November 2nd, 2010 by Bethany French

Author’s note:  This is the second article of a mini-series reviewing Princeton professor Kenda Creasy Dean’s book, Almost Christian. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the first few chapters of this book.  To read the first article in the series, click here.

Kenda Creasy Dean’s book Almost Christian covers five major findings of the National Study of Youth and Religion that may perhaps bring about a major change in the way many mainstream churches and/or parents  approach youth ministry or parenting:

1.  Most American teenagers have a positive view of religion but otherwise don’t give it much thought.

2.  Most U.S. teenagers mirror their parents’ religious faith.

3. Teenagers lack a theological language with which to express their faith or interpret their experience of the world.

4.  A minority of American teenagers–but a significant minority–say religious faith is important, and that it makes a difference in their lives.  These teenagers are doing better in life on a number of scales, compared to their less religious peers.

5.  Many teenagers enact/espouse a religious outlook that is distinct from traditional teachings of most world religions–an outlook called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Some of my conclusions from reading these first few chapters in conjunction with my own personal experience are as follows:  The problems that exist now are direct results of a culture of self-indulgence; a culture that equates physical, emotional, and spiritual discomfort as something to be avoided at all costs.  Christian vocabulary has been perverted:  the word “Love” does not mean anything more than an exalted version of “Warm fuzzies all around,” “salvation” means that “all generally nice people go to heaven,” and the biggest “sin” is to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause discomfort any way, for any reason. A version of the larger American culture, which holds all of these views, has been adopted by many parents and churches (consciously or not).

Dean clearly highlights the source of the problem as a breakdown of the parents’ and congregations intentionally modeling radical faith in God and demonstration of the gospel to their children, and the failure to recognize that the goal of the gospel is beyond the individual.

We ‘teach’ young people baseball, but we ‘expose’ them to faith…we blithely assume that religious identity will happen by osmosis, emerging ‘when youth are ready’ (a confidence we generally lack when it comes to, say, algebra).  We simply have not given teenagers the soul-strength to recognize, wrestle, and resist the symbiotes in our midst, probably because we lack [it] ourselves… Exposing adolescents to faith, as it turns out, is no substitute for teaching it to them…

By and large, Smith and Denton concluded, parents ‘get what they are’ religiously…Parents matter most when it comes to the religious formation of their children.

Although the child is still responsible for his/her own response to the gospel, and even in the cases where the parents are truly living radical lives and teaching their children to do the same may choose to diverge to the path of least resistance, families and communities that adopt an intentional way of living and teaching spiritual precepts will raise children who are much more able to talk articulately about what their faith means to them in their daily lives.  It may be that many parents in their own lives, as well as the lives of their children, have bought into one of the central precepts of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is that the main goal in life is to avoid interpersonal friction.  And, as Dean writes,

Spiritually sensitive youth often cause trouble in their communities (religious or secular) because of their alertness to the sacred.  It is hard to imagine researchers, interviewing Jesus after he turned over the tables in the temple, ascribing the act to religious maturity–but in Christian theology it is a story of righteousness and divine purgation.”

Which of the prophets, including Jesus as the Son of God, was not hated and persecuted, even killed for following the Spirit of God, laying down their lives as their sacrifice of love and obedience to God, and out of desperate concern and passionate desire for the restoration of those who were opposing the will of God?  How often did God send His prophets not to the ‘pagan’ nations, but to His own people, who were following Him with their lips, and not with their hearts?  How is that different than today, where so many in our churches say, “I am a Christian,” and yet they do not have the transforming love of God gripping their hearts to lay down their lives in obedience to Christ?  As Dean says,

It is in following Jesus that we learn to love Him; it is in participating in the mission of God that God decisively changes us into disciples.”

Let us awaken our hearts to experience the living God, as in Dr. Michael Brown’s Rhyme of the Modern Parishioner:

Pour your life out for broken lives –
Let God your heart break too.
Take up the cross, deny yourself;
Just live His will to do!

Wake up, be brave, be honest;
Today — oh hear His voice!
Be ruthless with your schedule;
Seek GOD. Make that your choice.

Posted in Culture, News Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

August 26th, 2009 by M. French

Press Release from the Alliance Defense Fund:

LACONIA, N.H. — An Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney filed motions with a New Hampshire court Monday asking it to reconsider and stay its decision to order a 10-year-old home-schooled girl into a government-run school in Meredith.

Although the marital master making recommendations to the court agreed the child is “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level” and that “it is clear that the home schooling…has more than kept up with the academic requirements of the…public school system,” he nonetheless proposed that the Christian girl be ordered into a government-run school after considering “the impact of [her religious] beliefs on her interaction with others.”  The court approved the order.

“Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children.  In this case specifically, the court is illegitimately altering a method of education that the court itself admits is working,” said ADF-allied attorney John Anthony Simmons of Hampton.  “The court is essentially saying that the evidence shows that, socially and academically, this girl is doing great, but her religious beliefs are a bit too sincerely held and must be sifted, tested by, and mixed among other worldviews.  This is a step too far for any court to take.”

The parents of the child divorced in 1999.  The mother has home-schooled their daughter since first grade with curriculum that meets all state review standards.  In addition to home schooling, the girl attends supplemental public school classes and has also been involved in a variety of extra-curricular sports activities.

In the process of renegotiating the terms of a parenting plan for the girl, the guardian ad litem involved in the case concluded, according to the court order, that the girl “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith” and that the girl’s interests “would be best served by exposure to a public school setting” and “different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief…in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”

Marital Master Michael Garner reasoned that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view” and then recommended that the girl be ordered to enroll in a government school instead of being home-schooled.  Judge Lucinda V. Sadler approved the recommendation and issued the order on July 14.

“The New Hampshire Supreme Court itself has specifically declared, ‘Home education is an enduring American tradition and right…,’” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson.  “There is clearly and without question no legitimate legal basis for the court’s decision, and we trust it will reconsider its conclusions.”

Simmons filed his motions and supporting brief in the case In the Matter of Kurowski and Kurowski (Voydatch) with the Family Division of the Judicial Court for Belknap County in Laconia.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

www.adfmedia.org

Note: Facts in ADF news releases are verified prior to publication but may change over time. Members of the media are encouraged to contact ADF for the latest information on this matter.

Thank God for the ADF. Who else would be able to fight cases like this which infringe on our religious and parental freedoms?

Posted in Law & Politics, News Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

January 18th, 2009 by M. French

Editor’s Note: For more information on abortion, including video of the actual procedure (WARNING: Graphic Content), go to www.abortionno.org

From Bound4Life:

Abortion Worldwide

Annually, 46 million babies die from abortion worldwide. That’s approximately one baby being aborted every two seconds.

Abortion in the United States

An estimated 48 million babies have been aborted since 1973. Approximately 24% of all U.S. pregnancies end in abortion.

Characteristics of Women Having Abortions

  • Over half (56%) of all women having abortions between 15-44 are in their 20’s.
  • Nearly eight in 10 U.S. women obtaining an abortion report a religious affiliation.
    • 43% are Protestant
    • 27% are Catholic
    • 8% are other religions
  • 41% of women having abortions are white, 32% are black, and 20% are hispanic.

  • Black and Hispanic women have higher abortion rates than non-Hispanic white women. Black women’s abortion rates are 49 per 1,000, Hispanic women’s are 33 per 1,000 and non-Hispanic white women’s are 13 per 1,000.
  • According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the most recurrent characteristics of women having abortions over time are nonwhite, poor and unmarried.

Reasons For Abortion

  • 98% Personal Choice (unwanted or inconvenient)
  • 1.7% Life/Health of Mother or Child
  • .3% Rape/Incest

Abortion by Gestational Age

African American Community

  • According to the CDC, each year 616,074 African Americans are born.
  • 458,500 babies will have died from abortion.
  • 284,877 blacks will have died that same year through anything from natural causes to heart disease.
  • There are 743,377 Africans Americans dying yearly. This number is 127,303 more than those that are born.
  • From 1973 to 2004, nearly 30% of the black population were erased through abortion. Out of the average 4,400 babies dying daily that are reported abortions, an estimated 1,300 are African American. They account for 32% of women having abortions yearly, yet make up only 13% of the American population. African American women are 3 times as likely to have an abortion than other women.

Posted in News, Revolution & Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

November 11th, 2008 by M. French

At the funeral of a family member recently, the pastor of the church at which the funeral was held recounted how in the last weeks of the deceased man’s life, he had met with and preached the gospel to him.  The man was literally dying of alcoholism, and it was apparent he had only a little time to live.  After weeks of rejecting the evangelistic offerings of the pastor, the man finally answered the pastor’s question of “How do you know you’ll be in heaven when you die?” with a response acknowledging that he had asked Jesus to be his savior.  A few days later he was dead.

The story was encouraging, knowing the sinful and God-rejecting life my family member had lived, however, the pastor’s proclamation following the account gave me pause.  He told the people at the service that because of the man’s profession, he was now in heaven, and that if we wanted to meet him after our death, that we needed to accept Jesus as well.  Perhaps it was because I had been intensively praying and studying on the subject of Hell at the time, but the declaration the pastor made rang in my ears.  He wasn’t simply sharing his religious beliefs… he was making a prophecy!  And a very bold prophecy at that, considering the way the deceased had lived his life, and the lack of evidence of authentic conversion and repentance.  (Did Paul not say that drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God?)

I asked myself, did this pastor really know that this person was in Heaven?  Had he with fear and trembling searched the scriptures and received revelation from Heaven that he was accepted in God’s sight?  Or was he simply following his particular denomination’s statement of faith, noting that the man had performed the correct religious ritual to attain salvation?  What a profound and ultimate prophecy we utter when we pronounce judgment on what a person’s fate will be at the great resurrection of the dead, I hope and pray it is taken seriously.

When we share our faith with others, are we simply giving our or our denomination’s opinion on the matter?  Or are we declaring with authority that which we know to be true? Some church movements advocate having flexible “conversations” rather than proclaiming our beliefs to people as truth, and surely this is the best approach to take if we are not sure we are right on a particular subject.  However, if we are not absolutely sure about core faith issues such as the resurrection and return of Jesus the Messiah, then whatever we may be, we are not the Church that Jesus and the Apostles founded, and should not identify ourselves as such.  (Perhaps philosophical social club would be a better word?)

So, if authentic faith in Jesus requires the proclamation of the good news as fact rather than opinion, what is the manner in which it should be proclaimed? I would like to propose a paradigm shift in evangelism away from sharing our beliefs, and to proclaiming a prophetic gospel.  Consider the following account of Paul in Athens:

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.  So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.  And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”–because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.  And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD ‘ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst.

— Acts 17:16-33, NASB

In the midst of a people that loved to hear about new ideas, Paul proclaims He who is the ultimate end to what they had been searching for.  Rather than submitting his beliefs into the mix as one more idea to consider,  perhaps hoping for his message to be considered more logical or more attractive than others, he supersedes all other ideas by declaring to know and speak on behalf of the creator of all ideas.  The god that was unknown to the Athenians was no longer unknown to them, Paul was proclaiming to them who He was, and in the process was showing the Athenians who they were. Are we missing part of the real and authentic gospel, if we retreat from speaking with such authority and conviction?

Paul ends his appeal with a startling prophecy.  A day is coming in which all men everywhere will be raised from the dead for the purposes of judgment, God has proven it by raising the one who will do the judging from the dead already, and they therefore need to repent of their ignorance and sin and believe in this man of judgment.  Rather than merely a doctrinal point to be studied, this was a startling prophecy that had real application to the people he was talking to.  Either he was right or he was wrong, but the men hearing the prophecy didn’t simply “appreciate” it as a “beautiful religious belief”… he was either a lunatic or a man to be taken very, very seriously.  Both responses can be seen in the text.

When we preach the gospel, it is both the fullfilment of prophecy and prophecy itself.  Every word of God is precious, and just as there is a grave need to jealously guard our speech with regard to individual prophecies and revelations we give, we need to guard the universal prophecies that the Body of the Messiah has been given stewardship over in this time, the premier one being an expectation for salvation through Jesus both now and at His returning.  As we guard it, let us also proclaim it in the spirit in which it was first given, when the gospel was by its very nature prophetic.

Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , ,