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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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Signs and Wonders

fb_icon_325x325Little Sisters Get Big Win. The United States Supreme Court issued a surprise ruling on Monday. The Supreme Court issued a per curiam” ruling in Zubik v. Burwell, better known as the Little Sisters of the Poor case. The ruling sent all the cases back to the lower courts, saying the Little Sisters—and other religious nonprofits—could work out their differences with the federal government without the intervention of the Supreme Court. Though the ruling was not definitive, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Little Sisters, called the decision a win. Alliance Defending Freedom, also representing some of the plaintiffs, said the court was right to protect nonprofits from fines for the time being and that the group would “look forward to addressing the remaining details.”
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Internally Displaced Person

4toysYou may have not known it, but April was “Autism Awareness Month.” As part of its observance, the Washington Post ran a column on April 26th by Katherine Osnos Sanford entitled “Want to know what it’s really like to have a child with autism?

The question was a rhetorical one. Most people really don’t want to know what it’s like. (As you read these words, imagine me wearing, as Horatio told Hamlet about the ghost he had seen, a “countenance more in sorrow than in anger.”) Especially when they are told, “I stay up at night worrying about who will care for my child when I no longer can.” Read More >
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Signs and Wonders

517Z1zE5RVL._UX250_Pausing For Prayer. Last Thursday, more than 47,000 groups large and small gathered for the National Day of Prayer (NDP). Since 1991 the national chairman of the NDP has been Shirley Dobson, and she convened a group in Washington, DC, that included speakers Tony Evans and author Jonathan Cahn. Dobson announced that she was going to step down as chair of the National Day of Prayer after 25 years in the role, to be succeeded by Anne Graham Lotz. (To hear my recent interview with Anne Graham Lotz, click here.) During this event, the first since last summer’s Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing so-called “same-sex marriage,” speakers called for confession and repentance.

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Priorities

Norman_Vincent_Peale_NYWTSNorman Vincent Peale, an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, was one of the most recognizable religious figures in 20th-century America. Peale, who died in 1993, achieved both renown and controversy with the publication of his 1952 book “The Power of Positive Thinking,” which has sold more than 5 million copies.

Among the maxims that Peale promulgated are “Change your thoughts and you change your world” and “What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve.”

Some called Peale a charlatan. "This new cult is dangerous,” warned Reinhold Niebuhr. “Anything which corrupts the gospel hurts Christianity. And it hurts people too. It helps them to feel good while they are evading the real issues of life." Others praised him. Billy Graham is reported to have said of Peale and his wife, “I don't know of anyone who had done more for the kingdom of God than Norman and Ruth Peale or have meant any more in my life for the encouragement they have given me.”
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Signs and Wonders

ThinkstockPhotos-502294944_003To Boycott, or Not to Boycott? Target Stores have declared a bathroom free-for-all, allowing men to use women’s restrooms and vice versa. That decision led some Christian groups— including the American Family Association—to call for a boycott. So far, more than a million people have pledged to boycott Target, and the stock of the company dropped about 5 percent, or about $1.2 billion, in the aftermath of the boycott announcement, though it’s not clear that the boycott is the cause. The call for a boycott has reinvigorated the debate in the Christian community: To boycott or not to boycott? WORLD’s Marvin Olasky suggests that using “just war theory” is instructive. Olasky is, as usual, helpful in thinking about such issues with a biblical worldview, though the application of “just war theory” is an imperfect analogy. By the standards of “just war theory,” it would be hard to justify the Birmingham Bus Boycott or Gandhi’s Salt March, two of the most successful boycotts of the 20th century, and two that represent moral high-water marks for their respective movements. Still, I commend Olasky’s article to you as a helpful exercise in biblical worldview thinking. Oh, and in case you’re interested: I was not a regular Target shopper, so it will not be hard for me to stay out of their stores from now on.
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Signs and Wonders

ID-100281874Corporate Hypocrisy. PayPal has pulled out of North Carolina because the state has put in place a common-sense law, H.B. 2, to protect children from sexual predators. More than a dozen other companies have threatened to leave North Carolina, though so far none of them have actually done so. The Daily Signal took a close look at the companies that have been critical of North Carolina, and discovered some interesting information: Many of the companies that have criticized North Carolina for its law preventing men from using women’s bathrooms do business in countries where homosexuality is illegal, sometimes punishable by death, yet these companies have been silent there. PayPal, for example, does business in Saudia Arabia, Yemen, and Somalia—where homosexuality can bring the death penalty. Nigeria is also an important market, in part because it is the largest country in Africa, with more than 100 million people. But in this country with a 50 percent Muslim population, homosexual conduct is punished by caning and imprisonment. Unilever, Microsoft, and Time Warner are among a dozen or so companies speaking out against North Carolina while still doing business with some of the most oppressive regimes on the planet.
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Semper Quaerens

Kimberly-GenauNot long ago Kimberly Genau of Gaithersburg, Maryland, saw a need and answered it: a ministry for members of Congress and their spouses. As Kimberly points out on the Alabaster House website, "Most of our leaders have substantial workloads, coupled with significant time away from family and home. This creates great strain on their lives emotionally, spiritually, and physically." Alabaster House was created to address these needs.

I recently sat down with Kimberly to find out more about this new bipartisan ministry.

Anne: How does Alabaster House work?

Kimberly: Alabaster House provides spiritual resources to government leaders and their families through confidential prayer, biblical devotions, and friendship. As you know, the higher in leadership one ascends, the [more] opportunities are diminished for leaders to genuinely share their prayer requests. The last thing these leaders need is a gossip article in the newspaper. Many people interacting with leaders have an agenda and there are fewer opportunities where government leaders can trust. Alabaster House is a safe place for leaders to be encouraged in their faith.
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