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Atheist Psychiatrist Argues She Can Treat All Patients, Including Christians

A self-described atheist psychiatrist has recently argued that being a nonbeliever does not hinder her ability to counsel Christian patients.

Jean Kim, a psychiatrist with the US Department of State, recently penned a perspective piece for The Washington Post regarding the subject of counseling believing patients.

“My religious friend once asked me point-blank, ‘if you don’t believe in God, how can you see someone who does as anything but delusional? As a mental health professional, how do you counsel such a person?’,” wrote Kim.

Kim went on to argue that she could do so by taking “a humanistic approach to all patients, regardless of their background or creed.”

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“It’s important to respect an individual’s particular language and style of relating to their universe, in order to make a therapeutic connection,” wrote Kim.

“Given the pain and suffering of humanity, I understand why people are religious, even if I don’t find answers in it for myself. If others do, it is still my job to encourage that healing process in any form. And if others don’t, I am strongly there for them as well.”

Dr. Paul Appelbaum, professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, Law at the Columbia University College of Physicians Surgeons, told The Christian Post that a religious difference should not matter.

“A competent psychiatrist should be able to treat patients with empathy and skill regardless of their religious background, and should keep his or her own religious beliefs out of the treatment room,” said Appelbaum.

“Some patients will feel more comfortable with a psychiatrist who they know is part of their faith community, just like some patients seek a psychiatrist of a similar sexual orientation or ethnic background, and that’s fine.”

Appelbaum then told CP that there should be caution expressed in this preference since a patient might be trying to use said similarity to avoid certain critical examinations.

“But the psychiatrist needs to be alert to the possibility that by seeking out a psychiatrist with similar experiences or beliefs the patient isn’t trying to put aspects of his/her behavior beyond examination,” said Appelbaum.

“A patient’s use of religious or other commonality with the psychiatrist as a defense mechanism has to be challenged if therapy is to be successful.”

In the United States, there are several Christian groups that offer professional psychiatric treatment options.

On the website gotquestions.org, the query about whether or not Christians should pursue mental health has been examined.

“For Christians, it is best to seek a professional who professes to be a believer, can express knowledge of Scripture, and exhibits godly character,” reads a gotquestions.org comment.

“Any counsel we receive must be filtered through Scripture so that, as with everything in the world, we can discern what is true and what is false.”

The Colorado Springs, Colorado-based organization Focus on the Family also expresses a preference for believing counselors.

“Just because a person refers to herself as a Christian therapist does not necessarily mean she is Christian in beliefs and practices,” cautioned FOTF.

“Focus on the Family offers a free referral service to over 2,000 licensed therapists who are screened and evaluated for their beliefs, expertise and ethical practices.”

American Christianity is losing its grip on political power — and that’s good …

As secular and liberal America prepares to celebrate the probable triumph of same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court in June, let’s take a moment to note how differently some of our fellow citizens view the same development. These are not simple-minded (or pseudo-philosophical) bigots. They are thoughtful, devout Christians trying to make sense of a cultural revolution they feel powerless to reverse or control — and which they fear will sweep them, much that they cherish, and a good part of what’s most valuable in the historically Christian civilization of the West into the gutter.

The stakes, as far as these dissenters are concerned, are enormous.

The best, most thought-provoking statement of this view can be found in three articles published in the February 2015 issue of First Things magazine. I don’t agree with the positions staked out in these essays. Yet the concerns of the magazine and its leading contributors deserve a hearing, even if, as I think, their anxieties are ultimately overstated and misguided.

In the lead essay, Michael Hanby of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America explains that in our time “liberalism” has become something far more sweeping than a philosophy of limited government. It has become “an all-encompassing absolutism” that would drive out all competing forms of life, visions of the highest good, and notions of human nature. This absolutist dynamic is clearest in the sexual revolution, which in the name of liberating the individual from all received constraints summarily overthrows the anthropology presupposed by the entirety of Christian civilization.

This anthropology treated gender (male and female) as fixed and complementary, and marriage as an institution in which two individuals — one from each gender — come together to form a one-flesh union, the highest purpose of which is procreation, with the resulting family forming the ideal setting for rearing children.

The sexual revolution’s consequences for Christianity could not be more significant, since it culminates in the widespread acceptance of gay marriage and the use of the coercive powers of liberal state to enforce that acceptance in the public square — a development that “effectively brings the civic project of American Christianity to an end.”

What Hanby means is that Christianity’s role in setting the agenda and tenor of public debate in the United States — which stretched from the Puritans all the way down to the interdenominational religious right of the past quarter-century — is finally over. From now on, Christianity understood as a comprehensive way of life will be consigned entirely to the private sphere and cordoned off there, with the liberal state increasingly penetrating even this last stronghold as it seeks to eliminate any and all remaining obstacles to the thoroughgoing bureaucratization of American life in the name of efficiently providing individuals with an ever-lengthening list of government benefits.

The America of the future will be a homogeneously secular place — and for devout Christians there will be no place to hide.

George Weigel, the second author included in the First Things series, is the only participant who was closely allied with the magazine’s founder, Richard John Neuhaus — a man who remained up until his death in early 2009 an optimist about the prospects for synthesizing American culture and politics with the rigorous moral teachings of Roman Catholic Christianity. It is thus all the more striking that Weigel sounds nearly as bleak as Hanby, railing against the pervasive “dictatorship of relativism” in American culture, defensively emphasizing the importance of religious freedom, and warning Christians ominously about “a real possibility of a season of persecution.”

The concluding essay in the series, by The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher, contains numerous passages that sound equally pessimistic. Repeating sentiments expressed by both Hanby and Weigel, Dreher writes that “our prospects for living and acting in the public square as Christians are now quite limited.” In response, Dreher argues that Christians should opt for a “Benedict Option” inspired by the example of St. Benedict, who founded monasticism as the Roman Empire crumbled around him. This amounts to a withdrawal on the part of devout Christians from mainstream American culture to form insular communities in which they “live amidst the ruins…of Christian civilization” and act to preserve “the living faith through the coming Dark Ages.”

The first thing to be said about these essays is that their gloominess seems unwarranted. Yes, the stern and stringent form of faith the authors prefer no longer dominates American public life like it once did. Yes, the sexual revolution has changed many aspects of American culture, mores, and public opinion. And yes, some of those changes are morally disorienting (even to those of us less firmly committed to traditional Christian strictures than regular readers of First Things).

Yet the inviolability of the private sphere remains largely intact. Michael Hanby holds a post at a respected university. George Weigel enjoys a perch at an established Washington think tank. Rod Dreher is a prominent blogger with a large following and a several successful books under his belt. There’s no secret police battering down the doors of the First Things offices, searching for incriminating evidence of homophobic Thought Crime. Traditionalist religious believers are perfectly free to teach their children whatever they wish about gender, sexuality, and God — just as they’re free to homeschool their children to more fully insulate them from supposedly corruptive modern trends.

Sure, anti-Christian bigots will sometimes act like intolerant thugs, demanding that a Brendan Eich be fired, or calling for a conservative Christian college to conform to ideological liberalism in every respect. But when that happens, critics (like me) will denounce the bigots, drawing on resources from within the liberal tradition to defend the principle of tolerance for every American, secular and devout, against the illiberal do-gooders who prefer moral purity (as they define it) to freedom.

But that’s not good enough for Hanby, Weigel, and Dreher. They are in mourning for Christianity’s loss of cultural hegemony in the United States.

I’d like to suggest that they should get over it — that, rightly understood, Christianity can be most fully itself when it relinquishes political and cultural rule, when it ceases to identify itself so closely with any particular political order.

Consider the passage in Rod Dreher’s essay where he laments that “given the dynamics of our rapidly changing culture…it will be increasingly difficult to be a good Christian and a good American.” To which the properly Christian response is: Why on Earth would a Christian at any moment of history expect anything other than difficulty at combining faith and citizenship?

It is a perennial Christian temptation — one growing out of that most distinctively Christian doctrine, the bodily incarnation of God — to sanctify (and to see God embodied in) the political order that prevails at any given moment of history. In the American version of this temptation, the Puritans undertook an “errand in the wilderness” to found a New Israel in the new world. The religious right — especially in the mode of High Theological Seriousness favored by First Things — descends directly from this incarnational American tradition, viewing the Declaration of Independence as an expression of medieval political theology and the Republican Party’s eagerness to wage righteous wars and willingness to defend the sanctity of unborn life as evidence of America’s quasi-divine mission.

Whether in the Middle Ages or the contemporary United States, it is a betrayal of Christian ideals to give in to the incarnational temptation. In mistaking one particular political community for the city of God that always lies beyond any earthly city, it makes eventual disappointment inevitable.

That disappointment can take two forms — one negative, one positive.

When Rod Dreher talks of civilizational ruins and living through a new Dark Ages, he flirts with an irresponsible rhetoric of political and cultural reaction. That’s one particularly pernicious way in which profound theological-political disappointment can manifest itself.

But when he takes up and develops the idea of the Benedict Option, that’s evidence of disappointment issuing in authentic Christian wisdom. A Christian’s natural condition, as it were, should be that of an itinerant pilgrim, never fully at home in the world or in any nation, no matter how decent. In this sense, it might be a good thing that the “civic project of American Christianity” has come to an end, since the idea of a “civic Christianity” may be best understood, everywhere and always, as an oxymoron.

To the extent that millions of American Christians have denied this and believed that their faith and their devotion to country could be easily and comfortingly harmonized, they have been led astray. And in that sense at least, they should perhaps view the seemingly less hospitable circumstances of the American present and future as an opportunity to practice a richer, truer, more vital form of faith.

Are India?s Christians and Muslims Forced to Become Hindus?

MUMBAI — As U.S. President Barack Obama’s three-day visit to India came to a close on Tuesday, he emphasized the importance of religious toleration, opining that India will be a great success “so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith.”

His comments have been widely interpreted, since, as a diplomatic reference to the partisan divide in parliament summed up by a single phrase, “ghar wapsi,” that might otherwise be associated with warm tidings. It means “homecomings.” And it is the name of a very ambitious Hindu nationalist campaign.

The goal of ghar wapsi is to bring members of minority religious groups—mostly Muslims and Christians—“back to Hinduism, back to their original home,” says Dharm Narayan Sharma, central secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), one of India’s largest Hindu nationalist organizations. And he makes no apologies. “This is the work of India,” he told me.

The percentages certainly are with the Hindus, but the raw numbers spell potentially huge problems. Hindus make up roughly 81 percent of India’s 1.24 billion people, while, again, very roughly, 13 percent (161 million) are Muslim, and 2.3 percent (28.5 million) are Christians; 1.8 percent (22.3 million) are Sikhs and millions identify with other religions groups.

Hindu nationalist outfits like the VHP, armed with claims that Indian Muslims and Christians are descendants of Hindu forbears who were tricked or forced into converting in the past, have stirred controversy in recent months by holding several large “re-conversion” ceremonies across the country.

“We don’t believe in conversion,” Sharma stipulates. “It is re-conversion. We are just aiming to bring them back home.”

But amid allegations that many impoverished minorities have been coaxed or coerced into such “re-conversion ceremonies” with promises of monetary compensation, or preferential access to state welfare programs, it’s perhaps no wonder that these “homecomings” have been the subject of suspicion rather than praise.

Nine months ago the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an avowed Hindu nationalist, put issues of religious tension in India back in the international spot-light. Modi’s tempestuous past includes a stint as chief minister of the State of Gujarat, where communal riots in 2002 claimed the lives of over a thousand people, mostly Muslims. But despite what many of his critics consider a sordid record on religious harmony, his promises of a platform geared towards economic development for all ultimately paid dividends as he and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were swept into power last May.

Since then, however, the re-conversion furor has emerged as an obstacle to his development agenda, because it provokes such passions that it helps unite opposition against him.

In one particularly high profile incident, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the head of a local right-wing Hindu organization announced that his group’s goal is to “free” India of Muslims and Christians in the next five years.

“Issuing these sorts of threats, and using these methods, is both un-Hindu and un-Islamic,” said Ejaz Ahmad Aslam, All India secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, one of India’s leading Muslim political parties. The Jamaat is among those groups demanding that the prime minister make his stance on the matter clear.

“It is a fundamental right to preach and propagate your religion,” Aslam told me, “but many of these groups are indulging in coercive methods. The PM must speak on this issue. He is the leader of the country. Why has he not spoken out against rabble rousers who say things like they will ‘finish Islam and Christianity’?”

Members of the political opposition like Priyanka Chaturvedi, national spokesperson for the Congress Party, are even more forthcoming in their criticisms. “The fact is that the VHP, and other groups of this nature were actively involved in getting the BJP to power,” she says. “Now they all believe they are active stakeholders in this government.”

She isn’t alone in her suspicions that the government is more cozy with the idea of “homecomings” than it is admitting. Mohan Guruswamy, a well known political analyst, traces Modi’s silence on the matter to his Hindu nationalist roots, saying, “As a believer in Hindu nationalism, Modi is committed to the goal of establishing India as a Hindu state. It has been on his and other groups’ agendas for a long time.”

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiya Naidu insists neither the government, nor the BJP, are involved in re-conversions. BJP national spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao tells me, “The whole issue came up because of some stray incidents of Muslims being converted to Hinduism.” He says, “The opposition has been protesting these so-called forced conversions, but they happily welcome conversions to other religions away from Hinduism, and do not take issue with coercion used in that regard. We are against double standards.” Indeed, tight-wing Hindu groups have long complained about the role of Christian missionaries, and Muslim proselytizers.

There’s also an element of political opportunism. “This is not a new issue,” said Dipankar Gupta, a noted sociologist. “This re-conversion agenda has been held by right-wing Hindu groups since the 1920s. These elements thrive off of attention, and highlighting them as a major threat is more about political grandstanding. The opposition is going after low-hanging fruit in this case, they should be focusing on more substantive issues like development.”

In a recent interview with NDTV, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claimed headlines that should be devoted to development are being “hijacked” by the re-conversion issue. His solution, in essence, would be new legislation. “In principle, if we bring about a law then conversions could happen, but in a more regulated manner,” said Rao. “There have been incidents of conversions happening in a stealthy manner. This would stop if you had a law to regulate the process.”

But politicians are the ones who make the laws, and Ashis Nandy, a noted sociologist and political psychologist, says “the idea of regulating such a process will undoubtedly open it up to influence from political groups and other interests.”

It’s important to note that 5 Indian states already have laws on the books that subject the process of religious conversion to state oversight. In Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, and Gujarat, those undergoing a religious conversion are subjected to a litany of bureaucratic measures that in many cases place a burden of proof upon the subjects to show that they are not being forced to change their faith.

Measures such as these might seem feasible in theory, warns Nandy, but the already burdensome nature of Indian bureaucracy means that several such cases simply end up being subjected to extraordinary delays in processing. “Bringing the state into such matters opens doors for corruption in many ways,” Nandy explained. “Taking such laws to the national level will ensure that the logjam does not end.”

Despite the many efforts at clarification by government officials, Modi’s decision to stay mum on the issue continues to serve as a sign to many of his unwillingness to confront openly the most divisive elements of his Hindu right-wing base.

“The idea of reviving Hindu nationalism has always been a part of the BJP program,” says  Nandy. “Modi can’t be seen to disown it openly, as it would cause him to lose a small but influential section of his base, for whom Hindu nationalism and idea of re-conversion are integral.” The problem, says Nandy, is that “once the djinni is out of the box, it’s difficult to put him back in.”

When I asked Sharma what the VHP’s response was to the government’s claims that it does not support or advocate the re-conversion programs, his explanation was simple: “The job of those in parliament is to make the law, so they know about the law” he said. “We know about other things, and our intention is to bring people back to Hinduism.”

Christian Eriksen leads Tottenham past scrappy Sheffield United

Christian Eriksen struck after 88 minutes as Tottenham killed off a stunning Che Adams-inspired Sheffield United comeback to reach the Capital One Cup final with a 3-2 aggregate win.

Nigel Clough’s cup specialists had rescued a seemingly impossible position in the tie as substitute Adams scored twice within five minutes of coming on at Bramall Lane to level the aggregate score at 2-2.

But Eriksen, who had opened the scoring on a night of snow and hail with a brilliant free-kick, had the final say just as the Blades began to entertain hopes of another remarkable cup win.

League One United had gone into the game having beaten five Premier League teams over the previous year and they sensed another scalp despite trailing 1-0 from the first leg.

Adams, 18, gave them hope just when it seemed Spurs had it won, but the Premier League class eventually told.

Spurs had the first opening when Erik Lamela fired wildly over but it was the Blades who had the first serious chance when visiting goalkeeper Michel Vorm fumbled a cross under pressure.

Jamie Murphy was quick to pounce but former Blade Kyle Walker got back to block on the line.

The game had a nice tempo to it and both sides looked to attack, although quality was initially lacking.

Jamie Murphy fired a cross into the Spurs area but Marc McNulty could not get near while Harry Kane shot straight at Mark Howard at the other end.

A young fan, wearing an acoustic earmuffs, blows the vuvuzela before the 2010 World Cup Group F soccer match between Italy and New Zealand at Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit June 20, 2010. REUTERS/Howard Burditt (SOUTH AFRICA  - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)Picture Supplied by Action Images

Ryan Mason also shot at Howard before Kane found the side-netting with another attempt.

Spurs claimed a seemingly decisive edge in the tie just before the half-hour after Benjamin Stambouli was brought down on the right.

There was little doubt Eriksen would go for goal from the set-piece and he did not disappoint, curling a delicate shot over the wall and in off the far post.

Spurs immediately pushed for a second and Kane, who might have had an early hat-trick on another night, saw a low shot beaten away by Howard after a good run into the area.

But United were far from being run ragged and McNulty created an opportunity for himself as he flicked up and volleyed from 20 yards but Vorm was not tested.

Spurs looked like taking a firm grip early in the second half as Lamela and Kane caused further problems for the home defence, and there was a let-off when the latter slipped as he threatened to shoot.

Kane extended Howard again with another long-range shot and Eriksen, to a feeling of anti-climax in the away end, hit a free-kick into the wall. Mason was then denied a shooting chance by a fine Jose Baxter tackle.

But just as it seemed the tie was drifting away from the Blades, Clough turned it on its head by sending on Adams for Jamal Campbell-Ryce after after 74 minutes.

Within three minutes he had levelled the score on the night as he appeared in the box at the right moment to turn in a low cross from Ryan Flynn.

Two minutes later the teenager was at it again. This time Murphy got to the byline and pulled the ball back for Adams to strike a shot that took a deflection off Eric Dier and flew in.

The stadium was rocking at this point and the hosts sensed a famous victory.

Their hopes almost came through six minutes from time as another substitute, Louis Reed, bust through – only to fire narrowly over from the edge of the box.

The possibility of extra time began to loom but Eriksen came to the fore again to rescue the London side.

Kane picked him out with a superb pass and the Dane showed great footwork and composure to finish with a low shot and send Spurs to a Wembley date with Chelsea on March 1.

Jonathan Merritt Gay funerals: What would Jesus do?

When Jesus declared that mourners shall be comforted, he surely did not mean to exclude the families of deceased LGBT people, right?

Pastor Ray Chavez of New Hope Ministries church in Lakewood, Colorado, seems to think otherwise. Just minutes before the funeral of Vanessa Collier, Chavez discovered that the commemorative video included photos of the deceased woman expressing affection with her female wife, with whom she was raising two children. The pastor informed the family that the pictures could not be shown or the memorial couldn’t continue at his church. Humiliated, the Collier family picked up the dead woman’s casket and hauled it across the street to a funeral home. 

It’s impossible to say how many Christian churches have treated the families of LGBT people similarly, but we know Chavez’s isn’t the first. In 2014, a Tampa congregation canceled Julian Evans’ funeral the day before the service. Pastor T.W. Jenkins made the decision after reading Evans’ obituary and learning he was gay.

Such debacles beg an important question: Should Christian churches extend not only dignity and compassion to deceased people who didn’t believe or live according to devout Christians’ standards? 

There is no formal funeral liturgy in the Bible and no standards for who can participate in such rites. The scriptures contain no prohibition against hosting funerals for those who did not live according to certain standards. Christians can thank God for such an absence, because a “no sinners allowed” standard for funerals would be impossible to apply consistently.

The Bible condemns greed, but I can’t fathom a church denying funeral space to a millionaire who didn’t contribute his fair share to charity. Have you ever heard of a church declining to host a funeral for an obese person because the Bible denounces gluttony? Or more seriously: If a white father refused to let his daughter marry a black man whom she loved, can you imagine a church refusing him a funeral because he was a racist?

Such inconsistency incited dozens to protest New Hope’s treatment of the Collier family. One sign said, “You will not find Jesus at New Hope but you will find hypocrisy.” In Florida, Pastor Jenkins said allowing Evans’ funeral would be “blasphemous.” Maybe he should have said it would be “hypocritical” not to. For if churches refuse to host funerals for those they believe were “sinful,” then churches will not be hosting any funerals at all.

Some believers know this, which is why you’ll find loads of online articles by conservative Christians with titles like, “Three Keys to Preaching the Funeral of an Unbeliever” and “How to Lead an Unbeliever’s Funeral.” Clearly, you can be a non-Christian and have a funeral. But according to some, you can’t be non-straight. What’s the difference? Such an inconsistency lends credibility to the assertion that some Christians are specifically targeting LGBT persons with condemnation. 

Author Anne Lamott once said, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” American Christians must reflect on whether they are becoming conduits of a God whose name is “Love” or crafting God into an image that reflects their own biases. 

For this, we might reflect on the centrality of compassion to the Christian faith. The Apostle Peter said that Christians should be sympathetic, and the Apostle John wrote that those who lack compassion do not have God’s love inside of them. “Mourn with those who mourn,” the Apostle Paul urged

The virtue of compassion is even more prominent in the life of Jesus Christ. As 19th-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “If you would sum up the whole character of Christ in reference to ourselves, it might be gathered into this one sentence, ‘He was moved with compassion.'” 

Jesus extended kindness without exclusions, conditions, or asterisks. No one was triaged before Jesus embraced them. Instead, Jesus seemed to dish out extra helpings of compassion to those that first-century conservative religionists marginalized “sinful” or “unclean”—lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, Roman oppressors, and the demon-possessed.

So when it comes to hosting funerals of LGBT people, let us ask, “What would Jesus do?” Really, think about it. Can you honestly imagine the indiscriminately merciful Jesus telling a weeping family of a deceased LGBT person to scram? Of course you can’t. So why would Christians tolerate such behavior within their ranks?

To be clear, pastors have the right to refuse services to whomever they wish. Our Constitution grants such protections to religious institutions and houses of worship. This should not change. But constitutional protections do not exempt churches from public criticism — and in this case, the criticism of hypocrisy is well deserved.

Even those Christians who disapprove of homosexual behavior can accept that the dead deserve to be treated with dignity, and that Christian compassion should be extended without condition. For the sake of the faith itself, Christians should rise up with a pointed finger and shout, “This person’s bad behavior does not represent the rest of us.” Otherwise, the Christian faith in the West may not survive the atrocities continually committed in Jesus’ name.

Damon Linker American Christianity is losing its grip on political power

As secular and liberal America prepares to celebrate the probable triumph of same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court in June, let’s take a moment to note how differently some of our fellow citizens view the same development. These are not simple-minded (or pseudo-philosophical) bigots. They are thoughtful, devout Christians trying to make sense of a cultural revolution they feel powerless to reverse or control — and which they fear will sweep them, much that they cherish, and a good part of what’s most valuable in the historically Christian civilization of the West into the gutter.

The stakes, as far as these dissenters are concerned, are enormous.

The best, most thought-provoking statement of this view can be found in three articles published in the February 2015 issue of First Things magazine. I don’t agree with the positions staked out in these essays. Yet the concerns of the magazine and its leading contributors deserve a hearing, even if, as I think, their anxieties are ultimately overstated and misguided.

In the lead essay, Michael Hanby of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America explains that in our time “liberalism” has become something far more sweeping than a philosophy of limited government. It has become “an all-encompassing absolutism” that would drive out all competing forms of life, visions of the highest good, and notions of human nature. This absolutist dynamic is clearest in the sexual revolution, which in the name of liberating the individual from all received constraints summarily overthrows the anthropology presupposed by the entirety of Christian civilization.

This anthropology treated gender (male and female) as fixed and complementary, and marriage as an institution in which two individuals — one from each gender — come together to form a one-flesh union, the highest purpose of which is procreation, with the resulting family forming the ideal setting for rearing children.

The sexual revolution’s consequences for Christianity could not be more significant, since it culminates in the widespread acceptance of gay marriage and the use of the coercive powers of liberal state to enforce that acceptance in the public square — a development that “effectively brings the civic project of American Christianity to an end.”

What Hanby means is that Christianity’s role in setting the agenda and tenor of public debate in the United States — which stretched from the Puritans all the way down to the interdenominational religious right of the past quarter-century — is finally over. From now on, Christianity understood as a comprehensive way of life will be consigned entirely to the private sphere and cordoned off there, with the liberal state increasingly penetrating even this last stronghold as it seeks to eliminate any and all remaining obstacles to the thoroughgoing bureaucratization of American life in the name of efficiently providing individuals with an ever-lengthening list of government benefits.

The America of the future will be a homogeneously secular place — and for devout Christians there will be no place to hide.

George Weigel, the second author included in the First Things series, is the only participant who was closely allied with the magazine’s founder, Richard John Neuhaus — a man who remained up until his death in early 2009 an optimist about the prospects for synthesizing American culture and politics with the rigorous moral teachings of Roman Catholic Christianity. It is thus all the more striking that Weigel sounds nearly as bleak as Hanby, railing against the pervasive “dictatorship of relativism” in American culture, defensively emphasizing the importance of religious freedom, and warning Christians ominously about “a real possibility of a season of persecution.”

The concluding essay in the series, by The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher, contains numerous passages that sound equally pessimistic. Repeating sentiments expressed by both Hanby and Weigel, Dreher writes that “our prospects for living and acting in the public square as Christians are now quite limited.” In response, Dreher argues that Christians should opt for a “Benedict Option” inspired by the example of St. Benedict, who founded monasticism as the Roman Empire crumbled around him. This amounts to a withdrawal on the part of devout Christians from mainstream American culture to form insular communities in which they “live amidst the ruins…of Christian civilization” and act to preserve “the living faith through the coming Dark Ages.”

The first thing to be said about these essays is that their gloominess seems unwarranted. Yes, the stern and stringent form of faith the authors prefer no longer dominates American public life like it once did. Yes, the sexual revolution has changed many aspects of American culture, mores, and public opinion. And yes, some of those changes are morally disorienting (even to those of us less firmly committed to traditional Christian strictures than regular readers of First Things).

Yet the inviolability of the private sphere remains largely intact. Michael Hanby holds a post at a respected university. George Weigel enjoys a perch at an established Washington think tank. Rod Dreher is a prominent blogger with a large following and a several successful books under his belt. There’s no secret police battering down the doors of the First Things offices, searching for incriminating evidence of homophobic Thought Crime. Traditionalist religious believers are perfectly free to teach their children whatever they wish about gender, sexuality, and God — just as they’re free to homeschool their children to more fully insulate them from supposedly corruptive modern trends.

Sure, anti-Christian bigots will sometimes act like intolerant thugs, demanding that a Brendan Eich be fired, or calling for a conservative Christian college to conform to ideological liberalism in every respect. But when that happens, critics (like me) will denounce the bigots, drawing on resources from within the liberal tradition to defend the principle of tolerance for every American, secular and devout, against the illiberal do-gooders who prefer moral purity (as they define it) to freedom.

But that’s not good enough for Hanby, Weigel, and Dreher. They are in mourning for Christianity’s loss of cultural hegemony in the United States.

I’d like to suggest that they should get over it — that, rightly understood, Christianity can be most fully itself when it relinquishes political and cultural rule, when it ceases to identify itself so closely with any particular political order.

Consider the passage in Rod Dreher’s essay where he laments that “given the dynamics of our rapidly changing culture…it will be increasingly difficult to be a good Christian and a good American.” To which the properly Christian response is: Why on Earth would a Christian at any moment of history expect anything other than difficulty at combining faith and citizenship?

It is a perennial Christian temptation — one growing out of that most distinctively Christian doctrine, the bodily incarnation of God — to sanctify (and to see God embodied in) the political order that prevails at any given moment of history. In the American version of this temptation, the Puritans undertook an “errand in the wilderness” to found a New Israel in the new world. The religious right — especially in the mode of High Theological Seriousness favored by First Things — descends directly from this incarnational American tradition, viewing the Declaration of Independence as an expression of medieval political theology and the Republican Party’s eagerness to wage righteous wars and willingness to defend the sanctity of unborn life as evidence of America’s quasi-divine mission.

Whether in the Middle Ages or the contemporary United States, it is a betrayal of Christian ideals to give in to the incarnational temptation. In mistaking one particular political community for the city of God that always lies beyond any earthly city, it makes eventual disappointment inevitable.

That disappointment can take two forms — one negative, one positive.

When Rod Dreher talks of civilizational ruins and living through a new Dark Ages, he flirts with an irresponsible rhetoric of political and cultural reaction. That’s one particularly pernicious way in which profound theological-political disappointment can manifest itself.

But when he takes up and develops the idea of the Benedict Option, that’s evidence of disappointment issuing in authentic Christian wisdom. A Christian’s natural condition, as it were, should be that of an itinerant pilgrim, never fully at home in the world or in any nation, no matter how decent. In this sense, it might be a good thing that the “civic project of American Christianity” has come to an end, since the idea of a “civic Christianity” may be best understood, everywhere and always, as an oxymoron.

To the extent that millions of American Christians have denied this and believed that their faith and their devotion to country could be easily and comfortingly harmonized, they have been led astray. And in that sense at least, they should perhaps view the seemingly less hospitable circumstances of the American present and future as an opportunity to practice a richer, truer, more vital form of faith.

Nigeria elections put Christians in danger of more Muslim attacks

Muslim persecution of Christians is at a high tide — and there are grave fears of more sectarian bloodletting as millions of people in Nigeria, which is half Muslim and half Christian, vote for their national leaders next month.

These religious atrocities cry out for media attention and political awareness, said Raymond Ibrahim, author of the monthly report “Muslim Persecution of Christians,” which has chronicled attacks on Christians in dozens of countries since July 2011.

Mainstream media rarely cover attacks on Christians, even though they happen “all around the Islamic world,” Mr. Ibrahim said Tuesday.


SEE ALSO: Boko Haram leader: ‘God commanded’ killings are ‘the tip of the iceberg’


Muslim-on-Muslim attacks can get broad attention — such as the April kidnappings of some 230 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The mass abductions so alarmed the world that first lady Michelle Obama brought attention to the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls.

But from August to October, Boko Haram and its radical Islamist allies destroyed nearly 200 Christian churches as they rampaged through towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria, said Mr. Ibrahim, a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

His monthly report is published by Gatestone Institute, an international think tank led by John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In just four years, he said, Boko Haram has destroyed around 1,000 churches.

The “sheer volume” of the attacks on Christians in Nigeria “makes it one of the worst” places for them, Mr. Ibrahim said.

The peril in Nigeria was driven home Tuesday during a House hearing.

Nigerians are scheduled to vote Feb. 14 from a slate of several presidential candidates, including Christian incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and Muslim challenger Mohammadu Buhari, to lead the nation’s 173 million people. An election for local leadership will be held Feb. 28.

In 2011, Mr. Jonathan’s victory over Mr. Buhari triggered terrible sectarian violence in the Muslim north. More than 700 churches were burned, hundreds of Christians were targeted and killed, and thousands of Christian businesses and homes were torched.

That violence occurred at a time when Boko Haram was waging its “campaign of terror,” human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe said in his testimony Tuesday to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations.

“Boko Haram has never seen a live Christian male it liked,” Mr. Ogebe said. Depending on the election outcome, Feb. 14 could turn into “a Valentine’s Day massacre for the poor Christians in northern Nigeria.”

“The fear of political explosion is real,” lawyer Jadegoke Badejo said at the hearing.

Just this year, as many as 2,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram in its attack on the town of Baga and nearby villages, said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and subcommittee chairman. “Clearly, Boko Haram violence is escalating drastically,” he said.

Story Continues →

Christian-Connections Now Making Connections

Bob Frazier announced that Christians Connecting Christians is now connecting Christians with Christian based businesses and professionals. Website includes special offers and discounts with the first 10% of all revenue used to fund God’s work

Palm Beach Gardens, FL / ACCESSWIRE / January 28, 2015 / Christians Connecting Christians was created to help others and to connect Christians with Christian based businesses and professionals. Additionally. giving back the first 10% of our revenue to help fund God’s work makes us unique said Bob Frazier the site’s developer. This money is used to help the less fortunate, to fund Christian ministries and to spread God’s word around the world.

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Christians Connecting Christians provides directories of needed and popular products and professional services that everyone uses. Most products and services include special offers and online discounts to save you money. All products and services are purchased directly from the Christian based businesses and professionals.

Christians Connecting Christians includes informative videos that help buyers compare and evaluate products and services. Products and services are divided into eight categories which include:

- Business
– Career
– Dating
– Family
– Financial
– Healthcare
– Marriage
– Travel

In addition to the video presentations, Christians Connecting Christians provides a Christian blog, curated Christian News, a Daily Bible Verse and special inspirational messages for Christians from our Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest social media sites. Please support our social media sites and join our mailing list at www.ChristiansConnectingChristians.com.

About Christians Connecting Christians

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Christians Connecting Christians connects Christians with Christian based businesses and professionals offering products and services with special offers and online discounts. The first 10% of all our revenue is given back to God to fund God’s work.

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XXXChurch.com’s Craig Gross on Why Christians Should Have the Best Sex, but …

  • Craig Gross and his wife
  • craig gross, sex

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For years XXXchurch.com founder Craig Gross has been passionate about helping Christians struggling with pornography addiction and evangelizing men and women working in the porn industry. Now he has a new passion: to break Christians’ silence about sex.

“When you come into marriage, there still seems to be this off-limits talk about sex where I haven’t told my wife this is what I like or I like to do this,” Gross shared with The Christian Post.

Together with his wife, Jeanette, and Dave and Ashley Willis of Strongermarriages.org, they recently launched the Best Sex Life Now video series to help Christian couples work on their sex life.

In his interview with CP, Gross explains why some Christians feel uncomfortable talking about sex and how couples can make sure their sex life progresses at the same pace as the rest of their marriage.

Here is a transcript, edited for length and clarity, of part one of the interview.

The Christian Post: You said that Christians should be having the best sex ever. That’s a really bold statement. What led you to put that statement out there?

Gross: I think for a number of reasons. Mainly, I deal with people obviously caught up in pornography, caught up in affairs, caught up in all that the world offers and I feel like what is portrayed in movies and magazines is like this 50 Shades of Grey. All this stuff portrays sex as this great thing and then I see Christians in marriage struggle with conversations about sex, struggle about all these things surrounding sex – the shame, the guilt, I don’t know how to talk about it, I don’t know how to approach it – yet I feel like it’s all around us. The conversation is all around us but yet inside marriage, those of us who are doing this as I think God intended sex to be should be experiencing sex on a greater level than somebody who is doing this out of God’s will. But the sad part about this is I feel like people are not.

I waited 22 years of my life to have sex and then I think we’ve sold people in the church, not a lie, because I think it can’t happen, but it just doesn’t happen automatically that you get married, you fall in love, you follow Jesus and you have great sex. Everyone has a different upbringing so when you come into marriage, there still seems to be this off-limits talk about sex where I haven’t told my wife this is what I like or I would like to do this or I would like when. I mean even simple things like we talk about in the series like ‘hey, we should have sex with the lights on.’ Why is that off-limits? Why is that uncomfortable for … a husband and wife to talk about?

That’s what we’re trying to do in the series; like ‘hey, let’s talk through this.’

My wife and I went to a marriage conference, you know, just to check out what’s out there. [It was a] Christian marriage conference, the leading marriage conference that’s out there. The guy talked for a little, brief time about sex and what he brought up about it was, I thought, my expectations going into marriage is my wife would shave her legs every night before we got into bed. Everyone laughed and I kind of just thought, wait, that’s your expectations?

We’re in a marriage conference, we’re all Christians, everyone’s here, you can go a lot deeper than that and I was just like that’s it? A couple giggles, a couple of thoughts? Man, I feel like the people I talk to today have worst expectations of what sex is and what to expect and maybe for 1984 that might of worked but to me in 2014 [I’m thinking] we got to talk about what pornography, what role that’s played in your expectations.

So that’s what we try to do in the series: like really practical, what are people thinking, what could we force people into having a conversation about that maybe their partners wanted to [talk about] but they never knew how to bring up.

CP: Why is it that outside of Christ everyone feels comfortable talking about sex but inside of Christ, few want to talk specifically about sex?

Gross: Sex has made its way into everything and you know when you’ve got 50 Shades of Grey as a major movie that’s coming out only because of the books were so popular, and I think it just shows you that men and women are drawn to sex. I would argue men more visually and women more emotionally, but either way we’re both interested and the world’s talking about it and the world realizes this is how you get people’s attention and then the church I think has come along. We get invited to church after church these days which never happened early on in our ministry but you know they’re doing series on sex. You had Ed Young talk about having sex for seven nights in a row with your spouse.

You have a lot of conversation, but I still feel like it’s once a year and when you do it, then people think you’re trying to shock somebody rather than trying to talk through it. So my approach has been the more you can have these conversations, the less awkward they are; the more you can talk to you kids about it, the more you can talk to your spouse about it. But why is this conversation off limits? I have no good answer.

I’m 39 [38 at the time of the discussion], my dad died two years ago now and my mom’s visiting and we’re talking in the van with my kids, and we’re driving by the house that she grew up at. My parents weren’t Christians when they got married and I just starting asking her a bunch of questions… I said something like they got married very quickly and I just brought up the question about living together. (She answers) no, we didn’t live together and I said did you guys have sex and she goes no, we didn’t have sex and she’s super embarrassed, she didn’t want to talk about and she’s like your kids are in the car and I was like mom, it’s fine, why didn’t you have sex? You didn’t know anything about Jesus, your parents didn’t raise you (in the church), and I was super intrigued and then I said to her, mom I’m 38 like it would have been great to know this when I was like 12 or 11 or 13. Like (it would have been great if) you and dad sat me down and said ‘hey, you know what, we didn’t know anything about it but we chose to do this.’ I’m like pushing her and she’s like just get me out of the car. She’s still so uncomfortable talking about it and I’m like you have nothing (to be ashamed of) you did this the right way and … I feel like we don’t share our values and we don’t share our stories.

For me, I didn’t have sex before marriage; my wife did –she wasn’t raised in the church – and so my kids know both of our stories and my wife can add a whole different conversation than I can and I feel like a lot of us have never talked through it with … our kids and then let alone with each other like how did your dating life or sex life prior to marriage how’s that going to affect your marriage. We’re scared and we’re shameful so we just shelf it and then we get married and then sex isn’t what we thought it would be – no wonder – it’s awkward and then you don’t do it and then you’re roommates.

After years of doing this ministry, I met a guy this summer and he says, ‘Craig, you know what, there’s nothing out there for couples to have great sex.’ I go, ‘what do you mean; there’s Cosmopolitan and 10 ways for this,’ and he goes, ‘no, I’m talking about my wife and I disconnected after basically our first year of marriage so I went to porn and then I went to strip clubs,’ and his story just progressed downward and he’s not blaming it on that, but he goes ‘man we didn’t have the counseling, we didn’t have the help whereas if we would have figured this thing out, maybe I wouldn’t have gone that way.’

There were a number of those conversations where I finally said to my wife, who never goes on camera, didn’t want to do this, isn’t a public person, is very private, ‘Jeanette, I think we can offer something.’

CP: Why is sex so important?

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Tony Perkins: 2015 ‘Most Dangerous Year’ For American Christians

As readers of RWW are well aware, Religious Right leaders have adopted a strategy of portraying just about any policy they disagree with as a dire threat to their religious freedom. And they love to portray President Barack Obama as a sinister enemy of religious liberty. Today’s frantic email from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is a model of both the Obama-is-evil paradigm and frothing-at-the-mouth alarmism about threats to religious freedom in America.

This money beg has it all: President Obama scheming to turn America into a godless, totalitarian wasteland; ridiculous claims that the administration wants to silence the religious expression of its critics; conspiracy theories about Common Core; and flat-out lies that the administration did nothing to secure the release of Meriam Ibrahim from the Sudanese prison where she had been unjustly held.

Coming from Perkins, none of this is terribly surprising. After all, this is the guy who responded to a Colorado baker being required to abide by the state’s anti-discrimination law by wondering, “When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?”

To avoid any accusations that we’ve taken Perkins out of context, here’s today’s fundraising letter in full:

January 27, 2015

Dear Peter,

As I wrote to you earlier this month, 2015 could very well be the most dangerous year for Christians in American history!

President Obama seems willing to do anything to further his radical agenda—even if it means violating the Constitution to take away your religious freedom.

This President has clearly placed the religious freedom of millions of Christians like you in his sights. Why? You are among the people who are standing in the gap against his radical plans to transform America into a godless, secular country where government reigns supreme.

In these evil days it is more important than ever that you stand your ground for religious freedom!

Can I count on your continued prayers for FRC and our staff in 2015? And can I count on you to make a special financial contribution to the work of FRC?

2015 could very well be a make-or-break year for the future of religious liberty in America. Between now and 2016, President Obama, who knows his time to “leave his mark on history” is growing short, will go all-out. He will use the unlimited resources at his disposal in a drive to attempt to . . .

  • PUNISH Christians for opposing same-sex “marriage”;

  • FORCE pro-life people to fund abortions through ObamaCare;

  • INDOCTRINATE your children with the help of Common Core;

  • BAN religious expression and free speech when it conflicts with federal speech regulations; and

  • STOP Christian-owned businesses from doing business with the government because they will not embrace the homosexual agenda.

President Obama and his supporters wrongly believe that our rights as Christian citizens are granted by, and can therefore be repealed, by government. They do not believe, as you and I do, or even as our Founding Fathers did, that . . .

Our rights are inalienable because they come from God.

We will never compromise on that truth. And that’s why we can win so many of the showdowns. Truth has power when people of faith stand up for it. With God’s help and your faithful support, FRC has been able to . . .

  • FREE persecuted overseas Christians, even when our own government would not—Christians such as Mariam Ibraheem who was imprisoned for her faith;

  • DEFEND the religious liberty of the brave servicemen and women in the U.S. military who are persecuted and punished because they publicly affirm their Christian values;

  • PROTECT employers and employees forced to leave their faith at the door when they enter public service;

  • UPHOLD natural marriage while countering the pro-homosexual agenda which wants to silence Christians and their objections to same-sex “marriage”;

  • PRESSURE Congress to officially protect religious freedom and oppose the President’s unconstitutional power grab; and

  • EXPOSE the relentless assault on religious liberty that has largely been ignored by the mainstream media.

Thanks to champions of freedom like you . . . No organization has done more to preserve religious freedom in Washington, D.C., than FRC!

But there is still much, much more that must be done to stop the assault on religious freedom that threatens the very future of our nation. I won’t mince words: All of us must redouble our efforts to meet the incredible challenges ahead of us.

Your gift today is essential if we are to stop the assaults on religious freedom and reclaim those liberties already lost.

One of my heroes was 18th century conservative, Edmund Burke. In the British Parliament, he fought slavery and actually supported the American Revolution. A man of faith, he is credited with saying, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Today, I urge you to do something. Something great. Something lasting. Something having immediate yet ongoing impact. You achieve that when you financially stand with FRC. Thank you for refusing to sit by and “do nothing.”

Standing (Ephesians 6:13),

Tony Perkins
President

P.S. Please renew your support to help FRC start 2015 strongly. Thank you. God bless you.