Category Archives: Church

American Catholic Bishops Inconsistent On Liberty and Marriage

By Bai Macfarlane

The US Bishops on April 12 issued a call to action to defend religious liberty and urge the laity to work to protect the First Freedom of the Bill of Rights – religious freedom.

In the USCCB’s press release, the first concern listed that prompted their call is the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate forcing all employers, including religious organizations, to provide and pay for coverage of employees’ contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs even when they have moral objections to them.

The Bishops don’t want the Church to be forced to pay for services or provide services to their employees that the Church knows are immoral. But sadly, the U.S. Bishops have been silent when tens of thousands of Catholic parents have been forced to pay for services and provide ‘care’ for their own children when the parents knew the services were immoral.

Every time a Catholic parent is the defendant in a no-fault divorce, and the civil court orders that parent to forcibly stop having daily access to his or her children, that parent is being forced to give ‘care’ to their own children that the parent knows is immoral. Every time the government forces that parent to pay financial support for a second separate household in which that parent is not even allowed to live, the government is ordering the parent to follow unjust laws.

By natural law, canon law (and one could even argue that by constitutional law), anyone with a Catholic marriage has the rights and obligations that both spouses agreed to accept when they married. When anyone marries in the Rite of Catholic marriage, they agree to follow the laws of Christ and His Church. Both spouses have the right and obligation to maintain a common household with their spouse and children unless there is a fault-based reason for separation of spouses (canon 1151-1155).

Neither can file for a divorce without the permission of their bishop and they cannot seek divorce orders contrary to divine law (canon 1692). But unjust laws inflict immoral separations on Catholic families every day whenever one of the spouses, for any reasons whatsoever, feels like reneging on their marital promises and files for no-fault divorce. The government’s divorce courts will coerce and force separation and divorce decrees, contrary to divine law, on the innocent spouse and children.

If the USCCB is going to be consistent with their call to action to defend our religious liberty, they will raise a unified voice against no-fault divorce practices, which are blatantly unjust. After all, the Bishops said, “It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed.”

This article was originally published in Spero New’s Religion Forum, April 12, 2012. Bai Macfarlane is founder of Mary’s Advocates.

The Right to Occupy–Making a Difference

The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of several churches whose efforts to provide temporary thermal shelters for the homeless have allegedly been hindered by the Waynesboro Zoning Board. The Institute was asked to intervene in the matter after being alerted to the fact that the Zoning Board is erroneously interpreting its ordinances to require churches to apply for conditional use permits to provide temporary shelter to the homeless this winter, and is even excluding some churches from applying for permits at all. Institute attorneys have warned city officials that their actions are unconstitutional, in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and the Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Churches have a biblical mandate to care for the needy and downtrodden, and should be supported—not hindered—in their efforts to do so,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “With government budgets currently stressed beyond capacity, it is difficult to comprehend any logical reason that would justify the City of Waynesboro’s imposition of barriers for churches wishing to provide shelter for the homeless in their community.”

Pastor Howard Miller of the Waynesboro Mennonite Church and a collection of other Waynesboro area churches are working toward instituting a rotating thermal shelter for the homeless, called the Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry, so that those in need of shelter this winter may take refuge inside existing church buildings. However, it appears that the City of Waynesboro’s Zoning Board has been erroneously interpreting its ordinances in such a way as to require churches to apply for conditional use permits to establish the temporary shelters, and has even excluded some churches from applying for permits at all.

Under Waynesboro’s city code, a church must apply for a permit if it wishes to perform some activity that would be considered a primary use, if the church has not already been permitted to do that activity. However, as Rutherford Institute attorneys point out, the city’s zoning ordinances do not prohibit mission work of the type Pastor Miller and his colleagues wish to undertake. In fact, as constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead notes, sheltering the homeless—particularly during the cold winter months—is an important historical function of Christian churches. Moreover, because this mission work to protect families and individuals from the elements is purely a function of religious exercise by devout individuals and groups in Waynesboro, any restriction on that work should be examined in light of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, and other federal and state laws that protect religious organizations.

Crucifying Jesus: Killing a Radical

By John W. Whitehead

“[Jesus] was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history. The Sermon on the Mount is way ahead of its time. His ‘turn the other cheek’ anticipated Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years. It was not for nothing that I wrote an article called ‘Atheists for Jesus’ (and was delighted to be presented with a T-shirt bearing the legend).”—Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006)

For those who profess to be Christians, the week leading up to Easter is the most sacred time of the year, commemorating as it does the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet while Jesus is a revered religious figure, he was also, as atheist Richard Dawkins recognizes, a radical in his own right whose life and teachings changed the course of history.

Too often today radicalism is equated with terrorism, extremism and other violent acts of resistance. Yet true radicalism, the kind embodied by such revolutionary figures as Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, actually involves speaking truth to power through peaceful, nonviolent means. Separated by time and distance, Christ, King and Gandhi were viewed as dangerous by their respective governments because they challenged the oppressive status quo of their day.

Jesus, in particular, undermined the political and religious establishment of his day through his teachings. For example, when Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers,” exhorting his followers to turn the other cheek and give freely, he was telling us that active peacemaking is the way to end war. Indeed, if everything Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount is true—a message that King, to his peril, adopted in protest of the Vietnam War—there’d be no need for wars, war budgets or military industrial complexes. Imagine that.

Unfortunately, as the gruesome torture and crucifixion of Jesus make clear, there is always a price to pay for standing up to one’s oppressors. While the New Testament Gospels are the primary source for accounts of Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and death, his ordeal at the hands of Roman soldiers has been the topic of scholarly research for years. Indeed, as Time magazine reports, the latest topic of academic scrutiny involves claims by an Israeli television journalist that he may have uncovered the crucifixion nails used on Jesus—“smallish iron spikes with the tips hammered to one side.”

Certainly, the torture Jesus endured was agonizing. Yet what was it about him that caused the Romans to view him as enough of a threat to make an example of him and have him crucified?

In the time of Jesus, religious preachers and self-proclaimed prophets were not summarily arrested and executed. Nor were nonviolent protesters. Indeed, the high priests and Roman governors in Jerusalem would normally allow a protest, particularly a small-scale one, to run its course. However, government authorities were quick to dispose of leaders and movements that even appeared to threaten the Roman Empire.

The charges leveled against Jesus—that he was a threat to the stability of the nation, opposed paying Roman taxes and claimed to be the rightful King as Messiah of Israel (the gravest charge, for which Jesus was ultimately crucified, as inscribed on the cross: “The King of the Jews”)—were purely political, not religious. To the Romans, any one of these charges was enough to merit death by crucifixion. Crucifixion itself, usually reserved for slaves, non-Romans, radicals, revolutionaries and the worst criminals, was not only a common method for execution by Romans but was also the most feared.

The Gospels recount how, after Jesus’ arrest, temple guards brought him to the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas, who declared him guilty of blasphemy. He was then ushered before the Sanhedrin, a Jewish council, which sought permission from the Romans to execute him. Whether an actual “trial” took place before Jesus was handed over to the Romans is uncertain. But more than likely, as he was moved from place to place, he was spat upon and beaten.

It is telling that the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who alone had the authority to execute Jesus, focused on his political identity: “Are you the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11). This seems to be primarily what mattered to Pilate, whose job it was to uphold the religious, as well as the temporal, power of the deified Caesars.

Jesus does not deny the allegation which, if true, will lead to his death. He answers: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).

In other words, Jesus told Pilate—the one person who held Jesus’ life in his hands—to stick it. The cruel torture and killing of Jesus were certain to follow after that. The fact that Jesus was killed for claiming to be king of the Jews was not an afterthought pinned on the cross above his head. The Roman soldiers commissioned to prepare him for execution knew this was the issue. That is why they gave him the burlesque of coronation, clothing him in royal purple with a mock crown and scepter. Then they abased themselves and called out, “Hail, king of the Jews!” (John 19:3). Afterward, they beat Jesus.

The mob must have played a key role in Jesus’ condemnation, although there is little extensive historical evidence to support the scene played out in films and movies in which Pontius Pilate asks the crowd to choose between Barabbas the robber and Jesus. Most likely the pressure to appease the masses would have forced the Romans to act. As author A. N. Wilson writes, “If the crowds could be pacified by the release of Barabbas, they could perhaps be cowed into submission by a cruel public display of what happens to Jews who use words like ‘kingdom’…to the Roman governor.” Surrendering to the people’s will, Pilate granted an execution by crucifixion.

Matthew 27:26 indicates that Jesus was severely whipped in accordance with a Roman requirement that there be a scourging before each execution (except for those involving women, Roman senators or soldiers). A Roman flagrum, a leather whip consisting of three thongs, each ending with two lead balls designed to tear flesh, was the weapon of choice for inflicting scourgings. The Romans may have even used a similar instrument, a flagellum, in which small rocks or bone fragments were also attached on the end of the thongs. This instrument was typically used to tenderize a piece of meat.

Mayo Clinic scholars note that repeated floggings to the upper and lower back with iron balls that cut deeply into his flesh would have caused Jesus to nearly go into shock from blood loss: “As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.”

In addition to the scourging, Jesus was also crowned with thorns. Scholars have observed that the thorns digging into his scalp probably severely irritated major nerves in his head, causing increasing and excruciating pain for hours.

Medical experts speculate that the iron spikes used to nail Jesus to the cross measured from 5 to 7 inches long (the size of railroad spikes). The spikes were driven through his wrists (between the radius and the ulna and the carpals in his forearms), not his palms, and between the second and third metatarsal bones of his feet in order to support his body weight. Though the spikes were not nailed through major blood vessels, they were designed to sever major nerves, rupturing other veins and creating great pain. Added to this, hanging on the cross would have made it agonizingly difficult to breathe.

Doctors generally conclude that a combination of factors contributed to Jesus’ death on the cross: He had already lost an incredible amount of blood. He was exhausted from the beatings and from carrying his cross. Because he could only attempt to breathe by pushing his body upward with his knees and legs (often, Roman soldiers would break their victims’ legs with clubs), death by asphyxiation was inevitable. However, their most critical observation is that Jesus was already dead when Roman soldiers thrust the spear into his side.

Within a religious context, Jesus’ death was a sacrificial act of atonement for the sins of the world. In a historical context, his crucifixion sent a chilling warning to all those who would challenge the power of the Roman Empire. As Mark Lewis Taylor, the Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, observed in an interview with OldSpeak, “The cross within Roman politics and culture was a marker of shame, of being a criminal. If you were put to the cross, you were marked as shameful, as criminal, but especially as subversive. And there were thousands of people put to the cross. The cross was actually positioned at many crossroads, and, as New Testament scholar Paula Fredricksen has reminded us, it served as kind of a public service announcement that said, ‘Act like this person did, and this is how you will end up.’”

Unlike the modern church that drowns in materialism and supports the military empire, Jesus advocated love, peace and harmony. As it did in his day, this message when adhered to undermines the ruling establishment. Unfortunately, it is rare for the church today to challenge the status quo—a failing that Martin Luther King Jr. recognized in his famous “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” when he castigated the modern-day church for being “so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”

Written on April 16, 1963, while King was serving a jail sentence for participating in civil rights demonstrations, the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was a response to eight prominent white Alabama clergymen who had called on African-Americans to cease their civil disobedience and let the courts handle the problem of desegregation. King’s words reminded Americans that the early church—the church established by Jesus’ followers—would never have been content to remain silent while injustice and persecution ruled the land:

There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”…. They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.

It is unfortunate that the radical Jesus, the political dissident who took aim at injustice and oppression, has been largely forgotten today, replaced by a congenial, smiling Jesus trotted out for religious holidays but otherwise rendered mute when it comes to matters of war, power and politics. “Christianity today often resembles an egg into which someone has poked a hole and sucked out all its contents,” writes author Richard Smoley in Forbidden Faith (2006), “and then taken the shell, encrusted it with gold and jewels, and set it up as an object of veneration. In many ways, it remains a beautiful shell, but more and more people are finding that it no longer offers any nourishment. If they complain, they’re usually told that they just need to have more faith—which is of course no answer at all.”

Yet for those who truly study the life and teachings of Jesus, the resounding theme is one of outright resistance to war, materialism and empire. As Mark Lewis Taylor notes, “The power of Jesus is one that enables us to critique the nation and the empire. Unfortunately, that gospel is being sacrificed and squandered by Christians who have cozied up to power and wealth.” Ultimately, this is the contradiction that must be resolved if the radical Jesus—the one who stood up to the Roman Empire and was crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be—is to be remembered.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He can be contacted at Information about the Institute is available at

A New Victim of Gay Sexual Politics, Evangelical Lutheran Church

By Daniel Downs

The Washington Times recently reported that a majority of leaders in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted to change church law admitting non-celibate gays into the sacred office of the clergy. At the same time, a majority of church leaders changed denominational law to recognize same-sex common law marriage (but by other terminology).

According to the report, “The resolution on clergy, easily the most controversial, passed by 559 ‘yes’ votes (55.3 percent) to 451 ‘no’ votes (44.6 percent). It committed the ELCA to open its clergy ranks to people in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

The vote allowing congregations to ‘”recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships,” passed by 619 ‘yes’ (60.6 percent) to 402 ‘no’ votes (39.3 percent) was less controversial than allowing non-celibate gays to represent the church and Christ.

The report noted two responses to these developments: Those who believe it will result in many people leaving the church and those who believe it will result in significant church growth. One member of the Metropolitan New York Synod said gays were the reason her congregation was growing. Leaders representing most American and foreign synods voiced strong disapproval of these decisions because of those decisions opposed more fundamental doctrines of the church.

As with other mainline denominations, the democratic politics and secularly defined social relevance appears to be the most important factors in these decisions.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in American cannot be charge with religious fundamentalism. They have tossed the fundamentals out. The most important fundamental is abiding under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As recorded in the book of Revelation, Christ told the churches in Asia Minor that he hated the politics and practices of sexual immorality that were being spread by the Nicolaitans and Jezebel, who was likely one of their leaders in Thyatira. Like the mediocre Laodiceans, the Evangelical Lutheran Church can only be charged with being faithful to secular fundamentalism.

The still popular song lyric sung by Jackie DeShannon expresses the religious sentiment of modern sexual politics, “all we need now is love … sweet [tolerant] love” not holiness and truth.

The problem with all of this is not whether the church will grow, or split, or gain social relevance. After this season testing, the problem will be when and how the Lord will come and fight against the immoral and their supporters. As Christ promised the Pergamum church, he will come and fight against them with the sword of His mouth. If that means anything like his warning to the unrepenting Jezebel, they and their loving supporters may receive the same judgment that the members of the tolerantly immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrah received.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that those who do not like a God who actually judges and punishes moral crime (sin, immortality) hate the rule of law and especially moral law. Moral law is God’s law.

One of the foundational doctrines of the Evangelical Lutheran Church concerns salvation: forgiveness of our moral crimes because Jesus suffered our punishment for them. That is what the death of Jesus on a wooden cross is all about. This grace of God is not tolerance. It is covenantal love based on unbending justice. The power of this gospel is newness of life by the power of God. A new life means old sinful lifestyles pass away. Anything less is a mockery of Christ’s life and death as well as God’s mercy and power, which “taking the name of the Lord in vain” means. It’s like being married but not acting like it, which is the reason the Church cannot justify marrying gays or any other sinners.

The Church cannot serve two masters: one in conformity with secular politics and the other with God in covenantal holiness. Condoning sin while claiming righteousness is so oxymoronic to be laughable. Maybe this is the reason for talk about the Church being irrelevant in contemporary culture.

Yes, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America maybe another victim of secular sexual politics, but it is also another denomination that has failed to overcome the trial Jesus said would come. Jesus also said, “Watch out! You who have brought about that fall; it would have been better had you crucified yourselves rather than to suffer the judgment that will overtake you” (Matthew 18:3-11, paraphrased).

Source: Washington Times, August 22, 2009 and

Presbyterian Church In-Bed With Spirit of the Age

Presbyterian Church (USA) is the latest protestant denomination to ordain homosexuals. The act of ordaining is supposed to signify a human recognition of the Jesus Christ’s calling of individuals to serve as His special representative. As representatives of God and Christ, ordained church leaders function a visible ambassadors of the divine will and purpose. As Jesus represented God during his earthly work, so too ordained church leaders are expected to fulfill the mission of the Lord Jesus.

Ordination is thus a multi-fold process. The qualifications include becoming a citizen of God’s kingdom through the merits of Jesus Christ. The life transforming event is intellectual but rather relational. People are confronted by the presence of God within an environment of learning about God, his kingdom, laws, justice, mercy, love, and holiness. The divine confrontation is an invitation to a change of life as well as citizenship. In the presence of God’s loving holiness, individuals become aware of unholy aspects of their lives. Adults often misinterpret this to mean they must work harder at being better to alleviate the guilt after God’s visitation. They misconstrue the part God is to play in that change: God is the actual source of achieving mature righteous living. However, God invites individuals to become members of His kingdom through the merits of Jesus alone. Training in citizenship comes after accepting the invitation. The church and its leaders serve as role models. Before God calls individuals to that role, they must first be members of His kingdom and have become citizens of good moral standing.

The standard the Church is supposed to use the same criteria to validate people called of God to ordained service. God reveals his chose of individuals to others, especially other ordained leaders, in the Church who in turn are to evaluate the same by God’s law and gospel. In other words, the book on citizenship, which is the Bible.

When consider what that book states about homosexuality and other immoral practices, it soon discovered that God and Jesus Christ are opposed to it. God’s chosen representative, Moses, taught the Israelites God’s laws concerning it. In the book titled Leviticus, Moses is quoted as saying, “You shall not lie with men as with women; it is an abomination…. If a man lie with man, as he lies with a woman, both have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death…. Do not defile yourselves by doing these things: for in [this] the nations are defiled which I cast out before you.” (Leviticus 20:10-20;18:24) In the book of Revelation, Jesus’ word to the Church reaffirmed the divine law against such behaviors. (see Revelation 2:6, 14-15, 20; 9:20-21; 21:7-8)

Some attempt to use the absence of any mention of sodomy in the gospels as positive affirmation that neither God nor Christ was against it. This erroneous argument ignores the fact that the Mosaic law was Jewish law during the Second Temple era. No mention was necessary because the death penalty was a sufficient deterrent.

Like other mainline protestant denominations, the Presbyterian has succumbed to the flirtations of the spirit of the age. The alluring politics of social acceptability propagandized by many different secular schemes, ideological and party agendas, and religious argumentation, the political Church has blindly embraced liberal democracy’s moral relativity. Sleeping with the devil may be too harsh an indictment. In keeping with actual crime against the Lord Jesus, it is more realistic to charge those leaders with sleeping with the devil’s children and with one another. Just as Israel played the harlot with surrounding nations, so her daughter, the Church, is now betraying her lover for others.

A little sensuality, a little drunkenness, a little dancing, and a little flirting add up to a lot of immorality and apostasy.

The gospel of tolerance preached by those ravaging wolves pretending to be children of God in His kingdom apparently dulls the keen senses of spiritual discerners causing many a sheep (over half of Presbyterians) blindness.

Even so, come soon Lord Jesus.

Church attendance up in 2010

Gallup has recorded small upticks in churchgoing over the past two years. The latest poll found that 43.1 percent of Americans reported weekly or almost weekly church attendance, up from 42.1 percent in 2008.

Though a small increase, Gallup noted that it is “statistically significant,” considering the data is based on more than 800,000 interviews collected between February 2008 and May 2010.

Respondents were asked to report on how often they attend church, synagogue, or mosque.

Thirty-five percent said they attend at least once a week and eight percent said they go almost every week. Meanwhile, 11 percent said they only go once a month, 25 percent listed “seldom” church attendance and 20 percent said they never attend.

The most dedicated churchgoers, according to the Gallup organization, are conservatives, non-hispanic blacks, and Republicans. Those least likely to attend church at least once a week or almost every week are liberals, Asians, and those aged 18 to 29 years.

Overall, church attendance is increasing in America and Gallup does not believe it is tied to economic woes.

“The increase comes as Americans’ economic confidence has also risen, suggesting that, instead of church attendance rising when economic times get bad, as some theorize, the opposite pattern may be occurring,” the research organization stated.

A 2009 Gallup poll had discovered no evident change in church attendance during the economic recession, particularly between 2008 and 2009. Though many Americans were negative about the economy, there were also no significant changes in the percentages of Americans who said religion is important to them.

Gallup noted that the rising church attendance could be a result of demographics. Americans who are 65 years old and older are more likely to attend church than those who are younger. Baby boomers, who are now entering their 60s, are beginning to enter the age range that traditionally has been associated with higher religious service participation. And if baby boomers do in fact attend church more frequently as they age, Gallup expects church attendance to increase steadily in the years ahead.

Source: Christian Post, June 29, 2010

Wait No More: Finding Families for Ohio’s Waiting Kids

Right now, more than 3,000 legal orphans in Ohio foster care are waiting for adoptive families. Ohio has over 14,000 churches, and God has given clear commands for Christians to take care of His orphan children.

So if the command is clear and the need is apparent, why are these kids still waiting?

Join Focus on the Family on May 8, 2010 at Christ’s Church at Mason, 5165 Western Row Road. You’ll hear more about the kids who are waiting, the process of adoption from foster care and ways to support adoptive families. In addition, agency and county representatives will be on site to answer questions and help you get started.

Wait No More: Finding Families for Ohio’s Waiting Kids Saturday, May 8, 2010 from 1:00 – 5:00 pm Christ’s Church at Mason, Mason, Ohio

Exhibitors Include:

Bair Foundation, Butler County, Citizens for Community Values, Clermont County, Coalition of Care, Focus on Youth, Hamilton County, Hope for Orphans, Making a Difference Ministries, Montgomery County and Preble County.

For more information or to register, go to the I Care About Orphans website.

Why I Signed the Manhattan Declaration

By Gary Palmer

On November 20, 2009 a group of nationally known and respected Christian leaders set forth an historic declaration.

The Manhattan Declaration is a long overdue message from men and women of faith to all those in political power from state and local governments to the federal government and its myriad bureaucracies. The Declaration focuses on three foundational principles of justice and the common good on which the signers will not compromise: the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions; the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife; and religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

The Declaration states, “Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense.”

Obviously, this is a direct challenge to the power of the government at every level but especially the federal government under the current dominant liberal regime. In an interview with Katherine Lopez of the National Review, Dr. Robert George, one of the principal authors of the Manhattan Declaration, said that important decisions are now being made, or soon will be made, by state and federal government on the issues addressed in the Declaration.

Dr. George said that as a result of the 2006 and 2008 elections there is unprecedented strength in both houses of Congress and in many state legislatures to push laws that advance the abortion agenda, that seek to legalize same-sex marriage, and that threaten religious liberty. In fact, some Christian groups have already come under assault.

In May 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston ended its 103 year ministry of providing adoption services to place foster children rather than comply with the Massachusetts state law that required them to place children with homosexuals. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is threatening to take action against Belmont Abbey College, a private Catholic college in North Carolina, because the college refuses to include insurance coverage for abortion and contraception in the college’s health insurance plan.

While both of these involve Catholic institutions, they could just as easily be Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian or any other denomination.

Lopez later asked Dr. George how the White House should take the Declaration. He responded, “I hope that President Obama will understand that the signatories to the Manhattan Declaration are determined to defend the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage, and respect for religious freedom. On these issues, they cannot compromise, and they will not remain silent.”

The Declaration’s signatories understand that the principles of the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage and religious freedom are under threat from powerful political and cultural forces in our nation. They want it understood that, as Christians, those who sign the Declaration regard these principles as non-negotiable, and will therefore be unceasing in their defense of them. A critical line of the declaration states, “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.”

In explaining why he signed the Manhattan Declaration, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky wrote that he signed it “…because I want to put my name on its final pledge — that we will not bend the knee to Caesar. We will not participate in any subversion of life. We will not be forced to accept any other relationship as equal in status or rights to heterosexual marriage. We will not refrain from proclaiming the truth — and we will order our churches and institutions and ministries by Christian conviction.”

Dr. Mohler was referring to the last lines of the Declaration that should be regarded as a solemn oath by all who sign it, “We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.” Mohler then added, “I was encouraged that we could stand together to make clear that to come for one of us on these issues is to come for all.”

The opportunity to stand with other believers of such courage and moral clarity is why I signed the Declaration.

You can read the Manhattan Declaration at

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

Church’s Critics Want Gag Rule

Getting Nancy Pelosi to accept a health care bill that bans federal funds for abortion was the greatest victory scored by U.S. bishops in a generation. It also unleashed an unprecedented attempt to censor them. Their latest enemy is Geoffrey Stone writing in the Huffington Post.

Stone finds it troubling that the bishops are so vocal. He yearns for a time when JFK was president, a time when separation of church and state met his approval. Perhaps the Chicago law professor forgot about Rev. Martin Luther King, the minister who took to the pulpit and lobbied for civil rights in the name of free speech and religious liberty. Should King have been muzzled as well? Or just today’s bishops?

As the following list discloses, Stone is hardly alone in trying to censor the bishops: Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Rep. Diana DeGette, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Frances Kissling, Planned Parenthood, Feminist Majority, Catholics for Choice, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National Organization for Women, and many others favor a gag rule. On Nov. 12, Nancy Snyderman of MSNBC spoke for many when she said that “This is going to be a Pollyannaish statement. The Catholic bishops appearing and having a political voice seems to be a most fundamental violation of church and state.” Brilliant.

The following is a partial list of religious groups that want abortion coverage in the health care bill: Rabbinical Assembly, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, Episcopal Church, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, North American Federation of Temple Youth, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist, Presbyterian Church (USA), Women of Reform Judaism, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Church of the Brethren Women’s Caucus, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Lutheran Women’s Caucus, Christian Lesbians Out, YWCA.

So why don’t Stone and company want to gag these groups as well? Let’s face it: they don’t have a principled bone in their collective bodies.

Source: Email newsletter of The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, November 13, 2009, comments by President Bill Donahue.

Harp Huggers Hug Their Last On Cloud Nine

Many people still believe heaven will be like an eternal yoga on cloud nine. That is for those who find peace and relaxation through meditation. Western tradition pictures heaven as reclining on a white fluffy cloud enjoying eternal serenity while hugging a golden harp. While hugging one’s golden harp, people believe that by strumming a lively golden strings to the divine rhythm of heaven they will experience greater joy. All of this bliss is magnified by the soothing radiance of heavenly light.

Yes, it is a boring vision of man as an island–a western view of autonomous man in heaven. Autonomous man is left alone in peace by everyone, even God, to enjoy eternal life without government interference. It is an egalitarian vision because everyone that is worthy of heaven gets to enjoy their own rest and relaxation to the same everlasting degree as every other person on their own cloudy oasis. What could be more fair that that?

I have bad news for all those harp huggers. It ain’t so. Sorry to have to burst another bubble–the current economic one is depressing enough; but turning a blind eye to a false vision would be a great disservice. Exposing the false hopes, false dreams, or blinding darkness–however bright with hope may seem–is supposed to be the duty of writers.

The puffy idea that people who do more good than harm are worthy of own their own cloud doesn’t hold water. The whole concept is merely evaporated hope based on a false premise of justice and fairness. As the gospels teach us, do-gooders are no more worthy of heaven than the scum of the earth. Why? One sin is counted as a bad as all sins. Because we all have or will sin, the stain on our do-goodism can not be removed–no even with White Cloud. The only detergent capable of removing that stain, the shame, or the statutory claim against our moral wrongs is the sinless blood of a lamb or rather of the sinless son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

That’s the gist of the gospel preached by Pastor Jon.

Can preachers like Jon and their gospel be wrong? It is claimed that they are. It is claimed that there are many ways to heaven whatever it really is. It is claimed that the exclusiveness of the gospels is dead wrong, but is it?

If humans are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26), a collective of humans in society is likely to reflect divine justice as least a little. That being the case, do we humans merely forgive breakers of our great moral laws because we are all really nice guys whose love surpasses the need to protect others in society from breakers of those law? Actually, our system of justice forgives no one for doing more good than the last crime committed that has gone unpunished. Of course, I must give credit to the many secularists who have worked very hard to change our inherent sense of justice, but it stubbornly persists as does the persistence of moral evils performed by once upon a time do-gooders. We human do take into account past good behavior or good citizenship in the process of punishing the guilty, which is usually expressed by leniency. Nevertheless, neither God nor we humans forgive do-good lawbreakers until after they have been duly punished–if then.

The problem is God’s only punishment for sin is death. The soul that sins it shall die, declared the priestly prophet Ezekiel. The wages of sin is death, said the Apostle Paul. Because it is, only death can fully satisfy the demand of divine justice. Thus, the only cloud of serenity humans earn by greater good works than bad is a dark cloud of pending judgment. That is except for the fact that God initiated and accepted the willing sacrifice of sinless living souls on behalf of us guilty humans. (Gen 3:21; 4:4; 8:20-21, etc.) Sacrificed animals, however, are not sufficient to satisfy divine justice fully for one important reason: they are not culpable for sin. Only human commit moral crimes against God’s laws. Only the sacrificial death of a willing and sinless human could possibly satisfy divine justice fully, and only God would be qualified to offer such a sacrifice. The gospel of Jesus, his apostles’ epistles, and the testimonies of those who constitute the Church claim that Jesus is that effectual sacrifice we all need,and the evidence is their moral and God-honoring lifestyle.

Thus, the Jesus-oriented lifestyle is the only one that can lead to heaven.

Jesus freaks are weird dudes because they have given up the Western and Eastern illusions of heaven as either a cloudy bliss of liberalism or an antinomian* free ride to heaven’s gate as the Hale-Bopp comet followers proved. Even if the Boppers made it to the gate, they were likely turned away because they had failed to get the right entry tickets. Jesus freaks, on the other hand, live for the day when they will live in a renewed heaven and earth where God evidently dwells among them. Heaven will be like the new beginning that came at the end of the movie Knowing–only better. For some it will be even better than being able to eat of the fruit of the tree of life again. It will be a techie heaven where humans will continue to invent new technologies, according Pastor Jon. I must note here that Pastor Jon used to work for the computer technology giant IBM. In this heaven, we humans will also continue to enjoy music, singing, worshipping God, exploring and learning, eating good food while discussing with friends and loved ones whatever comes to mind, and other things God created us to do. There will be a great new heath care reform plan too. HMOs, Medicare/Medicaid, doctors, drug companies, their lobbyists, and legislative supporters will no longer exist. In this heaven, no pain will be regarded as great gain. Broken bones due to sports injuries or other forms of play will a thing of the past, and so will wild animals eating or otherwise harming us humans. There will be no weight loss programs or the pain of failure. Who knows, a five-day a week job in which we do work totally unrelated to our training or goals may be no more as well.

Yet, the reality of heaven is hell. At the present, we live between heaven and hell. Some of us experience as much of hell as we ever will. Others, however, experience as much of heaven on earth as they ever will, said Pastor Jon. Destiny is a choice given by God. What one chooses is the only fate there is. Eternal life in heaven or hell is the final consequence of our earthly choices. This is a fact backed by the testimonies of many who have died and who came back to life to share with doctors, researches, and us ordinary folk what they experienced on the other side. You may have heard of Don Piper who has discussed his ninety minutes in heaven publicly and who has been written down in a book by the same title. It is worth reading, and so is choosing to follow Jesus to heaven.

Those who will not be there include the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, immoral persons, sorcerers, isolators, and all liars. (Rev. 21:8) I wonder how many people in modern business, sales, education, media, politics, or mainstream religion will make it above the cloudy illusions of success, influence or wealth to heaven?

* Antinomian is the rejection of all moral law and human accountability for it. Those who hold this view are of the illusion that Christ as the end of the law for salvation means grace is the end of all accountability to moral law rather than the means to fulfilling it. As such, grace is the equivalent of lawlessness.

Paraphrased quotes of Senior Pastor Jon Young came from this my own less than perfect memory of his Sunday morning sermon at Dayton Avenue Baptist Church on August 9, 2009