, no less. To paraphrase Professor Digory Kirke in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”: Bless me, what do they teach them at law schools these days?

And why we’re asking that question, let’s also ask: What are we teaching in our churches these days about religious freedom?

 

Resources:

BreakPoint: The Genesis of Human Dignity

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The Genesis of Human Dignity

What the World Owes the Bible

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In the novel “Bleak House,” Charles Dickens introduces us to Harold Skimpole, a man who seems charming and reasonable but is quickly revealed to be a mooch and a parasite. Skimpole lives comfortably off of his friends. Even worse, he believes he’s entitled to the standard of living his friends provide, giving no thought at all to what it took to make his life comfortable in the first place.

Western culture is Skimpole-like. In other words, we take ideas such as freedom and human dignity for granted, without ever stopping to think about where those ideas came from in the first place.

Just ask Dr. David Mackereth who, for 26 years, worked for Britain’s National Health Service, mostly in Accident and Emergency wards. By all accounts, he was an excellent doctor.

In 2018, Mackereth was assigned to Britain’s Department for Work and Pensions as a disability assessor. During his training, a senior employee told Mackereth and others they should always address transgender people by their preferred pronoun, “in line with the department’s policy.”

When Mackereth told the senior employee that, as a Christian, he could not, “in good conscience,” use pronouns that way, he was informed that if he refused to follow the policy, he was at risk of losing his job. A few days later, when he reiterated that he couldn’t follow the policy in good conscience, he was fired.

Mackereth appealed his sacking to an employment tribunal, saying that his rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion had been violated. He told the panel that for religious reasons he could not refer to “any six-foot tall bearded man” as a “she” or a “her.”

He then cited Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Given the state of British culture right now, it’s not surprising that Mackereth lost his appeal. What is surprising is just how full-Skimpole-like the tribunal went in its ruling.

The tribunal said, and I quote, “Belief in Genesis 1:27, a lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others.”

This is like finding milk in your supermarket and rejecting that any part at all was played by dairy farmers or cows.

The Bible verse cited by MacKereth and repudiated by the tribunal is the singular basis for the idea of human dignity and “fundamental rights.” Without “God created man in his own image,” the imago dei, the only dignity anyone possesses is what others are willing to give them.

The truth is that had Scripture not introduced the image of God to the world’s lexicon in the first place, the notion of human dignity wouldn’t exist. Even raging atheist Friedrich Nietzsche acknowledged that. The ancient world didn’t recognize universal human dignity, nor did any philosophy other than Christianity even imagine it.

I’m not saying, of course, that Christians always lived up to this truth, either personally or within their societies. What I’m saying is that no one would recognize it as truth had Christianity not grounded it in some way. Or as another atheist, author and philosopher Luc Ferry wrote in his book, “A Brief History of Thought”: “Christianity was to introduce the notion that men are equal in dignity; an unprecedented idea at the time and one to which our world owes its entire democratic inheritance.”

The history of the idea of human dignity is striking and clear, but it’s also ignored by a culture that, like Skimpole, never thinks about where the good things of modern life really come from. Christians can serve the world by reminding it of its own history, not least of which because human dignity will never last if it is untethered from the one and only source that ever gave it to the world in the first place.

This may have happened in Britain but it is a foreshadow of what the liberal left is demanding here in America today – Mike

Religious Liberty

Four-Year Study Reveals Unexpected Views of Religious Liberty

Research Releases in Faith & Christianity • April 30, 2019

What role should religious belief play in public life? The question has taken on new dimensions as the issues have changed and as successive generations are less connected to Christianity, or to religion at all. Although religious liberty questions remain frequently and hotly contested in the political arena, Barna research shows that, at least among Protestant pastors, concern about religious freedom restrictions has actually declined.

One of the foremost challenges to careful thought concerning this question is that public awareness of religious liberty debates is mixed—even among clergy. How do pastors and the general public define terms related to religious freedom, and how do they view its fate in the United States? A recent Barna report, Faith Leadership in a Divided Culture, is the culmination of four years of research conducted in partnership with The Maclellan Foundation examining views of religious liberty among the general population and faith leaders in the United States—Christian and otherwise. We found that although faith leaders and the general public agree on a definition for religious freedom, they have evolving outlooks regarding its future…

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