The 13th Century

Micah Exhorting The Israelites, By Gustave Dore. Dore, 1832 – 1883, French. Engraving For The Bible. 1870, Art, Artist, Holy Book, Religion, Religious, Christianity, Christian, Romanticism, Colour, Color Engraving. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

by Nicholas R. Needham

More traditionally minded Roman Catholics have seen the thirteenth century as the golden age of Roman Catholic civilization. Certainly it witnessed the papacy achieving the summit of its power over the politics and culture of Western Europe.

THE REIGN OF POPE INNOCENT III

The pope who presided over this Catholic “high noon” was Innocent III, who was bishop of Rome from 1198 to 1216. His baptismal name was Lothario Conti. Born in 1160, he came from one of Rome’s most ancient aristocratic families. After studying theology and law at Rome, Bologna, and Paris, he lectured at Bologna law school. In 1190, his career took a more churchly turn when he became a cardinal deacon of Rome. Then in 1198, at the young age of 37, he was unanimously elected pope, taking the name Innocent III. He proved to be a skillful, shrewd, far-seeing leader of the church, patient and purposeful, a master at bending even adverse circumstances to his own advantage.

Innocent effected a significant cluster of church reforms. Many of these focused on centralizing the structures of the church around the papacy. For example, Innocent augmented the system of papal legates (ambassadors). A legate was an official who was personally appointed by, and responsible to, the pope. His role was to supervise church affairs in different regions, ensuring that bishops were executing papal policies. Innocent also entrenched the pope’s right to appoint bishops in disputed cases. He famously exercised this right in England, where Innocent forced King John to accept the papal nominee Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury. (In the process, the English monarchy was abjectly humiliated.) In 1199, Innocent decreed the first general income tax on the clergy, to be paid to Rome.

THE FOURTH LATERAN COUNCIL AND TRANSUBSTANTIATION

Innocent’s reforming activities reached their finale in the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. The council enacted wide-ranging reforms relating to the moral conduct of clergy, the importance of preaching, and issues of church discipline. The council, for example, determined that all Christians must confess their sins to their priest at least once a year and receive mass at least once a year at Easter.

The most important enactment of the council concerned the theology of the mass. For the first time, the doctrine of transubstantiation was officially defined. The definition reads:

There is indeed one universal Church of the faithful. Outside this Church, no one at all is saved. Within this Church, the Priest, Jesus Christ, is also Himself the sacrifice. His body and blood are genuinely contained in the sacrament of the altar, beneath the outward appearances of bread and wine. By God’s power, the bread is transubstantiated into Christ’s body, and the wine into His blood. Thus we receive from Him what He received from us [that is, flesh and blood, which Christ received from us in the incarnation]. In this way the mystery of unity [between Christ and the Church] is made concrete. No one can carry out this sacrament except the priest, who has been correctly ordained according to the power of the Church’s keys, which Jesus Christ Himself gave to the apostles and those who followed after them.

The word transubstantiation (change of substance) had been used before 1215 by men such as Hildebert of Tours (d. 1134), but the Fourth Lateran Council made the word and the associated concept official Roman Catholic orthodoxy.

ANTI-JUDAISM

The Council also condemned the teachings of dissenting movements such as the Waldensians and the Cathars (see below). It also required Jews who did not accept Christianity to wear distinctive garb and live in special Jewish areas of towns and cities, segregated from the Christian population. This decree echoed the increasing anti-Judaism that characterized Western society in the later Middle Ages. This attitude led to the expulsion of all Jews from England in 1209, from France in 1306, and then again more effectively from France in 1394. There was a general massacre of Jews in Spain in 1391, and the Spanish monarchy officially expelled them in 1492. The Portuguese expelled them in 1496. Jews were not expelled from Germany due to its lack of centralized government, but popular hatred of Jews was probably strongest there. In 1349, for example, a Christian mob in Strasbourg (which was then in Germany, but today in France) hounded the city’s entire Jewish population—some two thousand people—to the local cemetery and killed all who refused to embrace Christianity.

This popular Christian animosity to unbaptized Jews was inflamed by tales that Jews kidnapped and murdered Christian babies and practiced religious rituals in which they treated the wafer of the mass with blasphemous mockery. There is no reason to believe these tales were true, but they do reveal the social and religious gulf which now yawned between the church and Israel. A more pragmatic explanation for Christian anti-Judaism was that until the close of the Middle Ages, the church prohibited Christians from practicing usury (lending money for interest). Jews stepped into the vacuum and became the great medieval moneylenders. It seemed utterly scandalous to Christians that unbelieving Jews should wield such economic power over them.

RELIGIOUS DISSENT AND THE RISE OF CAPITALISM

One of the greatest challenges facing Innocent III was the great upsurge of religious dissent in Roman Catholic Europe from about 1150 onwards. This mushrooming of dissent was probably connected to serious socioeconomic changes in the Western world at that time. In the Netherlands, western Germany, northern Italy, and France, the growth of towns, cities, trade, and industry was sapping the foundations of the old feudal system. Feudalism had been based on land ownership. Now, however, a new economy was emerging which was based increasingly on money rather than on land. Thus were established the key elements of capitalism (an economic system based on capital, that is, money). As a result of this proto-capitalist economy, the medieval rich became visibly richer, and more numerous; the poor, however, became visibly and shockingly poorer. At the same time, there was significant population growth, so that feudalism’s old land-based way of life was less able to support those who lived in rural areas.

The peasant class lost out badly in this socioeconomic revolution, particularly if they left the overpopulated land and migrated into towns and cities. In the old feudal village, the lord of the manor personally cared for his peasant workers (apart from anything else, he could not afford to let his labor force starve). An unemployed town-dwelling peasant, however, would indeed starve. He no longer belonged to a lord—and to that extent, he had gained freedom. However, along with this freedom came the dissolution of the old feudal bonds of community, which had once ensured that even the poorest people had a place in society and were looked after.

WALDENSIANS AND CATHARS

This loss of the sense of security and belonging, and the development of great social inequality produced a fertile soil in which new religious movements could flourish. The two most widespread of these movements were the Waldensians and the Cathars. The Waldensians originated in Lyons in the 1170s as a movement of lay preachers, whose inspirational founder seems to have been named Valdes. Friction with local episcopal authority, however, eventually drove the Waldensians out of the church. Rather than extinguishing the movement, this enabled it to grow rapidly and spread widely. Unconstrained now by the need to conform to Roman Catholic orthodoxy, the Waldensians evolved into an embryonically “Protestant” movement, anticipating many of the concerns of the sixteenth-century Reformation.

The Cathars are a more controversial movement. A previous generation of Protestant scholars saw them as essentially akin to the Waldensians—an Evangelical movement of dissent. This, then, gave way to the view that they were a basically gnostic movement. Now some modern scholars deny they existed at all. I take the view that they did exist and were basically gnostic. One reason for taking this view is that there was a parallel movement in the Eastern Byzantine world, the Bogomils, who were gnostic—the Eastern Cathars, as it were, whose existence I see no reason to doubt. The Cathars flourished outside the confines of the church (which they denounced as the “Great Whore of Babylon”), and they made a notable impact on southern France, where they were known as Albigensians.

THE ALBIGENSIAN CRUSADE AND THE INQUISITION

The church made attempts to break the Albigensian grip on southern France. Initially these attempts were peaceful, providing the context for the preaching of Dominic, founder of the Dominicans. But a spiral of violence culminated in Pope Innocent III’s proclamation of the twenty-year Albigensian Crusade (1209–29). By the time the crusaders had conquered southern France, not only the Albigensians but the Waldensians, too, had lost their base of operations. (The crusaders did not make much distinction between one heretic and another.) The Waldensian movement, however, found a new and permanent home in the Alpine valleys of northern Italy.

During the Albigensian Crusade, Innocent III took another step towards the centralization of the church around the papacy. He created a system of special legates to root out any surviving heretics in southern France. Prior to this, the church had left the investigation of heresy to local bishops, who were often uninterested or incompetent. Innocent transformed the investigation of heresy into a centrally controlled Europe-wide operation. His actions laid the foundations for what in 1227 became the “inquisition” (or “holy office,” as it was officially called). The inquisition was a separate organization within the church that was free from episcopal control, subject only to the pope, and devoted entirely to unmasking and punishing heretics. It grew into the most feared organization of the later Middle Ages. Once the inquisition had accused a person of heresy, it was virtually impossible for him to prove his innocence. Those who confessed received financial penalties or acts of penance such as going on a pilgrimage. Those who refused to confess received varying degrees of punishment. Depending on the gravity of their error, some had all their assets confiscated, others were incarcerated perhaps for life, and the gravest offenders were handed over to the civil authorities to be burnt at the stake.

The inquisition forced dissenting movements to meet in secret. This is the chief reason why we know so little about the history of religious dissent in later medieval Europe compared with what we know of the Roman Catholic Church itself.

THE MENDICANTS

It was also during the era of Innocent III that the new “mendicant” (begging) orders of friars flourished—chiefly the Dominicans and Franciscans, but also the Augustinians, Carmelites, and others. You can read more about these orders later on in this issue of Tabletalk. Suffice it here to say that they harnessed and unleashed new torrents of spiritual and intellectual energy, some of which would ultimately have surprising consequences. Think of that most famous Augustinian friar, Martin Luther.

SCHOLASTIC THEOLOGY

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed a rich blossoming of knowledge, especially theology and philosophy, in Western Christendom. It reached its high point in the thirteenth century, which was the age par excellence of scholastic theology.

“Scholastic theology” means “school theology,” and the “school” in question was the university. Western universities began to take shape around the middle of the twelfth century, with Paris and Bologna leading the way. A fully developed university would come to have four departments or “faculties,” teaching theology, law, medicine, and the arts. The driving aim was that the university should be a center for storing and propagating the sum total of human knowledge.

The theologians who taught in the universities—the scholastic theologians or schoolmen—developed a distinctive approach to theology. We can summarize this as follows.

• 1. Faith and Reason

Scholastic theologians were marked by a vibrant interest in the relationship between faith and reason. What could human reason discover about God by investigating creation without referring to the Bible? For example, what could pure reason ascertain of a divine Creator, the Trinity, or providence? If a revealed truth could not be established by reason alone, could it still be shown to be in harmony with reason? For instance, even if unaided reason cannot discover the Trinity, can we still show that the Trinity does not contradict reason? Can something be false from the standpoint of reason, yet true according to the standpoint of revelation?

• 2. Systematic Theology

Scholastic theologians wanted to offer a complete account of Christian truth. This meant probing a particular doctrine logically from every point of view. A typical schoolman would, however, go further and try to bring the entire body of revealed truth together into a system of theology. They called such a system a summa (summary). In seeking to construct a universal system of truth, the schoolmen sometimes expended time and energy on issues which most Christians today would probably think pointless. Could God have become incarnate as an animal or as a woman? Can one angel be in two places at the same time? Can two angels be in the same place at the same time? Who sinned the most, Adam or Eve?

• 3. Philosophy

The schoolmen were both the theologians and the philosophers of the Middle Ages. They hoped to give a complete account not just of Church teaching but of all truth. So they did not restrict themselves to theological issues. They would try to answer the deep philosophical questions, too. What is matter? What is mind? What is morality? What is time? What is space? What is being? What is the nature of cause and effect?

THE REDISCOVERY OF ARISTOTLE

In the thirteenth century, scholastic theology increasingly exploited the philosophy of the great pagan thinker Aristotle (384–22 BC ). A few of Aristotle’s works had been known to the early schoolmen in Latin translation. However, the entire corpus of Aristotle’s writings became available in Latin in the 1100s. This was largely owing to two great Islamic philosophers, the Persian Avicenna (980–1037) and the Spanish Averroës (1126–98). They translated Aristotle from Greek into Arabic for the benefit of the Islamic world. Christian scholars then translated the Arabic, along with Islamic commentaries on Aristotle, into Latin for the benefit of the Christian world. Arabic translations of Aristotle found their way into Christian Europe chiefly through Muslim Spain. (Remember that Spain was under Islamic rule during much of the Middle Ages.)

Roman Catholic Europe’s rediscovery of Aristotle had a huge intellectual impact. In Aristotle, Christians found an understanding of God, humanity, and the cosmos which seemed logical, comprehensive, and persuasive—all worked out without any reference to the Bible. Some of Aristotle’s teachings, however, contradicted the Bible. For instance, Aristotle taught that the cosmos had existed from eternity.

Initially, many Roman Catholic theologians reacted against Aristotle, seeing his philosophy as a dangerous alternative to Christianity. Many traditional theologians preferred Plato to Aristotle in matters of philosophy, especially since Augustine of Hippo, the greatest Western theologian, had been a Platonist. There was a campaign to ban the study of Aristotle’s writings. For a time, this anti-Aristotelian movement enjoyed some success. However, by the thirteenth century, the tide had turned in Aristotle’s favor, and scholastic theologians began regarding him as the great pagan precursor of Christian truth whose philosophy was uniquely suited to ground, express, and commend the theology of the church. The greatest of the Aristotelian schoolmen was Thomas Aquinas (1225–74), who is covered in a later article in this magazine. Other outstanding scholastic theologians of the thirteenth century included Alexander of Hales (1170–1245), Albertus Magnus (1193– 1280), Bonaventura (1221–74), and Duns Scotus (1265–1308). The tradition of Aristotelian Theology has continued down to our own day, largely among Roman Catholics, but with some Protestant support (for example, the Italian Reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli, Anglican theologian Richard Hooker, and some aspects of Lutheran and Reformed scholasticism).

EAST-WEST RELATIONS: THE FOURTH CRUSADE

Relations between the Western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches plunged to an all-time low in the thirteenth century. Innocent III proclaimed the Fourth Crusade, and the crusaders (almost wholly French) set out in October 1202. They had intended to seize Egypt from Muslim control. However, they were being carried in ships provided by the Italian trading republic of Venice, and Venice insisted that the Crusaders first conquer the city of Zara (in modern Croatia) as part of the city’s payment. Zara had recently seceded from the Venetian empire. So, the Fourth Crusade began with the crusaders shedding the blood of fellow Christians as they stormed Zara. Innocent III was outraged and excommunicated both the French and the Venetians. He eventually forgave the French crusaders on their professions of repentance, but he refused to lift the sentence from the Venetians.

At this point Alexius Angelus, son of deposed Byzantine emperor Isaac II, diverted the French and Venetian force yet again. Alexius promised the Crusaders large payment and the submission of the Eastern Orthodox Church to the papacy if they would help him gain the throne of the Byzantine Empire. The Venetians welcomed Alexius’s proposal because they wanted to secure control of all Eastern trade. Innocent III forbade the crusaders to fight the Byzantines, but they ignored Innocent, went to Constantinople, and placed Alexius on the throne. When, however, Alexius could not keep his extravagant promises of payment, the French and Venetians besieged Constantinople, capturing it in April 1204. The triumphant Crusaders looted the Byzantine capital’s fabulous treasures. A French noble, Baldwin of Flanders, became emperor of a new Roman Catholic kingdom of Constantinople, and other French nobles shared out large parts of the Byzantine Empire among themselves. The new rulers of Byzantium set up a Roman Catholic patriarch of Constantinople and made the Eastern Orthodox Church subject to the pope. Even so, except where Western force constrained them, the Orthodox Christians of the East scorned the papacy, remaining loyal to their own church and their own patriarch.

The Fourth Crusade was one of the darkest episodes in Christian history. For the first time, a crusading army fought fellow Christians, both Roman Catholics in Zara and Eastern Orthodox in Constantinople, merely for material gain. The Byzantine Empire received a mortal injury from which it never really recovered. Even though the Byzantines recaptured Constantinople in 1261, the empire finally fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Thus, an enduring legacy of deep hatred for the Western church was left among the Eastern Orthodox.

Dr. Nicholas Needham is minister of Inverness Reformed Baptist Church in Inverness, Scotland, and lecturer in church history at Highland Theological College in Dingwall, Scotland. He is author of the multivolume work 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power.

Supreme Court says California rule requiring nonprofits to reveal donor names is unconstitutional

Supreme Court ruling is a victory for conservative nonprofits – Smacks Down Kamala Harris and CA AG for Violating First Amendment

KATHERINE HAMILTON 1 Jul 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) on Thursday sided with the Americans For Prosperity Foundation (AFP) against Acting California Attorney General Matthew Rodriguez in favor of keeping non-profit donor records private, smacking down a measure pushed by Vice President Kamala Harris that conservatives feared could be used to target them.

“The government may regulate in the First Amendment area only with narrow specificity, and compelled disclosure regimes are no exception,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in a 6-3 decision. “When it comes to a person’s beliefs and associations, broad and sweeping state inquiries into these protected areas discourage citizens from exercising rights protected by the Constitution.”

The Court held that California’s disclosure requirement is invalid because it burdens donors’ First Amendment rights and is not narrowly tailored to an important government interest.

While Vice President Kamala Harris was still Attorney General of California, she sent a letter to AFP in 2013 asking the non-profit to send Schedule B forms to disclose its largest donors. A Schedule B is a highly confidential form that lists the names and addresses of a charity’s major donors—including those who live outside of California, according to the Cato Institute.

AFP declined to send the forms, saying doing so would dissuade people from donating and would violate the First Amendment.

Xavier Becerra took over as Attorney General for Harris, but was soon succeeded by Matthew Rodriguez when he became United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. In the case, Rodriguez alleged that the Attorney General’s Office began asking for Schedule B forms in 2010— in the same way the Internal Revenue Service does  — to fight charitable fraud and self-dealing.

They further claimed they were not asking for Schedule B forms as a way to target people or publicly out individuals for supporting causes, according to court documents.

AFP, which is a conservative organization, cited an incident in which California released 1,800 Schedule B forms to the public, despite the state’s confidentiality law.

AFP further argued the Attorney General’s Office had only used Schedule B forms five times for investigations. Instead, AFP said the AG should behave the way 47 other states do and subpoena non-profits for records during an investigation, according to court briefings.

A trial-court ruled in favor of AFP before the decision was reversed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, saying in part:

California has not considered alternatives to indiscriminate up-front disclosure. That is true in every case. And the State’s interest in amassing sensitive information for its own convenience is weak. That is true in every case. When it comes to the freedom of association, the protections of the First Amendment are triggered not only by actual restrictions on an individual’s ability to join with others to further shared goals. The risk of a chilling effect on association is enough, because First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive. [emphasis added]

In his opinion, Roberts emphasized the First Amendment’s role in protecting freedom of association and how the concept applies to AFP.

Protected association furthers a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends and is especially important in preserving political and cultural diversity and in shielding dissident expression from suppression by the majority,” Roberts wrote. [emphasis added]

He noted that compelled disclosure of affiliation could act as a restraint on freedom of association as effectively other forms of government action.

Roberts further said he does not doubt California has an important interest in preventing wrongdoing by charitable organizations. He concluded however, that there is a “dramatic mismatch” between the interests of the Attorney General’s Office and the disclosure process they use to investigate those crimes.

In reality, then, California’s interest is less in investigating fraud and more in ease of administration. This interest, however, cannot justify the disclosure requirement. The Attorney General may well prefer to have every charity’s information close at hand, just in case. But the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency. Mere administrative convenience does not remotely reflect the seriousness of the actual burden that the demand for Schedule Bs imposes on donors’ association rights. [emphasis added]

Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett joined Roberts in full, and Justice Alito and Justice Gorsuch joined in part. Alito and Justice Thomas filed concurring opinions. Justice Sotomayer wrote a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Breyer and Justice Kagan.

The case is Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, No. 19-251 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/07/01/supreme-court-smacks-down-kamala-harris-and-california-ag-for-violating-first-amendment/


How to Shepherd Your Flock in a Politically Charged World

Trevin Wax

Everything gets politicized these days. It’s never been easier for churches to also get caught up in waves of political enthusiasm and social activism.

So, what should a pastor do when their fellow church members see needs and want to meet them, see injustice and want to stop it, or see a good cause and want to support it?

First, we should rejoice! When a church does a good job equipping people to think and live as Christians in a fallen world, the people become like rivers overflowing the banks of the church gathered (the lake). The landscape changes when there are lakes and rivers. But not all lakes need to be rivers.

So what do you do when one person wants their passion to be the primary passion for the whole church? 

There are no easy answers to this question because every church and every community and every activist is a different mix of personalities and passions. But here are some principles to keep in mind.

1. Demote the political sphere while encouraging your politically active members.

For too many in our society, politics is everything. In This Is Our Time, I write about the politicization of everything, where politics has become a religion. Our country is still faith-filled; it is just that today our faith is misplaced. Too often, it’s directed toward government, not God. And many of our frustrations come when we realize government can’t ultimately save us. It was never meant to. Peggy Noonan writes: “When politics becomes a religion, then simple disagreements become apostasies, heresies. And you know what we do with heretics.”

All around us are people who believe the myth that politics is the only real place where you can effect change or transform the world. When you think that laws are the most important factor in changing the world, then every battle must be fought to the end. Otherwise, you’re sacrificing the cause!

The gospel challenges that myth. It tells us that the political sphere is just one area in which change can take place. It helps us put the political in a broader context, to realize that it is not everything. All gains are temporary, but so are all setbacks. Even if we lose a political cause, we can still be faithful. We are called always to witness, not always to win.

With all of this in mind, pastors should demote politics to its proper place, while simultaneously encouraging Christians who are active in their community. Understanding that the political sphere is not ultimate does not mean we should retreat. We cannot be indifferent, hoping to enter our houses of worship or our closets for prayer, as if holiness is all personal and private. No, the apostle Peter calls us to holiness and honor as a way of being on mission in this world. “Holiness is not supposed to be cloaked in the chambers of pious hearts,” says theologian Vince Bacote, “but displayed in the public domains of home, school, culture, and politics.”

2. Be aware of how quickly the uniting factor of a congregation can become a cause rather than the cross. 

Once you have demoted the political sphere to its proper place and encouraged your church members to remain active, you should keep an eye on what is at the center of your preaching and teaching. It is easy for the unifying factor of a church to become what we do for others instead of what Christ has done for us.

A church’s unity for a cause can eventually displace the cross. The gospel is still there, but it’s no longer in the center. Something else is uniting the church – a political cause, social work, a community ministry.

Why does this matter? Because we want long-term fruitfulness in our communities.

When you put the gospel at the center, various ministry opportunities will come alongside as demonstrations of the power of Christ’s work on the cross. But when you put a cause at the center, various ministry opportunities may flourish for a time but then wither away, because they are no longer connected to the source of life that can sustain such activism.

3. Guard the platform of your church.

As a pastor, you’ve probably received multiple self-invitations to take “just a few minutes” of precious platform time to give a report or make a congregation aware of a need. Whether it’s people spreading Bibles around the world, missionaries coming home from furlough, medical missionaries providing essential healthcare or pro-life opportunities… everyone wants just a few minutes. Except for the congregation. They expect you to say “no” and protect them from the countless ministry opportunities that could be presented every week.

Do your congregation a favor and guard the platform of your church. Only put activities in the bulletin that correspond to your church’s mission and presence in the community. You can’t be a megaphone for every single thing people in your church want to promote.

4. Observe your church’s particular gifts and passions, and provide opportunities for community involvement.

Right now, our church is involved with tutoring elementary school students down the street. We’re helping plant a church in Cincinnati. We’ve celebrated when families have adopted children from overseas, and we’ve hosted fundraisers to help them offset the cost. We’re assisting refugees being resettled in our area.

These are ways that our church is ministering to the community. Enough people in the congregation were involved in the need for the church to realize it could help facilitate some of this good ministry.

J. D. Greear lays out three approaches to individual ministries – Own, Catalyze, and Bless. He explains it this way:

To “own” a ministry means we staff and resource it directly.

Those we “bless” are those we know our members are engaged in, but as an institution we have little interaction with them other than the occasional encouragement. 

But the third category, “catalyze,” is where we put most of our energy. When we catalyze something, we identify members with ideas and ask them to lead us. We come alongside them, adding our resources, networking power, etc. We serve them. And that means sometimes they don’t do things exactly the way I would prefer. But in the long run, an empowered church catalyzed to do ministry will do more gospel-good in the community than if the church owns and staffs all its own ministries.

5. Publicly affirm and bless the kind of activism you want to see.

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Lift up examples of people who are the kind of activists you want to see.

When you hear of people in your congregation doing good in the community, don’t be shy in letting the rest of the church know. What you celebrate, you become.

1st Amendment Victory: SCOTUS Strikes Down Philadelphia Law Forcing Same-Sex Adoption at Catholic Org

SCOTUS
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

HANNAH BLEAU 17 Jun 2021

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Thursday unanimously overturned a lower court ruling regarding the City of Philadelphia barring foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services due to its unwillingness to endorse same-sex couples.

In a 9-0 judgment, SCOTUS held that the City of Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It came about after Philadelphia stopped foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on the basis of its beliefs and practices on traditional marriage.

“Philadelphia took this extraordinary action not in response to any legal violation, nor in response to any complaint it received, but because of CSS’s religious beliefs and practices regarding marriage, which City officials read about in the local paper,” the petitioner’s brief reads, noting the Third Circuit ruled in favor of Philadelphia, considering the city’s actions “neutral.”

“The City will renew its foster care contract with CSS only if the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples. The question presented is whether the actions of Philadelphia violate the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, in which he ultimately determined the city’s action did so.

The city’s actions, he wrote, “burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs,” noting the city’s dissent of that opinion.

“In its view, certification reflects only that foster parents satisfy the statutory criteria, not that the agency endorses their relationships. But CSS believes that certification is tantamount to endorsement. And religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection,” he wrote.

Central to Philadelphia’s defense was that the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision Employment Division v. Smith held that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment applies when the government discriminates against religion, not to laws that generally apply to everyone regardless of religion. The city points out that under its anti-discrimination law, the Fair Practices Ordinance, everyone has to treat same-sex marriages the same as traditional marriages, and says that makes it a neutral law of general application.

The Court ultimately rejected the city’s argument that CSS’s practice violated a section of “its standard foster care contract, determining that the provision is not generally applicable as required by Smith.”

Roberts, in his opinion, determined that the city offered “no compelling reason why it has a particular interest in denying an exception to CSS while making them available to others.”

“As Philadelphia acknowledges, CSS has long been a point of light in the City’s foster care system. CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” Roberts wrote.

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment,” he added.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, concurred in the Court’s judgment only, determining that Philadelphia issued “an ultimatum to an arm of the Catholic Church: Either engage in conduct that the Church views as contrary to the traditional Christian understanding of marriage or abandon a mission that dates back to the earliest days of the Church — providing for the care of orphaned and abandoned children.”

“There can be no doubt that Philadelphia’s ultimatum restricts CSS’s ability to do what it believes the Catholic faith requires,” he wrote.

But they also took their views a step further, determining that the case serves as the latest example of Smith acting as a plague on the Constitution, triggering mounting issues in religious liberty cases. As such, he wrote, the Court should overrule Smith “without further delay.”

“This decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops. The City has been adamant about pressuring CSS to give in, and if the City wants to get around today’s decision, it can simply eliminate the never-used exemption power. If it does that, then, voilà, today’s decision will vanish — and the parties will be back where they started,” he asserted, noting the Court should “reconsider Smith without further delay,” as its interpretation of the Free Exercise clause is “hard to defend” and cannot be “squared with the ordinary meaning of the text of the Free Exercise Clause or with the prevalent understanding of the scope of the free-exercise right at the time of the First Amendment’s adoption.”

Gorsuch also wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment, joined by Thomas and Alito.

“As Justice Alito’s opinion demonstrates, Smith failed to respect this Court’s precedents, was mistaken as a matter of the Constitution’s original public meaning, and has proven unworkable in practice,” he said, noting many of their colleagues seek to “sidestep” the greater questions regarding Smith, unanimously ruling in favor of CSS but refusing to address Smith and its implications today.“Smith committed a constitutional error. Only we can fix it. Dodging the question today guarantees it will recur tomorrow. These cases will keep coming until the Court musters the fortitude to supply an answer,” he wrote. “Respectfully, it should have done so today.”

The case is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 19-123 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/06/17/scotus-unanimous-philadelphias-refusal-place-foster-children-catholic-social-services-violates-first-amendment/


Twitter Blacklists Former GOP Candidate Lauren Witzke for Condemning Sexualization of Minors

Lauren Witzke for Delaware
Lauren Witzke for Delaware

ALLUM BOKHARI 8 Mar 2021

Lauren Witzke, the Republican 2020 candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Delaware, has been blacklisted by Twitter after she denounced comments attributed to a transgender activist that called little girls “kinky.”

The ban, which appears to be permanent, was prompted by Witzke calling the statement “demonic.” The former Senate candidate posted a message from Twitter informing her that it considered the comment “hateful conduct.”

“The last tweet before they finally shut me down,” said Witzke. “Calling pedophiles demonic now violates twitter’s terms of service as “hateful content.” KEEP FIGHTING! It’s your job to pick up the torch and fight for what’s right!

The quote in question came from an alleged 2016 Facebook post attributed to self-described “gender nonconforming” and “transfeminine” activist Alok Vaid-Menon

The quote, an abridged version of a longer Facebook post allegedly made by Vaid-Menon in 2016, called little girls “kinky” and also claimed that “your kids aren’t as straight and narrow as you think.”

The post, and the Facebook page that published it, appear to have been scrubbed from the internet, with only screenshots and scattered references to it remaining.

Speaking on social network Telegram and messaging app, Witzke accused Twitter of changing its terms of service to protect pedophiles.

“Just found out that Twitter changed their terms of service to accommodate minor attracted individuals,” said Witzke. “Sexual predators get to stay, but Christians have to go.”

Twitter claims to have a “zero tolerance” policy against content that “any material that features or promotes child sexual exploitation.” Yet it banned Witzke, a former candidate for the U.S. Senate, for condemning exactly that.

Breitbart News has reached out to Twitter for comment.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.

https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2021/03/08/twitter-blacklists-former-gop-candidate-lauren-witzke-for-condemning-sexualization-of-minors/


VIDEO Dr. Sebastian Gorka Explains How to Fight Cancel Culture: ‘You Must Not Buckle Under’

MATTHEW BOYLE 14 Feb 2021

Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a former senior aide to former President Donald Trump, explained in a wide-ranging interview last week how he has faced cancel culture, how to fight back against it, and why the left and establishment practices it against Trump supporters.

Appearing on Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel with editor-in-chief Alex Marlow, Gorka — who now hosts America First on Salem Radio Networks — laid out first the reasoning why the left and political establishment seeks to shut down voices like his.

“We could write a book about this. I don’t kiss and tell, but you’ve been on this issue from the get go. I’ve been very honest about it publicly,” Gorka told Marlow. “It’s the reason I left the White House and it was Breitbart that published my resignation letter. I told the president at the time, you literally have anti-MAGA forces in ascendance. At the time, it was H.R. McMaster and it was General Kelly who were pushing me out of the building. And I told the president, ‘There is no way I am going to pick up a $160,000 pay check from the taxpayer just to be boxed out of meetings by people who hate me and the president. I can better serve you on the outside.’ He agreed and now I have a national radio show, three million listeners, and we’re fighting the good fight. But at the end of the day, this isn’t really a function of any incompetence by the president, it’s a function of the swamp. What is the conclusion that has to be drawn from the experience of people who are pro-MAGA and work for the president? The left, the establishment, the mainstream media, the RINO class, want to make it impossible for good people to represent the forgotten men and women of America. They want to make your life impossible.”

Gorka said that he does not mind attacks against him personally, but when people attack his family, that crosses the line. He cited the example of Disney canceling Gina Carano, the star actress from The Mandalorian, over social media posts that she published commenting on the state of society and noted that similar tactics have been used against any talented people who may want to work for Trump or other effective Republicans.

“Look, I don’t mind being attacked, that’s fine, but when they come after your wife, when they attack my teenage son, it has one purpose: To make sure good people don’t get involved in representing this nation,” Gorka said. “So I’m not involved in choosing the president’s lawyers, but I’ll tell you one thing: How many law firms would actually risk representing Donald Trump? I talk national security, but I woke to this Gina Carano story. Seriously, a woman who speaks the truth — absolutely speaks the truth about the left’s attempts to dehumanize their fellow Americans — is canceled by Disney? It’s the same effect of a lawyer wanting to work for Donald Trump. It is an attempt to attack and create an environment where good people will simply keep their heads down.”

Gorka then recounted a story from his daughter’s time in college and her senior year when he worked for President Trump. “My children who are now grown will admit that the tribulations that we went through as a family during my time in the White House as a supporter of the president have truly made them stronger human beings,” Gorka said. “I am convinced as their father that their value system is all the more robust for what they witnessed happened to us and to them personally. Read the first chapter of my book The War for America’s Soul. What happened to my daughter in her last year in college was simply a function of her last name.”

What happened was leftists on campus made posters with his daughter’s face falsely claiming she was a white supremacist and then plastered them all around campus. When he showed up for her graduation that year, at least one leftist falsely accused Gorka of being a Nazi.

“So because she was a Gorka, because she volunteered to work with some of the professors who created something called the Churchill Institute to propagate the values of western civilization — that’s in their mandate — she had posters with her face put up across the campus and on social media saying this girl is the face of white supremacy,” Gorka said. “That was just weeks before her graduation. Then when I was there for the graduation, I had a girl come up after we had celebrated my daughter getting her diploma and, in front of witnesses, call me an ‘effing Nazi’ because I work for Trump.”

Gorka, who was born in London to parents who fled Hungary after the failed revolution in 1956 against Soviet control but then later served in Hungary as a Ministry of Defence adviser after the fall of communism, compared the bending of America’s will toward cancel culture to efforts of a Soviet dictator in Hungary to slowly break someone’s spine.

“This is the reality, but let me tell you a story which puts it into perspective,” Gorka said. “During the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact had various levels of persecution and sovietization. The harshest were of course the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Romania. Those were the really kind of absolute worst of the worst. Others, like Hungary, kind of dialed back a little on the Stalinist nature of the regime. By the 1970s, Hungary was called the ‘Goulash Communism.’ You weren’t allowed to go to Paris for the holidays, but you could go to Yugoslavia. You still had political prisoners, you still had a one-party state, but they just dialed it back a little bit. There’s a story that’s associated with then-dictator Janos Kadar, where somebody was lambasting him for not having a hard Stalinist line and he said — and who knows whether it happened or not — he said ‘my friend, it is far easier to bend the human spine slowly with time than to try to snap it with one move.’ That, that is what you are giving in to when you say, ‘I’m just going to get my head down, I’m just going to send checks to the local Republican candidate, but I’m not going to say anything and not going to do politics on social media.’ Guess what? You’ve already surrendered, that’s what you’ve done.”

Gorka said establishment media figures and top Democrats from President Joe Biden’s administration like Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are doing the same thing to the general public in the United States right now.

“Look at what is happening right now in America. We have not just Jake Tapper on CNN using the phrase, ‘MAGA terrorism,’ we have the Department of Homeland Security issuing their first terrorism warning memorandum after the election targeting those who disagreed with the results of the election or who questioned them,” Gorka said. “We have the new Secretary of Defense, an absolute disgrace to the uniform he once wore, Lloyd Austin, talking about the ‘enemies’ in the ranks of the military who shut down our military for 60 days while he reviews the level of extremist penetration into our ranks. I guarantee you one thing, none of the extremists that SecDef Austin will find will be members of Antifa or BLM who took the lives of 40 people in the riots last year, half of them black like he is. This is the reality of America today and if you don’t talk out about it — you don’t have to have a national radio show, you don’t need to be editor-in-chief of the most influential conservative website. But if you’re an American and you care about the freedoms upon which it was built and for which Americans died and bled, and you don’t say the truth you are complicit and you are making the dehumanization of your fellow man all the more possible. That’s the crux of the matter.”

Hope is not all lost in America, though, Gorka said. Conservatives and Trump supporters and Americans across the board can fight back against cancel culture in much the same way he did with an example from this past week when a leftist employed at a major law firm in New York City sent him disparaging messages on Twitter.

“This Sunday, on my Twitter feed, my direct messages are open — that means anybody can direct message me if they wish to,” Gorka said. “That’s how you can keep in touch. Sunday, somebody who has a Twitter account in his own name… sent me the following messages, ‘I’m going to piss on your grave and send the photographs to your children.’ We did a little bit of research and found out who this person is and we verified where he works. He’s an accountant for one of the biggest accounting companies in New York and I proceed to message him back. I don’t say I’m going to piss on his grave, but as soon as I respond to him and I make it clear I know who he is, he blocks me from his account, he makes it private, and then he deletes it.”

Then, Gorka reached out to the man’s employer and asked about it. The CEO of the company apologized and disavowed what the man said, and apparently convened an all-hands company meeting to discuss what happened and what to do about it. Gorka said the man is no longer employed.

“I immediately dig up the email for his boss at Marcum LLP in New York and I send him the screenshots of the now-deleted account about what his employee said about me and my children and about wanting to urinate on my grave,” Gorka told Marlow. “To his credit, the CEO immediately emailed me back on a Sunday afternoon, apologized, and then on their social media accounts, they disavowed the words of Joe Wiley. I heard late last night from another follower who knows somebody who knows somebody that there was an all hands meeting at Marcum LLP on Monday morning and this individual has since been fired for his language. Now this isn’t cancel culture. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t do this to people who politically disagree with me. And I don’t tell people I politically disagree with that I want to piss on their graves and send the photographs to their children. But, if you use language like that, if you use vile, abusive language and involve my children, guess what Joe Wiley. I am going to let my voice be heard and I’m going to stand up for the truth. I know that thousands of others also went to the Marcum website and also went to their Instagram feed. That is why all of those feeds have been locked or closed. This is how you fight back — not with the dirty tactics they use because we believe in the truth. But you must not buckle under — it’s not just my voice, it’s everyone who stood for the truth the last four days. You cannot let them get away with it. You don’t have to run for public office although gosh could you imagine if every listener to your radio show decided to run for the local school board?”

Gorka also discussed the incident on his own program, here:

Gorka and Marlow concluded the conversation on cancel culture by discussing the popularity of both Trump and Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart. Of Trump and Breitbart, Gorka said, “there is a massive commonality between them.”

“Donald Trump, for all his mannerisms and style, never starts the fight,” Gorka said. “But if you bring the fight to him, he will finish it. He will fight back just as robustly as those who attack him. The commonality with Andrew is very simply this: Andrew, above all else, in addition to love of country, was motivated by the need, the burning sense of injustice when he witnessed bullies. What you are doing, what I am doing, what the president is doing, is fight back against those who start the abuse first. That is what all of us should be doing every single day. If you see a bully, whether it’s on the playground or on social media — I don’t care where it is — if you see one and you do nothing, I’m sorry you are part of the problem. Just stand up to the bullies and America will be a better place.”

Gorka advised Americans to put a sticky note on their desks that has the number 74 — representing the 74 million Americans who voted for Trump in 2020, to signify they are not alone — and think of that anytime they see someone getting canceled or shut down. Instead of staying silent — and being part of the problem — Gorka advises Americans to start using their voices, a powerful tool protected under the First Amendment, to fight back.

“If you do it, you will have people who say, ‘oh my gosh, he spoke the truth. So can I,’” Gorka said. “It is a catalytic effect that you have when you speak up to the bullies and liars.”

LISTEN TO DR. SEBASTIAN GORKA ON BREITBART NEWS DAILY:

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/02/14/dr-sebastian-gorka-fight-cancel-culture-not-buckle-under/


Ep. 1457 The New Rules – The Dan Bongino Show


SAUL ALINSKY’S 13 RULES FOR RADICALS

Excerpted from Saul Alinsky’s book: Rules For Radicals, published in 1971.

  1. Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.
    Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.
  2. Never go outside the expertise of your people.
    It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.
  3. Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.
    Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
  4. Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.
    If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
  5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
    There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
  6. A good tactic is one your people enjoy.
    They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
  7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
    Don’t become old news.
  8. Keep the pressure on. Never let up.
    Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.
  9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
    Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.
  10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
    It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.
  11. If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.
    Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
  12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
    Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.
  13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
    Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

https://archive.org/details/RulesForRadicals

AUDIO Australia and the Bible

Thpstock—Getty Images

BY DANIEL REYNAUD |MARCH 1, 2019 

Australia is a secular society. Or so we are told.

Australians are not religious. Or so we are told.

Australians are more interested in sport than God. Or so we are told.

So what do we make of the fact that on the average weekend, there are more Australians in church than there are at all the football matches of the various codes combined?

There’s at least one thing that’s true: Australians don’t seem comfortable talking about religion in public. But that doesn’t mean that Australians aren’t interested in religion. Or God, for that matter. In fact, levels of personal interest in religion and belief in God are pretty close to levels measured in the USA, that most overtly Christian Western nation.

And that’s the introduction for a most fascinating book: The Bible in Australia: a cultural history, by Meredith Lake (NewSouth Publishing, 2018). And no, it’s not a surreptitious attempt to foist religion on the public; this book simply traces the long, interwoven story of Australia and the Bible—and it crops up in unexpected places and with surprising influence for a bunch of transported criminals who purportedly kicked over the traces of British authority, which was politics, law and religion combined.

Lake notes the Bible and its influence popping up in unusual places, beginning her account with the tattoo on the leader of the Bra Boys, the notorious Maroubra-based surfing gang. The tattoo reads “My Brother’s Keeper”, a phrase taken from the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Not that the Bra Boys make any claim to being Christians, but that is precisely Lake’s point. The words—and ideas—of the Bible have so permeated our culture that many people use them while remaining unaware of their origin, demonstrating the reach of this influential text.

Over a series of fascinating chapters, Lake reveals how the Bible is interwoven with many of Australia’s best-known stories and most cherished concepts. Bibles accompanied Captain James Cook’s voyages of discovery and came with the First Fleet in 1788. Evangelical preachers saw the Bible as the means by which a convict society could be raised to righteousness, while convicts resonated with its narratives of exiles in slavery. Even Governor Arthur Phillip, who was more an Enlightenment man than a Christian, promoted the Bible and Christianity as bulwarks of decency, stability and civilisation.

Aboriginal groups ironically used its stories and ethics to fight back against European dispossession and injustice, appropriating it through translation (which has helped preserve some Aboriginal languages) and as an ideological basis for the recognition of Aboriginal land rights. Some devout white settlers and missionaries based their passionate defence of Aboriginal rights on the principles of their biblical beliefs of the unity of humanity, and were distressed by the avarice of their fellow Europeans who abused and slaughtered Indigenous Australians in their grab for land.

At the same time, many British immigrants saw themselves in the words of Old Testament prophets, settling a new promised land, and fulfilling the biblical mandate to fill the earth and make it prosperous. This interpretation of the Bible often overrode its injunctions of justice and compassion towards all people, and helped justify Aboriginal dispossession.

Biblically-driven ideas were behind the establishment of some iconic Australian institutions, such as the Bank of NSW (now Westpac) and AMP. In both cases, the founders’ Christian ideals motivated them to help the poor through improved access to capital. Many colonial newspapers, including Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald, were founded to champion social reform and provide a biblically-informed critique of government. Given the apparent greed and self-interest of today’s corporate world, as abundantly illustrated through the stories that have emerged during the recent Financial Services Royal Commission, we could perhaps do well to revive some of the high-mindedness of some of our founding entrepreneurs.

Other Australian landmarks, including our early adoption of state-wide education, the trade union movement and its political wing, the Labor Party—not to mention the current Liberal Party and its predecessors—women’s suffrage and a legislated minimum wage ensuring “frugal comfort” for working families, were all underpinned by appeals to biblical ideas.

It will be surprising for many that the Bible was a driver of ideas for Federation, and a shaper of the Constitution. Some Christians wanted to entrench religion in the institutions of the new Commonwealth; others, drawing from the same Bible, argued for the separation of church and state. While the latter view largely prevailed, the Bible still held a prominent place in the rituals of Parliament for many years.

Lake notes the role of the Bible in the Australian experience of both World Wars, conclusions that mirror my own research into Australian Great War spirituality. Despite the myth of Anzac secularity, at least one in five of the Anzacs were active Christians, and a number of Anzac diarists noted that Bible-reading was a common activity in the trenches. Many men who fought were motivated by Christian ideals of protecting the weak (Belgium, for example) against powerful oppressors (Germany), and there were those who hoped the war would prompt the national conscience to more righteous living. At the same time, Australian pacifists were also driven by their understanding of the Bible, using its principles to argue for peace between the nations. The many war memorials, from tombstone inscriptions to local monuments, the RSL’s “Lest We Forget” to the rituals of Anzac Day, frequently ring with biblical phrasings and imagery.

The Bible continues its influence, even in a more overtly secular and pluralistic modern Australia, where the art of painter Arthur Boyd, writers like Joseph Furphy (author of the classic novel Such is Life), Henry Lawson and Tim Winton, and the lyrics of singers Nick Cave and Paul Kelly draw heavily on biblical imagery, while feminist Germaine Greer drew considerable ideological energy from attacking the Bible’s apparent support for patriarchy.

Lake’s conclusion: the Bible remains densely woven into the fabric of Australian culture and history. Anybody who wishes to truly understand Australia and Australians overlooks its profound influence at their peril. It’s funny that we are prepared to discuss other key cultural influences, but feel shy about the role of the Bible.

Religion in the public sphere is a hot topic at the moment, what with religiously linked international terrorism and a push-back by those who feel that the good old values of Western society are at risk from immigration and multiculturalism. Actually, right now is a good time to bring religion and its influence into the public discussion, not as a weapon to beat those who differ from us over the head, but in genuine discussion, listening at least as much as we speak, seeking to understand rather than to win an argument. And an informed discussion, especially one informed about where we have come from (our history), is always better than one based on assumptions. What do we know about Australia’s religious influences? How have they shaped the way we think and behave?

Lake’s very readable book is a terrific place to start.   

The Bible in Australia: a cultural history, by Meredith Lake, was SparkLit’s 2018 Australian Christian Book of the Year. More information is available via NewSouth Publishing <newsouthbooks.com.au>.

Daniel Reynaud is an Australian military historian and associate professor of humanities and creative arts at Avondale College of Higher Education in NSW’s Lake Macquarie region.

Australia and the Bible

There’s no such thing as ‘safe sex’ for kids

By John Stonestreet and Maria Baer

n 1984, only 14 percent of Americans wore seat belts. Anyone else remember bouncing unrestrained around the back of the family station wagon like I did? Three years later, after seat belt laws were enacted in 30 states, that percentage tripled to 42 percent. Last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 90 percent of Americans faithfully buckled up while on the roads.

We often say politics is downstream from culture. That’s mostly true. While laws tend to reflect ideas and trends already embedded in the larger culture, especially in the arts, education, and business, the state still has significant power to influence behavior and the larger culture as well.

In the case of the seatbelt, the state wielded its power for good. However, the same power can be used to normalize beliefs or behavior that are not good. That risk is greater in cultures already sliding down the slippery moral slope.

For example, Vermont recently became the first state to mandate that every public middle and high school make free condoms available to students. The bill’s sponsor, a Republican state lawmaker, believes that this new law will reduce teenage pregnancies, and therefore abortions. Strangely enough, the sponsor does not seem to think the law will normalize and increase sexual behavior among teenagers.

Why the assumption that the law only incentivizes desirable outcomes but not undesirable ones?

According to most contemporary studies, sexual activity among teens is way down. Though these studies typically fail to include porn addiction as sexual activity, we can all agree that fewer teens experimenting sexually is a good thing. At the same time, these studies show that adults often misunderstand the culture and incentives affecting teenage sexual behavior.

For example, a 2017 Harvard study found that the scale of the so-called “hook-up” culture among teens was “overestimated.” In other words, all the movies, TV programming and news coverage portraying American high school kids as highly sexually active are wrong. In fact, these Harvard researchers found that the way “hook-up” culture is so often portrayed actually propagates it, putting more pressure on teenagers to have sex. 

Similarly flawed thinking is behind Vermont’s new legislation. Lawmakers and educators, by assuming teens are sexually active and suggesting in public policy that we should all resign ourselves to helping them do it “safely,” only add pressure and incentives to the already-fragile equation of media, hormones, and opportunity.

I find it a bit strange–and ironic–that lawmakers and other cultural elites who are so quick to claim power simply throw up their hands and claim to be powerless when it comes to sexual activity among young people. “Well, the kids are going to do it anyway,” they say. “We might as well enable it.”

What if lawmakers back in 1984 said, “Well, looks like no one’s wearing their seat belts. We might as well accept that risky behavior and increase the speed limit while we’re at it”? That would have been absurd. So, why is that the approach so many adults take when it comes to sex?

That’s not a rhetorical question. A culture that already views sex as the core feature of our identity finds the suggestion that we teach kids not to have it unthinkable. A culture that views sex as the pinnacle of human existence will consider any parameters on sexual behaviors to be emotionally, spiritually and physically dangerous. In other words, what has changed is not merely our moral standards, but our entire view of the universe and the human person.

Every available metric of social and mental health suggest that today’s kids are more depressed, more anxious, and feel more lonely and isolated than any generation before them. The last thing young people need is adults telling them that “no-strings-attached” sex is a good idea. Or even possible. We have the data.

Teens who engage in sexual activity are more likely to be depressed than other teens. They’re more likely to attempt suicide. Two-thirds of kids who reported having sex in high school told researchers in a 2000 study that they regretted it. Kids who abstain from sex are also more likely to go to college. Free condoms for kids will only lead to more loneliness, more isolation, and more pain.

At each and every stage of the sexual revolution, the promise has been that “the kids will be fine.” They aren’t. “Safe sex” for children is a misnomer. Neither schools nor governments should incentivize behavior we know will harm students, but that’s exactly what Vermont is doing. We should do all we can to ensure other states don’t follow suit.

Originally posted at breakpoint.org

From BreakPoint. Reprinted with the permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. “BreakPoint®” and “The Colson Center for Christian Worldview®” are registered trademarks of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John Stonestreet is the President of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and co-host with Eric Metaxas of Breakpoint, the Christian worldview radio program founded by the late Chuck Colson. He is co-author of A Practical Guide to CultureA Student’s Guide to Culture and Restoring All Things

https://www.christianpost.com/voices/theres-no-such-thing-as-safe-sex-for-kids.html

Global Abortions Surpass 1.1 Million in First Ten Days of New Year

THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D. 10 Jan 2021

More than 1.1 million abortions have already taken place worldwide in the first ten days of 2021, according to statistics provided by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.).

Using W.H.O. data, a website called Worldometer keeps a running tally of data related to everything from demographics to economics, and also provides a continuously updated total for abortions performed in the calendar year. As of this writing, the number of abortions for 2021 stood at 1,113,770.

According to W.H.O., there are an estimated annual 40-50 million abortions in the world, which corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions performed each day.

Currently, abortion is the leading cause of death in the world, with some 42.7 million abortions performed in 2020, followed by heart disease, cancer, and lower respiratory disease.

Abortions in the United States disproportionately target the black population, with black children aborted at more than 3 times the rate of white children. This means that by functional standards, abortion is a deeply racist institution, regardless of the intent of the abortion industry.

According to the most recent abortion data (2018) provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), black women have the highest abortion rate in the United States and white women have the lowest.

Among white women in the U.S., there are 110 abortions for every 1000 live births, whereas among blacks, there are 335 abortions for every 1000 births. Blacks are therefore aborted at over 3 times the rate of whites and more than half of all black deaths in the U.S. are the result of abortion.

More than a third (33.6 percent) of all deaths by abortion in the United States in 2018 happened to black babies, despite the fact that blacks represent just 12.3 percent of the population.

Conversely, non-Hispanic whites, who make up 60.6 percent of America’s population, account for only 38.7 percent of all U.S. abortions.

Even in its origins, the abortion movement, spearheaded by the Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International, and EngenderHealth has been no friend to blacks, despite their official propaganda to the contrary.

Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., was a notorious racist and eugenicist, and worked tirelessly to reduce the black population. As part of the eugenics movement in the 1930s, Sanger thought that abortion could effectively cull “inferior races” from the human gene pool.

Sanger selected inner cities with a high concentration of minorities as the sites for her first abortion clinics, and still today, 79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities are located in black or minority neighborhoods.

Planned Parenthood’s research and propaganda arm, the Guttmacher Institute, was named after former Planned Parenthood president Alan Guttmacher, who was also Vice-President of the American Eugenics Society.

Guttmacher was an advocate of coercive population control, and believed that to achieve a significant reduction of the black population while avoiding accusations of racism, the involvement of the United Nations was indispensable.  “My own feeling,” he said in an interview in 1970, “is that we’ve got to pull out all the stops and involve the United Nations.”

“If you’re going to curb population, it’s extremely important not to have it done by the damned Yankees, but by the UN. Because the thing is, then it’s not considered genocide. If the United States goes to the black man or the yellow man and says slow down your reproduction rate, we’re immediately suspected of having ulterior motives to keep the white man dominant in the world. If you can send in a colorful UN force, you’ve got much better leverage,” Guttmacher said.

Planned Parenthood has continued to employ Guttmacher’s strategy, using the United Nations to pressure nations to legalize abortion and selecting black women as its spokespersons to conceal its latent racism.

As a 2015 Wall Street Journal article concluded: “[I]f liberal activists and their media allies are going to lecture America about the value of black lives, the staggering disparity in abortion rates ought to be part of the discussion.”

https://www.breitbart.com/health/2021/01/10/global-abortions-surpass-1-1-million-in-first-ten-days-of-new-year/

Rev. Franklin Graham: ‘Pray God’ Spares the Nation ‘from the Evil Before Us’

Franklin Graham

Dr. Susan Perry

On Christmas Eve evangelical leader Rev. Franklin Graham asked Christians to pray that America will be spared “from the evil that is before us.”

A supporter of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Graham asked his Twitter followers to pray for the president, that God will grant him “wisdom in the coming days.”

On Saturday he posted to Facebook that Trump “has been maligned, falsely accused, and attacked on every front since before the election in 2016.”

“When President Trump says that this election has been rigged or stolen, I tend to believe him,” he wrote. “He has a track record of being right.”

The president of international aid charity Samaritan’s Purse, Graham also acknowledged the effects of the coronavirus lockdowns in an op-ed at Fox News.

“This is a Christmas unlike any other,” he wrote, one that finds many Americans filled with “fear and anxiety.”

“Large family gatherings and office parties have been replaced with grim lockdowns, quarantines and isolation,” he observed. “What used to be the warmest and most welcoming time of the year can now feel sterile and cold.”

The Christian leader also noted that while there is hope in new vaccines to combat the infection caused by the coronavirus, still “there isn’t a vaccine on Earth that can protect us from worry, depression, or fear.”

The only way to heal a “sick spirit,” Graham said, is “to find healing for deep, spiritual needs, and that’s in Jesus Christ – the hope of Christmas.”

Jesus, he continued, is “the only cure for a disease of the heart that has infected all mankind – sin.”

God’s “rescue mission to save us from our sins,” Graham said, happened on that first Christmas morning.

“When Christ was born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem on that first Christmas morning, true hope was born for you and me,” he explained, adding:

While everything else may lock down, isn’t it reassuring to know there is a God who never shuts down? He will never isolate or leave those who trust in him alone.

“This is the good news of Christmas,” Graham wrote. “Jesus Christ changed the world on that first Christmas day and he has the power to change your life today and for all eternity.”

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/12/25/rev-franklin-graham-pray-god-spares-the-nation-from-the-evil-before-u