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Signs and Wonders

21X-T3RU9CL._UX250_Tim LaHaye Dies. Pastor, author, and activist Tim LaHaye died yesterday at the age of 90. I had the privilege of knowing Dr. LaHaye a bit. One day about 15 years ago I was at a conference with him, and I had my then 10-year-old son Cole with me. Cole was reading "Left Behind" in those days, and on the first day of the conference I introduced him to Dr. LaHaye, who greeted Cole warmly and signed his book. There were a lot of big-name Christian celebrities at this conference, but every time we saw Dr. LaHaye the rest of the weekend, he would pause his conversation with whomever he was talking to and greet Cole by name. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for Tim LaHaye because of that weekend and the way he treated a 10-year-old boy.
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Signs and Wonders

ID-100137511A Grim Anniversary. Last week marked the first anniversary of the release of the first videos by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The videos captured Planned Parenthood officials bartering and selling body parts of unborn children. Sen. Ted Cruz released a statement on the anniversary, July 13, saying, “The horrifying videos released last summer revealed the grim reality of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices. The footage shows senior Planned Parenthood officials laughing and swilling chardonnay as they casually and callously discuss the killing of unborn children in order to sell their body parts.” Since the release of the videos, however, not much has happened to stop government funding of Planned Parenthood. The organization still gets hundreds of millions of dollars each year in government funding, despite the efforts of Cruz in the Senate, and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) in the House, to defund Planned Parenthood. We did recently see one positive development, however: David Daleiden, the man responsible for the videos, recently had criminal charges against him dropped—charges that most legal observers say should never have been brought in the first place.
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Signs and Wonders

Abdu_Murray_750x499Societal Breakdown. Key indicators of social wellness in the black community are discouraging. As a percentage of the population, abortions among African-Americans are two or three times the national average. Nearly 75 percent of African-American children have unmarried parents. Many commentators say these melancholy statistics are the residue of slavery and other forms of racism. Others point to a breakdown of civil society—churches and other institutions—within the African-American community. Ismael Hernandez, founder and executive director of the Freedom & Virtue Institute, blames the “New Deal” and the “Great Society” of the 20th century. His new book is “Not Tragically Colored: Freedom, Personhood, and the Renewal of Black America,” and it’s worth a read. If you want to sample before you buy, our friends at WORLD have posted an excerpt here.
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Priorities

papyrus_front_lgWhen it comes to conspiracy theories about Jesus, sometimes fiction really is stranger than truth.

Just ask Karen King, who allowed herself to be taken in by one of the most spectacular forgeries related to the academic study of Jesus and early Christianity. An unmasking of the fraud is recounted in Ariel Sabar’s article “The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife,” in the June 23 edition of The Atlantic.

King holds Harvard University’s 295-year-old Hollis Professorship of Divinity and is author of the 2003 book “The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle.” She sent shock waves through the academic and religious worlds nearly four years ago when presenting a 1,300-year-old papyrus fragment that she had dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” to a conference in Rome.

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Here Goes -- I Mean Amen

screwtape_6A few days ago I stumbled across this 2013 panel discussion on Australia’s “Q&A” with guests including Peter Hitchens and Dan Savage. Savage is a gay activist and columnist; Hitchens, as many of you will know, is younger brother to the late New Atheist rock star Christopher Hitchens. He’s also a devout Christian who, aside from some political issues, stands in diametric opposition to everything his brother believed.

The discussion is lengthy but well worth watching for a couple of reasons. First, it shows what a remarkable person Hitchens is in his own right, not just as the religious version of everything people admired about Christopher. But more importantly, it’s the best demonstration I’ve ever seen of the reality distortion field that forms when large numbers of people believe a naked lie.

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Semper Quaerens

ID-100415471My mother, who died two years ago, would have been 85 years old last Thursday, June 23. She died just 10 months after my father passed away. And then came the terrific shock of losing my younger brother, who died unexpectedly and far away, 16 months ago.

Chuck Colson, with whom I worked for nearly 18 years, had died in 2012, which was also a jolt. And my 13-year-old dachshund, a “little heartbeat at my feet” (to slightly paraphrase Edith Wharton), died last year. (Those of you who have beloved pets will understand how intense and long-lasting the grief of losing them can be.)

My pastor told me that many of us experience two kinds of loss: the grief of losing the loved one, and the loss of any chance to do things differently, vis-a-vis our interactions with them. Both kinds are awful.
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Signs and Wonders

ThinkstockPhotos-526564090A "Repulsive" Way. United Way affiliates provide almost $3 million a year to Planned Parenthood, according to the conservative watchdog group 2nd Vote and The Daily Signal. “Last year, 2nd Vote compiled an exhaustive list of United Way affiliates that helped fund the world’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood,” 2nd Vote spokesman Robert Kuykendall said in a statement. “The latest available financial documentation for each of these affiliates indicates that United Way funnels almost $3 million to Planned Parenthood every year.” A total of 76 United Way affiliates donated to Planned Parenthood, according to 2nd Vote’s analysis. 2nd Vote conducted its analysis by reviewing Form 990 filings for United Way affiliates in tax years 2013 and 2014. “Financial support for Planned Parenthood from nonprofits like United Way helps fund an organization that engages in repulsive practices and is an advocate for policies that allow the destruction of innocent lives,” Kuykendall said. The only good news in the analysis: the amount donated in 2014, the last year for which Form 990s are available, was slightly less than in 2013.
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Internally Displaced Person

Lately, I’ve been binge-watching nature documentaries on streaming services and, to a lesser extent on Blu-ray. For those of you old enough to remember “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” the stuff I have been watching is nothing like the adventures of Marlon Perkins, or to be more accurate, the adventures of Jim Fowler and, later, Peter Gros, as Perkins kept a safe distance.

vulturesThese documentaries, the best of which are produced by the BBC, are “nature red in tooth and claw.” (It’s fascinating that the same poem that gave us that phrase also gave us “Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” But I digress.) Lots of animals die in these documentaries, from baby caribou to baby whales. There’s nothing sentimental about them.

The lack of sentimentality includes seemingly-mandatory scenes of scavengers, like vultures, crows, and perhaps the most disquieting one I’ve seen, the hagfish. To be fair, scavengers get a bad rap. For starters, very few renowned predators, such as the big cats, will turn their noses up on a carcass if they’re hungry enough, and even if they’re not. And, as the people of India have learned the hard way, scavengers play an important, even vital, role in the ecosystem.

Still, it’s impossible to love scavengers, or even like them. Watching them quarrel over gnarly remains, as in this segment (starting at about the 17:20 mark) from one of my favorite nature documentaries, “Ganges,” is, if anything, even more distasteful than what they’re quarreling over.

Which is why I’m distressed by the way some of my brethren and friends have been carrying on like so many lammergeiers, vultures, and crows fighting over a goat carcass.

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Signs and Wonders

ID-100106434Not Necessarily News. It is probably no surprise that professors registered as Democrats outnumber those registered as Republicans by a ratio of roughly 12 to one at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the state’s flagship educational institution. A conservative publication called The College Fix got a faculty directory and then compared it to the state’s online voter database, maintained by the State Board of Elections. The publication looked up the names of 1,355 UNC Chapel Hill professors. Of those, 615 were registered Democrats, while only 50 were registered Republicans. The remaining party affiliations included 299 professors who are unaffiliated (in North Carolina, voters can register as unaffiliated), 291 whose names could not be found in the database, and 98 whose party affiliations could not be determined. Two professors are registered libertarians. According to The College Fix: “Democrat professors outnumber Republican ones in every single department surveyed, and what’s more, nearly half of the 34 departments probed found no registered Republicans at all.”
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Internally Displaced Person

ID-100350919The bodies at Orlando’s Pulse club were still far from room temperature when people started “explaining” what had happened. By the time I was at church on Sunday morning, there were four “alternative” “explanations” vying to control how people interpreted what happened: Radical Islam/Jihadism, including a critique of the Obama administration’s response to the threat they pose; the availability of guns; homophobia; and mental illness.

Those quotations marks in the previous paragraph are scare quotes. For starters, the four things listed are not, logically speaking, alternatives. As Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic tweeted out, the “Orlando massacre can be about Islamism, access to guns, homophobia and mental illness, all at the same time.”

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Signs and Wonders

ID-100340704California Dreamin’. An old ad campaign says, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Political activists in California adopted the slogan, but with an important spin: “What happens in California soon happens to the rest of the country.” It’s an acknowledgement that many of our most destructive social engineering schemes—from no-fault divorce to same-sex marriage—either started or were nurtured in California. That’s one reason a new bill before the California legislature is so troubling. According to WORLD, “SB 1146 would force Christian schools to relinquish their fidelity to Scripture as a distinguishing characteristic of their institutions or risk lawsuits for religious and sexual discrimination.” The state’s Equity in Higher Education Act (EHEA) already prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. But EHEA has an exemption for religious schools. The new bill removes that exemption. State Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, authored the bill and called the exemption a “loophole” and a “license to discriminate.” If passed, only seminaries would be eligible for the exemption. Christian colleges in the state have mobilized to fight the bill.
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Radical Life

ID-100298866Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming

Yeats wrote these words in 1919, in the aftermath of the First World War. The despair that followed the bloody conflict paralyzed Europe. Stories of brutality and the gloom of unresolved antagonism exposed the impotence of reason and common sense.

Today, all these years later, Yeats’ words seem more relevant than ever. Omar Mateen’s violent murder of 49 people in Orlando shakes us to the core of everything we hold sacred as Christians and Americans.
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Signs and Wonders

ThinkstockPhotos-sb10067337z-001A Fighter for Religious Liberty. Muhammad Ali died on June 4 at age 74. His sports accomplishments are well documented, leaving little doubt he was one of the great athletes of the 20th century. His Muslim faith and his four wives cause this writer to stop short of unalloyed praise for him as a role model. That said, Christians and all other people of faith owe him a debt for his conscientious objection to the Vietnam War, an objection that resulted in a conviction for draft evasion. Though, again, I disagree with his view, there’s no denying he was sincere in his belief, and -- agree or disagree with him about the war -- his fight helped preserve religious liberty for all people of faith. He was willing to put his boxing career, then in its prime, on hold to take his fight of conscience to the Supreme Court, where he won an 8-0 decision. Louisville, Ky., Ali’s hometown, honored its favorite son by lowering its flags to half-staff, and the whole world paused to pay respects.

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Internally Displaced Person

ID-10044164“A New Kind of Coming Out.” That was the cover story of the June 2, 2016, Washington Post Kindle Fire app. The story had nothing to do with sex or sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It was about “the stigma of mental illness,” and about what the Post called “sufferers” (more about that word, anon) are doing to combat the stigma.

Long story short: they’re telling their stories, just as I did nearly two decades ago while writing about suicide on college campuses for Boundless. After putting suicide in its medical and cultural context, I switched gears and wrote: “I have manic-depressive illness. I’ve been up close and personal with the kind of depression that feels like someone sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. I know all about the infelicitous brain chemistry than can make it almost impossible to get out of bed. I also know about the flip side: the exhilaration that makes you scarily productive and creative. I know what it’s like to not want to sleep because you want to record your ‘genius’ for posterity. I’m here because of medicine.”
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Priorities

ThinkstockPhotos-sb10066910e-001Sport is dead, and we killed it.

How can I—in the midst of the professional baseball and soccer seasons, with the basketball and hockey championships underway, and football training camps right around the corner—utter such heresy in sports-crazed America? How can I pour dirt on a worldwide industry that can dictate social policy and that is worth as much as $620 billion?

Perhaps you think I overstate. Perhaps you wouldn’t if you considered a few facts. Read More >
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Here Goes -- I Mean Amen

ThinkstockPhotos-dv029088Harambe the gorilla. Cecil the lion. Tilikum the whale. These and other charismatic mammals have taken turns setting the internet ablaze. Affluent Westerners, simultaneously bored and intoxicated by the loudness and lack of accountability on social media, regularly whip themselves into a moral frenzy over anthropomorphized megafauna.

Let’s just call it what it is: insanity.

The kind of mass outrage we’re now witnessing every few news cycles over gorillas, lions, orcas, and elephants was once reserved for the worst human rights abuses. At the same time, human beings are treating each other like garbage—not just literally, as with abortion and euthanasia, but figuratively, in how we interact with those who transgress our new idea of phylum-level rights. The cause of this hysteria is very simple: We’ve decided that animals are people and people are animals. Our culture’s dominant worldview has weakened the divide between humans and the zoo so severely that even a small child could clamber over. And during the last few days, that’s precisely what happened.
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Signs and Wonders

Basic_EconomicsReligious Conservatives Nearly Unanimous. To read the mainstream media, you would think that conservatives are fractured politically. However, a new survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute of religious conservatives shows remarkable solidarity—not behind candidates, but behind issues of smaller government and less debt. Reducing the federal debt is a major concern of religious conservatives. Nine out of 10 (91 percent) said they would give “a lot of support” to efforts to reduce the federal government’s $19 trillion debt. A full 97 percent said they thought the federal government intruded too much into the lives of American citizens. A near-unanimous 98 percent said the federal government has “too much power” and “is doing too many things better left to business and individuals.” Of course, these numbers represent so-called SAGECons, socially conservative Christians, which according to the American Culture & Faith Institute make up only about 12 percent of adult Americans.
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Internally Displaced Person

ID-10020083Memorial Day is almost upon us, and with it the unofficial start of summer. And with summer comes summer reading lists.

We’ve done summer reading lists before at BreakPoint and the Colson Center. The problem with summer reading lists at a place that asks “What’s a Christian to think and do?” is that they often neglect the most important qualification for a book on a summer reading list: It has to be entertaining. I’m not against “uplifting” books, and I’m certainly not against books that make you think, but not, especially between Memorial and Labor Days, at the expense of enjoyment.

With this in mind, here are my recommendations.
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Signs and Wonders

ID-100177336Vietnam and Religious Liberty. President Barack Obama, in the past week, lifted an embargo on weapons sales to Vietnam, a communist state. Obama made the move despite the fact that Vietnam has not yet passed a law on religious liberty that the U.S. said was a condition for the lifting of the embargo. Folks who care about religious liberty say Obama’s decision was a mistake. “The decision to completely lift the ban without Vietnam's unequivocal commitment to human rights improvements would send the wrong message to its leadership,” Nguyen Dinh Thang, president of Boat People SOS, told WORLD magazine. Thang testified in 2013 before Congress on continued government repression in Vietnam. According to WORLD, “The Obama administration has submitted a long list of prisoners of conscience who should by law be released—and to date only one, Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, was freed, and only a month before his sentence had been served.” Thang said, “President Obama might have just given up one of the few remaining leverages that the United States has, in exchange for practically no reciprocity by Vietnam in human rights.”
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Internally Displaced Person

12185743-xcxczxxxIf you ask me “How many ‘Terminator’ movies are there?” my answer is “two”: the original 1984 film and “T2: Judgment Day.” The others, with the possible exception of “Terminator Salvation,” are abominations. They take the open, yet somewhat hopeful, ending of “T2” and grind it into dust.

For the same reason, there are only two “Alien” films, and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” only ran five seasons.

So, learning that one of my favorite smallish movies, 2000’s “Frequency,” has been turned into a television show, starting this fall on the CW network has given me agita.
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