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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label America. Show all posts

Friday, March 16, 2018

What Drives a Cult Leader like David Koresh?

Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Government had surrounded the compound of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, embroiled in a stand-off that would last 51 days and tragically ended in gunfire with 75 of the 84 people inside dead, including children.

I was recently interviewed by Brody Harness for a research project he was doing on the siege and I thought these questions were very poignant and valuable to better understand the cult leader and others like him. Here's a copy of that interview.

Briefly, the Branch Davidians were a group of religious believers whose version of biblical theology was explicated by David Koresh. Many of their important beliefs, and the reason they lived communally at a compound, Mt. Carmel, centered on Koresh's interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Can you shed light on this group directly (or perhaps generally) based on similar groups who focus on Revelations?

The Branch Davidians were an offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist movement. The emphasis on the Book of Revelation comes from their focus on the end times scenarios. The term “Adventist” stems from the word advent which refers to the coming of Christ. Just as we celebrate Christ's first coming before Christmas and call it the season of advent, advent can also refer to His second coming. Most modern Adventist groups, such as the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses find their origin in an early 1800's preacher named William Miller, who preached that Jesus would return in 1844. He became very popular and gained a wide following. The subsequent failure of Miller's prediction is known as The Great Disappointment.

When Jesus didn't return as expected, the “Millerites” (who preferred the name Adventists) started coming up with alternate explanations, such as Jesus had returned invisibly (Jehovah's Witnesses) or Jesus came into the heavenly Holy of Holies and ended the age of grace, and is now beginning his period of Investigative Judgment (Seventh-Day Adventists).

The Branch Davidians splintered off the SDA back in the 1930s when a leading Adventist in the Los Angeles area, Victor Houteff, began teaching the church wasn't being holy enough. David Koresh's mother was a member of a Texas SDA church and Koresh himself was also a member for a while, before being attracted to the Davidian sect. According to Apologetics Index,  Koresh claimed to be God's agent, (and ultimately taught his followers that he was divine) and instructed those that followed him to preparing themselves for Jesus's return.

Part of the governments “case” for treating the Branch Davidians as they did was the fact that David Koresh was legally married to a cult member when she was just 14 years old, and that he was fathering children with the wives of the other adult males, while banning all other sexual relationships within the church. The government felt children were endangered at Mt. Carmel by these practices which did not appear to be the case according to some sources close to the investigation; however, it did appear to reflect and elevate Koresh's psychological hold on the group. Can you discuss some of the dynamics of sex/family/religion practices? (Again, either specifically with the Branch Davidians, or generally in cults.)

Sex drove a lot of Koresh's desires. Even in the mid 1980s, Koresh began taking on multiple wives as he also started establishing himself as a leader within the Davidian movement. He was a polygamist and saw himself as taking a role akin to David in the Old Testament establishing the Davidic Kingdom of Israel (thus the Davidians portion of the name.)

Since David had multiple wives in the Old Testament, Koresh felt that justified him to also have multiple wives.  Of course, as his power and following grew, he became more and more self-absorbed, something that is typical of cult leaders. His doctrines “departed radically from the essential doctrines of the Christian faith”1 and he demanded total control over his followers, cutting off outside ties and subjecting them to various physical and mental abuses.2

There was a general belief by the FBI and ATF that the Branch Davidians had a suicide pact and this was part of the federal government's decision making process which led to a military rather than law enforcement approach with the Branch Davidians. From what you know, was this assumption rational? Would it have been more rational in the 1993?

There are two pieces that powered the concern by the authorities at the standoff. The first is that David Koresh had a known history of violence, since he and some of his early followers took control of the Davidian compound in a gunfight with then-leader George Roden. But the biggest spectre in everyone's mind was the Jonestown Massacre of 1978. There, another charismatic leader, Jim Jones, took a large group of followers from California to the jungles of Guyana and created a commune. He ultimately convinced his followers to commit suicide by drinking cyanide placed in Kool-Aid. Those that didn't or were too young were forcibly given the poison.

The loss of those 908 people, along with the prior shooting of U.S congressman Leo Ryan who sought to investigate Jones' alleged human rights abuses gave the public grave concern that a similar event would take place in Waco.

I don't think we are any more or less likely today to come to a different conclusion. Religiously motivated actions have taken on a deeper suspicion in our culture. The powers that be may not jump immediately to a suicide cult assumption; I believe the suspicion would still exist. It is the aftermath and criticism of the Waco siege itself that tempers actions now.

When the government attacked, surrounded, and eventually destroyed the compound in 1993, the Branch Davidians interpreted all of the government's aggression as fulfillment of prophecy. Koresh probably contributed to the destruction of his community by insisting that they were being “tested” and if they left the compound they would lose their place in the kingdom to come. Koresh also provoked the ATF and FBI by repeatedly promising and stalling surrender to complete writing his own revelation which would be released publically. Is there a psychological profile, maybe narcissism or delusions of grandeur, which characterizes charismatic leaders like Koresh?

Absolutely. Jim Jones, David Koresh, L. Ron Hubbard, David Miscavige, and even Joseph Smith all exhibit this kind of self-absorption. In all these cases, you have a single individual who tells others that he alone has the true and secret knowledge of God/salvation/eternity and everyone else needs to listen to him. As he gains adherents and adulation, it feeds his narcissism and for most groups one can see their doctrine devolve more and more.  With all the men above, their paranoia and desire for control escalated as well.

Finally, do you have thoughts about government (law enforcement) interference with the free practice of religion –like the Branch Davidians, or polygamists or other cults?
All rights have limits. Everyone recognizes one's right to free speech, but you cannot yell “fire” in a crowded movie house. Similarly, one's right to practice the freedom to worship does not include the physical abuse of children or child rape. The difficulty is in finding where that line begins and ends.
We all agree that keeping thirteen children half-starved in a shack with some chained to their beds is no longer simply exercising one's freedom of religion, but is homeschooling abuse? Is corporal punishment abuse? The questions get complicated pretty quickly.

For the most port, the government has given the benefit of the doubt to the religious organizations. Scientology is a good example of a modern day American cult who engages in psychological techniques and even imprisonment of its disobedient members that the government has not interfered with.

Any other ideas you would like to share on this subject?

The big thing to remember in Waco, Jonestown, and other cult situations is that these are fringe groups that were cults in both the religious and the sociological definitions. Those definitions are important, too, for one can be a cult sociologically but not have a religious basis. Charles Manson and the Manson family would be an example of a non-religious cult. Of course Manson used the Bible to try and justify his views, but he also used the Beatles and his followers were more concerned about race relations than become God's chosen.

Sociological cult leaders will use religion simply because it is easier to talk of mysteries where they can give their “inside knowledge” that gullible people will accept. Even Hitler used religion as a motivator.

For more on the making of a religious cult, see my articles:
Thanks for the interview! Let me know if I can be of any more help.

1. "The Branch Davidians." Christian Research Institute, 04 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2018.
2. Ibid.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Why Virtue Matters in Politics

Today, as Americans across the country select the next Commander in Chief, many go to the polls with trepidation at the choices set before us. Does character matter in a candidate? In surveying the charges against character, it seems a lot of political supporters believe character only matters if your opponent shows a deficiency. If it is the candidate you support, then poor character may be excused.

I'm not pointing to a specific candidate in my remarks today. Neither presidential contender could be described as virtuous in any sense of the word. But this cavalier attitude towards character is disturbing. I believe our Founding Fathers were smart men who understood some of the dangers that could befall our freedoms and created a system of checks and balances so that should one branch of government become corrupt, it would be restrained by the other two.

However, one thing the Fathers could never guard against is if the American people as a whole became unprincipled and selfish. That would be the grains of sand that would bring the whole engine to a stop. John Adams, when writing to the Massachusetts Militia made this abundantly clear:
But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, … while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.#1
Is there another way than "assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance" to describe a people who bludgeon those seeking to live out long-established religious beliefs in the name of tolerance while accepting those who have proven themselves to disregard law or common decency in their arrogance? Virtue does matter. Without it our government will no longer function to secure the freedom of people but will crumble to an oligarchy serving only a privileged few.


Adams, John. "From John Adams to Massachusetts Militia, 11 October 1798." National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, 2 Feb. 1999. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.
Image courtesy Erik (HASH) Hersman and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Finding Christian Hope in This Election Cycle

Today is the National Day of Prayer and I know a lot of Christians who are praying for this country more than ever before. Principled people are faced with two choices for leading our country, each of whom has acted in ways demonstrating a complete lack of moral grounding. As one young evangelical mom told Senator Ben Sasse, "I want to cry. I disagree with Hillary Clinton on almost every single thing – but I will vote for her before Trump. I could never tell my kids later that I voted for that man."1 As I said yesterday, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift where the abandonment of truth and community standards for individual desires is coming home to roost.

Like the lady above, a lot of people I talk with are feeling more and more hopeless. They don't want their daughters sharing a bathroom with a grown man, yet even the courts are demanding we ignore the reality of biology over something that is not yet defined or testable. They worry about their kids and the kind of world they will inherit. For people of faith, it will definitely get harder. What's a Christian to do?

There is hope to be found in the events we see today. It's a very specific kind of hope, one that comes about as the result of hard times. Paul explained to the Romans how hope is developed in the Christian:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
This is the hope of the New Testament. It isn't a hope of changing circumstances. Because of our great blessings, we've mixed up the hope spoken of by the apostles with hoping that easy times are ahead. But that isn't the way the Bible uses the word.The Bible teaches that this world is corrupt and needs to be judged. It isn't a hope in a political figure who will move things in a particular direction. We know that no one is good but God alone. The hope we have is that even as the world gets darker and our struggles more difficult, God will use those to develop our reliance upon him alone.

As the world gets darker, I do have more hope. I can see how the lines are being more clearly drawn than before. I can see how it may soon cost every Christian something to claim the name of Christ. That won't be easy and I don't wish pain upon anyone, but it will make people take their beliefs more seriously than it has in the past.

The hope we have is a hope that God will at one point put everything right again. In the meantime, I cling to the fact that God will be working in me to produce the endurance and good character he desires me to have. I trust in him and my hope drives my ministry. Not simply hope for a future event but faith in his providence leading each of us today and every day, even when it looks crazy out there.

So rejoice today, Christian. If God is real then there is hope to be found.


1. Sasse, Ben. "An Open Letter to Majority America." Ben Sasse Facebook Page. Facebook, 04 Mar. 2016. Web. 05 May 2016.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Make Your Thanksgiving Meaningful: A Collection of Writings

Thanksgiving is a unique holiday in the United States. It recognizes and promotes religious observance in the form of thanking God for His provision not only for our personal lives but for our nation as a whole. In reality, the United States is still a nation of people who hold the spiritual in high regard. You can see that by reviewing some of the past proclamations by our elected representatives as well as how Thanksgiving came to be a recognized holiday in America.

While I'm sure some atheist factions have complained about the supposed conflict between church and state on this one, none have been able to effectively challenge the holiday in a meaningful manner. However, what the atheists have not been able to accomplish, the merchants very well may.

Below, I've collected many of the Thanksgiving observations, quotes, and reflections to help you find the true meaning of the holiday. I personally make sure I reflect and thank God for all he has done for me and blessed me with in the past years and in the years to come.

Reflecting on the Meaning of Thanksgiving

Past Thanksgiving Proclamations

How We're Losing the Thanksgiving Tradition

From all of us at Come Reason, have a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

William Bradford on the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and across the nation, people will be gathering and reflecting on the blessings they've had over the year. Such a tradition goes all the way back to the very first Pilgrims who had far less to be thankful for. William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth Colony, wrote in his diary just how large the toll was upon the settlers at Plymouth. Reflecting on the hardships of that first year, he writes:
But here I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amazed at this poor people's present condition; and so I think will the reader too, when he well considers the same. Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by that which went before), they had now no friends to welcome them, nor inns to entertain or refresh their weather-beaten bodies, no houses or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succor. It is recorded in scripture as a mercy to the apostle and his shipwrecked company, that the barbarians showed no small kindness in refreshing them, but these savage barbarians, when they met with them (as after will appear) were readier to fill their sides full of arrows then otherwise. And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent and subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search an unknown coast. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men? …

Let it also be considered what weak hopes of supply and succor they left behind them, that might bear up their minds in this sad condition and trials they were under; and they could not but be very small. It is true, indeed, the affections and love of their brethren at Leyden was cordial and entire towards them, but they had little power to help them, or themselves; and how the case stood between them and the merchants at their coming away, hath already been declared. What could now sustain them but the spirit of God and his grace?

May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: "Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and he heard their voice, and looked on their adversity, etc. Let them therefore praise the Lord, because he is good, and his mercies endure forever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, show how he hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry, and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord his loving kindness, and his wonderful works before the sons of men.1
Of the 102 passengers that boarded the Mayflower for the new world, 51 died prior to that first Thanksgiving. 2 There were only seven dwellings erected the first year3, meaning the Pilgrims dug graves at seven times the rate as they built houses, yet they give thanks to God for "his loving kindness, and his wonderful works before the sons of men." Something to remember as you give thanks.


1. Bradford, William. "Of Plymouth Plantation: 1620-1647." The Plymouth Colony Archive Project. Patricia Scott Deetz and Christopher Fennell, 26 April 2003. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
2. "List of Mayflower Passengers Who Died in the Winter of 1620–21." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
3. Gale, Nahum. The Pilgrims' First Year in New England. Boston: Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 1857. Print. 145.
Image courtesy and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Christian View of Halloween (podcast)

Halloween is rapidly approaching and once again Christians are faced with the most overtly pagan holiday on the calendar. What are the origins of Halloween and should we allow our kids to Trick or Treat? In this podcast series, Lenny looks at the history of the Christian tradition of All Hallow's Eve and shows that you may be wrong in your assumptions on this very American holiday.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Search for God is Growing-Online

Last week an interesting article appeared in the New York Times looking at Google searches about God and religion. The article stated that search trends—how people look up things on Google and other search engines—is another piece of evidence showing the slide away from religious belief.

Writer Seth Stephens-Davidowitz offers several examples in the piece:
Despite the rising popularity of Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, Google searches for churches are 15 percent lower in the first half of this decade than they were during the last half of the previous one. Searches questioning God's existence are up. Many behaviors that he supposedly abhors have skyrocketed. Porn searches are up 83 percent. For heroin, it's 32 percent.1
If that wasn't disheartening enough, Stephens-Davidowitz tried to broaden his examination to include concepts such as how to treat one's neighbor:
"Love thy neighbor" is the most common search with the word "neighbor" in it, but right behind at No. 2 is "neighbor porn." The top Google search including the word "God" is "God of War," a video game, with more than 700,000 searches per year. The No. 1 search that includes "how to" and "Walmart" is "how to steal from Walmart," beating all questions related to coupons, price-matching or applying for a job.2

What Does It Mean?

As Stephens-Davidowitz notes, one cannot assume too much from the data. People Google things all the time that they may be partly confused on or even things that they do believe, but don't quite know how to explain. In fact, the article even stipulates that in more spiritually active areas of the country should show an uptick in searches about God. "If people somewhere are searching a lot about a topic, it is overwhelming evidence those people are very interested in that topic. Jambalaya recipes are searched mostly in Louisiana; Lakers statistics are searched mostly in Los Angeles."3

I think it's interesting what Stephens-Davidowitz uses as a comparison to the declining searches for God: neighbor porn, how to steal from Wal-Mart, heroin. It's as if the author was trying to correlate the increase in lasciviousness with the decline in religious belief.  Perhaps, but it simply could show that without religion people become more self-absorbed. With no deity to believe in, you aren't ultimately accountable to anyone but yourself.

The Opportunity for Witness

The key to the article, though, isn't that smut searches are on the rise. It is that the people who have questions about God are taking them not to a pastor but online:
The No. 1 question in the country is "who created God?" Second is why God allows suffering. This is the famous problem of evil. If God is all powerful and all good, how could he allow suffering? The third most-asked question is why does God hate me? The fourth is why God needs so much praise.4
Stephens-Davidowitz is correct when he explains "People may not share their doubts with friends, relatives, rabbis, pastors or imams. They inevitably share them with Google." That means ministries that give good answers to these kinds of objections need to not only be online, but need to be Google-friendly. That's why I've been doing online apologetics and evangelism since 1996. The mission field is now a digital one. That's where people are looking and that's where those who wish to topple Christianity are trying to capture the seekers. We need to be there, too.

Of course, it's difficult. This ministry runs on an extremely limited budget and we could use more help to reach even more people. If you'd like to help support the online efforts of Come Reason to provide real answers to those who are questioning God, just click here. We greatly appreciate your support.


1. Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth. "Googling for God." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.
2. Stephens-Davidowitz, 2015.
3. Stephens-Davidowitz, 2015.
4. Stephens-Davidowitz, 2015.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Those Guilty of Doing Nothing in the Face of Evil

On October 27, 2009, a 15 year old girl went to her homecoming dance being held at the gymnasium of Richmond High School in Richmond, California. She was attacked outside the building and for some 2-1/2 hours was gang raped while as many as 20 bystanders looked on and did nothing.1 In October of 2012, a man is savagely beaten, robbed, and stripped of his clothes while onlookers laughed and filmed the event on their phones (clips of which can be seen here.)2 Jose Robles, manager of a Manhattan deli, after being beaten and mugged, complained from his hospital bed that no one stepped in to answer his cried for help. Instead, "people were watching and they were having a good time filming" the crime he said.3

Many people wonder how or why otherwise upright individuals could so callously ignore someone in need. Why wouldn't anyone help? In some situations, actually having a lot of people know about a heinous situation diminishes the desire for people to step in. Because of perceived social cues and reluctance to stick out, people will shy away from helping until they see others do so. The phenomenon is known as "the bystander effect" in psychology circles.4

The Bystander Effect

In her article on the bystander effect,5 Dr. Melissa Burkley references a landmark series of experiments conducted by John Darley and Bibb Latane. There they found two main components driving the lack of involvement by others. The first she dubs "pluralistic ignorance" and uses an example of a child who's splashing wildly in a pool. Upon seeing the child, you may survey the other adults in the pool area to see if anyone else is bothered by her actions. If they are concerned the child is drowning, you would dive in to rescue her. If they're indifferent, you may conclude nothing's wrong. But if no one knows and they all are looking at each other, then a false message is communicated.

The second factor of the bystander effect is what Burkley labels "diffusion of responsibility." She explains:
When you are the only eyewitness present, 100% of the responsibility for providing help rests on your shoulders. But if there are five eyewitnesses, only 20% of the responsibility is yours. The responsibility becomes defused or dispersed among the group members. In these situations, people may assume that someone else will help or that someone else is better qualified to provide assistance. But if everyone assumes this, then no one will intervene.6
It shouldn't be a revelation that those who succumb to the bystander effect are wrong. Even Jesus taught against it in his parable of the Good Samaritan. As beings who are morally aware, every person has a duty to help those in need. To watch others and assume you carry only a fraction of the moral responsibility in a dire situation is to allow evil to persist. Even if one is unsure, as in the pool example, there is nothing improper for a person to walk toward the edge of the pool and ask the child if she is in distress. An inquiry is preferable to a child's death.

Bystander Effect and Planned Parenthood

I bring this up because I'm seeing the bystander effect writ large in our society today. Millions of Christians as well as others are ignoring the evil of Planned Parenthood's extracting live babies from their mothers wombs in order to cut them apart and sell them off piece by piece. A few folks have written to me and asked "Why aren't people more upset about this?" As I've stated before, if public outcry can spur legislation within a month to ban confederate flags or one lion's death can ignite indignation across the country via social media, then certainly the lives of the most defenseless of human beings should be worth our time and effort. To ignore it or assume others will carry on with the fight is wrong.

There are many ways you can make a difference in the effort. First, if you haven't done so, make sure you watch the videos. I've linked to them all here. You don't have to watch the full footage, but the ten videos to date are damning evidence that this isn't manipulation or slick editing. Secondly, share them. Share them a lot. Voice your outrage at this barbarism. You can also follow some of the suggestions I've outlined here. And if you'd like to pass on some answers to the objections Planned Parenthood supporters are raising, check out the links to the articles below.

We must act in this crisis and not wait for others. As Carly Fiorina stated in the Republican Presidential debate on September 16, 2015:
I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully-formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation.7
It's also about the character of each of us as individuals.


1. CNN. "Police: As Many as 20 Present at Gang Rape outside School Dance." CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2009. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
2. Sylvester, Lisa. "Onlookers Jeer as Man Is Beaten, Stripped and Robbed in Baltimore." CNN. Cable News Network, 9 Apr. 2012. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
3. Burke, Kerry, Tina Moore, and Bill Hutchinson. "Port Authority Attack Victim Angry at Do-nothing Witnesses." NY Daily News., 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
4. Burkley, Melissa, PhD. "Why Don't We Help? Less Is More, at Least When It Comes to Bystanders." Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 4 Nov. 2009. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.
5. Burkley, 2009.
6. Burkley, 2009.
7. Beckwith, Ryan Teague. "Transcript: Read the Full Text of the Second Republican Debate." TIME. Time, Inc., 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 17 Sept. 2015. .

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Selfishness Dismembers the Family and Sells off Its Parts

The third in a recent series of undercover videos has just been released and it is more gruesome than imagined. While the last two videos reveal how high ranking Planned Parenthood executives are not merely complicit in the selling of aborted baby organs, but they will actually haggle about price (see here and here). Now, we get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the "Procurement Technicians" sifting through the remains of an 11 week old fetus to pick out the best parts to sell. It's horrifying.

I find it interesting these videos have come to light just now, within one month of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision where five Supreme Court justices manufactured the right forcing homosexual unions to be recognized as marriage in all fifty states. We are seeing two symptoms of a single shift in the understanding of what is the function of family in society.

Rooting Family in Biology

What is a family? The use of the word has become flexible today, but it had a common meaning for most of its existence tied to procreation. Aristotle explained "the most natural form of the village appears to be that of a colony from the family, composed of the children and grandchildren, who are said to be suckled 'with the same milk.'"1 Lewis Henry Morgan, in his foundational study of human relationships, declared that family has its roots in kinship, what he called "a community of blood."2 Morgan held we order ourselves based on two principles: common lineage and the coupling of man and woman in matrimony.3 Marriage was the event that made families possible and children were understood to be the natural result. Both were considered necessary and valuable for the survival of the community and humanity.

However, that view has been largely lost in the modern world. We have moved from understanding the family as building block of society to believing the individual is. Two legal movements of the early 1970s highlight this change: the spread of no-fault divorce and the legalization of abortion services.

The Corrupting Influence of No-Fault Divorce

Prior to California's passage of the nation's first no-faulty divorce law in 1970, a married person was required to sue for divorce and show cause why the union should be dissolved. The law assumed that a married person has an obligation to the other spouse, to their children, and to the community at large. In a divorce, the spouse in a weaker financial position is harmed.4 Also, if one were to sue for divorce, the offending spouse would be identified as the cause of the separation, be it because of adultery -abuse, or something else. As attorney Rudy Jaworski explains, "There is no need under a no-fault divorce to establish that the other party has done anything wrong, and this allows the spouses to protect their reputations."5 W. Bradford Wilcox states:
Prior to the late 1960s, Americans were more likely to look at marriage and family through the prisms of duty, obligation, and sacrifice. A successful, happy home was one in which intimacy was an important good, but by no means the only one in view…

But the psychological revolution's focus on individual fulfillment and personal growth changed all that. Increasingly, marriage was seen as a vehicle for a self-oriented ethic of romance, intimacy, and fulfillment. In this new psychological approach to married life, one's primary obligation was not to one's family but to one's self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one's spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage.6

Babies as Accessories

The drive for individual fulfillment that Wilcox mentions also drove another paradigm shift, one that focused on children. Earlier in the decade, medical discoveries such as the birth control pill cleaved sex from procreation. One could thus seek physical fulfillment with one spouse, many spouses, or no spouse at all without having to worry about the normative result of intercourse: pregnancy. But the pill wasn't full proof; children were still being conceived especially out of wedlock. These children would certainly curb the "individual fulfillment and personal growth" of both unmarried participants. Therefore, in 1972 the Supreme Court ruled abortion a right, paving the way for the slaughter of millions of unborn children. Thus, we live in a society where killing babies for the sake of our own pleasure is legal.

The Culmination of Self-Fulfillment Above All

Today, we are seeing the fruition of the culture of self-absorption. The concept of marriage has been completely divorced from the reality of strengthening the community and providing us with well-adjusted future generations, for homosexual unions are by definition incapable of doing either. Instead, as Don Verrilli argued before the Supreme Court, "The opportunity to marry is integral to human dignity. Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of these couples." 7

It should be no surprise that we see the dismemberment of marriage and the dismemberment of babies come into public view at the same time. Both are the fruit of a tree that has been germinating for over forty years. The only question is whether we will want to do anything to change it.


1. Aristotle. "Politics" Book 1, II. The Internet Classics Archive. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. The Internet Classics Archive, 2009. Web. 28 July 2015.
2. Morgan, Lewis Henry. "Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family." Contributions to Knowledge. Vol. XVII. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Inst., 1871. 10. Print.
3. Morgan, 1871. 10ff.
4. Jaworski, Rudy. "Forty Years On, No-Fault Divorce Faces Scrutiny.", n.d. Web. 28 July 2015.
5. Jaworski, 2015.
6. Wilcox, W. Bradford. "The Evolution of Divorce." National Affairs. National Affairs, Inc., Fall 2009. Web. 28 July 2015.
7. Rosen, Jeffrey. "The Dangers of a Constitutional 'Right to Dignity'" The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Culture Demanding We Carry Their Donkey

Our society is changing more rapidly than anyone imagined. One of the primary drivers of this change is the ongoing demand that no one be offended. Christians who hold to certain religious principles are being fined and silenced because their refusal to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Apple banned historically accurate Civil War games from their app store because it featured the Confederate battle flag. Even in college campuses, the supposed haven for the free exchange of ideas, is rotted with demands for only inoffensive speech, equality of experience,  and relative morality.

The whole thing reminds me of a story I was told as a child. Aesop and his fables are not as well-known today, but he made certain truths more accessible to young minds. This story of the Miller, his son, and the donkey seems particularly fitting in our modern "offend no one" climate:
A Miller and his son were driving their Ass to a neighboring fair to sell him. They had not gone far when they met with a troop of women collected round a well, talking and laughing. "Look there," cried one of them, "did you ever see such fellows, to be trudging along the road on foot when they might ride?"

The old man hearing this, quickly made his son mount the Ass, and continued to walk along merrily by his side. Presently they came up to a group of old men in earnest debate. "There," said one of them, "it proves what I was a-saying. What respect is shown to old age in these days? Do you see that idle lad riding while his old father has to walk? Get down, you young scapegrace, and let the old man rest his weary limbs."

Upon this the old man made his son dismount, and got up himself. In this manner they had not proceeded far when they met a company of women and children: "Why, you lazy old fellow," cried several tongues at once, "how can you ride upon the beast, while that poor little lad there can hardly keep pace by the side of you?"

The good-natured Miller immediately took up his son behind him. They had now almost reached the town. "Pray, honest friend," said a citizen, "is that Ass your own?'

"Yes," replied the old man.

"O, one would not have thought so," said the other, "by the way you load him. Why, you two fellows are better able to carry the poor beast than he you."

"Anything to please you," said the old man; "we can but try." So, alighting with his son, they tied the legs of the Ass together and with the help of a pole endeavored to carry him on their shoulders over a bridge near the entrance to the town. This entertaining sight brought the people in crowds to laugh at it, till the Ass, not liking the noise nor the strange handling that he was subject to, broke the cords that bound him and, tumbling off the pole, fell into the river.

Upon this, the old man, vexed and ashamed, made the best of his way home again, convinced that by endeavoring to please everybody he had pleased nobody, and lost his Ass in the bargain.1
Right now, we’re a society that, in straining to never offend, is carrying the donkey on our shoulders. It has already cost us the natural understanding of marriage. What will it cost us next?


1. "The Miller, His Sone, and Their Ass." Aesop's Fables. 16 April 2012.Web.,_His_Son,_and_Their_Ass

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Living in a Post-Pagan Culture

We in the West are living in a post-Christian culture. Europe has been overtly secular for many years, but given the high percentage of the population in the U.S. who believe in God, identify with a specific Christian faith and state religion is very important to them. Yet, the recent Pew survey showed that mainstream Christianity has been losing adherents, especially with the Millennial generation.1

Even prior to the Pew survey, the influence of Christian beliefs had been clearly waning as we saw less and less evidence of the Christian worldview impacting the important moral questions of our day. Instead of the God of the Bible and his moral standard, most Americans hold to God as someone you pray to in order to escape trouble but doesn't require anything from you. It's akin to what researchers Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton labeled Moral Therapeutic Deism.2 The recent battles that Christians have had to fight in not servicing homosexual unions to maintain their religious integrity offers a clear sign that the country had left its Christian underpinnings. There should be no doubt that American—the last hold-out in the West—has become post-Christian.

What are we trading Christianity for?

Of course, believers have lamented how a society built upon and existing because of a Christian worldview would now jettison its foundational principles for something that is not clearly defined. Most of the culture is moving to a feelings-based system of judgment.

Take a recent letter to the Los Angeles Times. Reader E.J. Parker was opining on whether the Los Angeles should change the name of Robert E. Lee school and wrote, "For me, the deciding point is this: Were I an African American, how would I feel as a parent, sending my child to a school named for the great hero for the Confederacy?" That's the deciding point? Feelings? Yet, in all those lawsuits against Christian bakers, photographers, and wedding coordinators who wouldn't service a homosexual ceremony (and even a complaint against Christians who would), feelings are the impetus and the deciding factor.

So, what is in store for Western society now? Are we to slide back into paganism? No, that won't happen. A feelings-based society is further removed from Paganism than it is from a Christian society. C.S. Lewis explains:
For [those in a post-Christian society] neglect not only the law of Christ but even the Law of Nature as known by the Pagans. For now they do not blush at adultery, treachery, perjury, theft and the other crimes which I will not say Christian Doctors, but the pagans and the barbarous have themselves denounced.

They err who say "the world is turning pagan again." Would that it were! The truth is that we are falling into a much worse state.

"Post Christian man" is not the same as "pre-Christian man." He is as far removed as virgin is from widow: there is nothing in common except the want of a spouse: but there is a great difference between a spouse-to-come and a spouse lost.3
Lewis is exactly right here. Christianity provided the grounding for the equality of all men; it is unintelligible in paganism. The New Secularists who place all their emphasis on the feelings of others have taken that Christian idea and warped it to mean all people should be equally unoffended. The new concept only vaguely resembles Christian morality, but it is completely foreign to pagan Rome of Greece, where the conqueror is lauded as the supreme example of humanity.

The West has divorced itself from Christianity. Our society is now is selling off all those things that remind us of the relationship. But if Christianity built the house, bought the furniture, and created the traditions, what will our lives look like once all those things are gone? We cannot look to the pagan past as we have buried that husband long ago. This brave new world is unknown, and perhaps those who advocate for it should show a bit more caution before every bit of shelter is lost.


1. "America's Changing Religious Landscape: Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow." Rep. Pew Research Center, Washington D.C., 15 May 2015. Web.
2. Smith, Christian. "On "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" as U.S. Teenagers' Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith." Religion and Youth. Ed. Sylvia Collins-Mayo and Pink Dandelion. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2010. 46-57. Print.
3. Lewis, C. S., Wayne Martindale, and Jerry Root. The Quotable Lewis. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989. 482. Print.
Image courtesy Zoomar and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

How Did the Early Christians Influence Their Culture?

Christians are wondering how to deal with the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling forcing all fifty states to recognize homosexual unions as marriage. The decision was lauded by those on the left as the last word on the question. Corporations changed their social media icons to include the homosexual rainbow colors. Government agencies like the Department of Education and the White House showed their unabridged support for the decision. Many people saw themselves ostracized or compared to bigots or ISIS because of their Christian views, even from friends and family members.

The fallout from this court case clearly shows that Christianity is now an outsider faith. For those in the West, it is a position Christians hadn't experienced since prior to Constantine's ascension in Rome. We aren't used to such a position, but we can look to the actions of those who lived in even greater peril for to understand how to hold fast to our faith and still significantly impact a pagan society.

Learning from the Early Christians

The early church was also an outsider faith, viewed with suspicion and denounced in its first two hundred years, too. But even with life-threatening persecution, the early church not only grew, but changed minds and hearts. Christianity's critics originally condemned the faith as a dangerous superstition causing sedition. Pliny wrote to Emperor Trajan in AD 112 discussing the Christian problem, reporting "whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished."1

But near the end of the century, views of Christianity began to change. Galen of Pergamon was an influential Roman physician and philosopher. He described Christianity not as a superstition, but as a philosophy. He explains:
Most people are unable to follow any demonstrative argument consecutively; hence they need parables, and benefit from them just as we now see the people called Christians drawing their faith from parables and miracles, and yet sometimes acting in the same way as those who practice philosophy. For their contempt of death and of its sequel is patent to us every day, and likewise their restraint in cohabitation. For they include not only men but also women refrain from cohabitating all through their lives; and they also number individuals who, in self-discipline and self-control in matters of food and drink, and in their keen pursuit of justice, have attained a pitch not inferior to that of genuine philosophers. 2
According to Robert Wilken, such a characterization is significant. By speaking of Christianity as a philosophy, he gave the faith legitimacy not for regarding abstract ideas, but also of a guiding force for living. Wilken writes, "Philosophy in Galen's day had become less a way of thinking than a way of living. Although philosophers were the inheritors of intellectual traditions that dealt with great metaphysical issues… they had gone into the streets of the cities to address the populace and to offer men and women advice on how to live."3

Living Out Your Values

When we read Galen's account of Christians, we see that it is the impact of Christianity on the changed lives of the Christians. They no longer would cohabit, they would exercise self-discipline and self-control, and they sought justice for the wrongdoings they saw in their day. Wilken himself identifies this as the significant factor in seeing Christianity more positively. "What led him to call it a philosophy was the success Christians had in leading men and women to a life of virtue."4

Christians today need to follow the model of these early believers. We need to begin by exercising our self-discipline and self-control in our own lives. That's a difficult task. We must make hard judgments in our entertainment choices. We must respect marriage and hold those in our churches to the high standard that the Bible lays out for it. As Christians we should be different from the society and it should show.

It is the integrity of the early Christians in their personal lives that gave their arguments a gravity they wouldn't otherwise have. While I understand the outrage so many believers have shown for the Obergefell decision, our first step in making a difference in our society is to make a difference in our own lives. Perhaps then our arguments may become more persuasive with our critics.


1. Pliny, Letters 10.96-97. Accessed at
2. Wilken, Robert Louis. The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. New Haven: Yale UP, 1984. Print. 79.
3. Wilken, 1984.
4. Wilken, 1984.
Image courtesy Nick Thompson and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) License

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why Did the Culture Shift on Same-Sex Marriage? (video)

The Pew Research Center reports "in 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a 57% to 35% margin. Since then, support for same-sex marriage has steadily grown. Today, a majority of Americans (57%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 39% who oppose it."1

What changed?

In this video, Lenny looks at the rise of the homosexual rights movement. He traces the coordinated effort to de-vilify homosexuality by masking it in popular media and how the Church didn't offer any good arguments against the push by activists. He also tells why it isn't too late to reclaim the high ground in the same-sex marriage debate. This video is the first in a three part series on building the case against same-sex marriage.


1.Pew Research. "Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage." Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project. Pew Research Center, 07 June 2015. Web. 14 June 2015.
Images courtesy Håkan Dahlström and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Criticism of the Bible Demonstrates the Bible's Power

It is commonplace that those progressives who seek to reshape modern society into a vision of their own choosing will criticize biblical standards and even the Bible itself. Dismissed as out of date, backwards, and intolerant, they believe they can set a better standard. Yet, one must ask on what criteria will this panacea be based? With relativism the default position and hurt feelings an ideas measuring stick, the lines seem to be always moving.

In this excerpt for his book The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Vishal Mangalwadi aptly summarizes the problem with the modern critic's ideology and his ability to criticize at all:
Today, many people reject the Bible because they consider it to be irrational and irrelevant. Others believe it to be responsible for racial prejudices, sectarian bigotries, slavery, the oppression of women, the persecution of witches, opposition to science, the destruction of the environment, discrimination against homosexuals, and religious wars. However, this criticism itself reveals the powerful influence the Bible had during the last millennium. During that time, hardly any intellectual position or social practice could become mainstream in Christendom unless it could be defended on biblical grounds, real or mistaken; nor could beliefs and practices be challenged unless their opponents demonstrated that their call for reform was biblical.

Criticisms of the Bible are recognition of its unique cultural power. It has been the West's intellectual and moral compass, the "sacred canopy" (Peter Berger) that gave legitimacy to its values and institutions. The West's rejection of the Bible ushered in what historian Jacques Barzun called its "decadence." It brought an abrupt end to the Modern age just when Western civilization seemed set to win the world. Now, having amputated the Bible, the Western educational machinery is producing "strays," lost like [Nirvana's Kurt] Cobain. It can make good robots but it cannot even define a good man. The postmodern university can teach one how to travel to Mars but not how to live in one's home or nation.1


1. Mangalwadi, Vishal. The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011. 22.
Image courtesy LearningLark [CC BY 2.0].

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Today's Snake Oil Includes a Scalpel: The Damaging Treatment of Transgenderism

The Internet lit up yesterday when Vanity Fair unveiled photos of Bruce Jenner in his transitioned state as a woman. Immediately, cheers went up for Jenner, displayed as a 1940s Hollywood siren who now wishes to be called Caitlyn. An article on the American Civil Liberties Union site exhorted others to use Jenner's new name declaring:
It is important that people do actually call her Caitlyn.

Words matter and erasing the identity of trans people by calling them by their birth names and birth-assigned sex is an act of hatred — one that is inextricable from the brutal violence that so many trans people, particularly trans women of color, encounter just for existing in the world.

How we talk about trans people sets the tone for the world in which trans people live.

And because young trans people are dying by suicide and trans women of color are being murdered at alarming rates, those of us forming public narratives about trans celebrities have an obligation to tell those stories with care.1
I agree with the article that words matter and that lives matter. We should care about all people's lives and the difficult struggles they face. But it's because their lives are in danger that I will say the ACLU and the homosexual lobby are wrong to be pushing sexual reassignment surgery for people who feel uncomfortable with their body's sex. It's a dangerous falsehood that many times proves deadly to the patients that should have been helped.

Fifty Years of Results

The history of the modern transgender movement began about seventy years ago with three men: sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, endocrinologist Harry Benjamin, and psychologist John Money.2 Kinsey's sexual deviancies, who famously said "there are only three kinds of sexual abnormalities: abstinence, celibacy and delayed marriage" are well known. 3 Kinsey referred Barry, a 23 year old male with gender dysphoria to Benjamin in 1948, and though no U.S. hospitals would do the surgery, Benjamin encouraged Barry to have three operations performed in Germany.4 However, Benjamin never heard from his patient again, so we don't know how the surgery affected Barry long-term.5

Dr. John Money was a member of Benjamin's research team, and in 1967 he sought to change a two-year-old boy whose genitals had been damaged by a botched circumcision into a girl, reassuring the parents that the child would grow up never knowing the difference. But as the Los Angeles Times reported, "the gender conversion was far from successful. Money's experiment was a disaster for Reimer that created psychological scars he ultimately could not overcome." David Reimer committed suicide at the age of 38.6 Yet that gap proved to be enough time for Money to advance his agenda that sex is fluid and changeable, and to legitimize transsexual surgery in the minds of many around the country.

Responding to these initial success reports, the prestigious Johns Hopkins University formed a clinic to facilitate transitioning patients to their desired sex with John Money as a co-founder. Dr. Paul McHugh, the director of psychiatry and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center sought to find evidential support for this treatment and began studying patients both in pre and post-operative stages of treatment. His study revealed two things: First, 70% - 80% of children who report transgender feelings spontaneously lost those feelings when they were left alone. That means the vast majority of patients left to themselves would identify as their biological sex. It's the counseling and initial treatments that make these patients continue to believe they're the wrong sex.

Secondly, McHugh found that post-surgery, the patients' mental health issues did not go away. He said, "Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as 'satisfied' by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn't have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a 'satisfied' but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs."7

Suicides of Post-Operative Transsexuals Incredibly High

McHugh notes that a very recent (2011) study pout of Sweden followed 324 patients for a period of up to thirty years after they underwent sex-reassignment surgery. Unlike Benjamin and Money's reports, this study has strong evidence for the efficacy of SRS. McHugh Reports:
The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.8
In 2010, National Center for Transgender Equality produced a survey reporting that a staggering 41% of those who identify as transgendered have attempted to commit suicide. 9 A study of 425 patients who were currently in treatment receiving hormone therapies found "the number of deaths in male-to-female transsexuals was five times the number expected, due to increased numbers of suicide and death of unknown cause."10

Dr. Charles Ihlenfeld was a partner to Harry Benjamin and worked with him for six years. But when Ihlenfeld discovered the findings of McHugh, he too announced that most patients suffering from Gender dysphoria shouldn't begin transitioning. "There is too much unhappiness among people who have had the surgery…Too many end in suicide" he said.11

Why is Culture Buying the Snake Oil?

Today, there is really no excuse to continue the charade that SMS is a proper treatment for gender dysphoria. We know the story of Mike Penner, the LA Times sports reporter who became Christine Daniels only to switch back and ultimately take his own life. It was a very visible public display of what the transgender lobby doesn't want to admit: your body's sex is not the source of the patient's problems.

There are people who feel that some part of their body is foreign to them. They are officially diagnosed as having Body Integration Identity Disorder. Those people seek to amputate the limb or whatever part they feel alien to. However, I know of no doctor or mental health professional who would amputate a healthy limb simply because of the belief of the patient that it doesn't belong there. Yet, that is exactly what our media and the transgender lobby is pushing for with Jenner and others. Chase Strangio and the ACLU don't care about saving lives, they care about advancing their agenda! Transsexualism is snake oil with a fifty year track record of failure that ends with many patients committing suicide. We need to focus on that cause, not on surgeries that amputate healthy organs.

In the words of Dr. McHugh:
At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. "Sex change" is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.12
Let's not let the media circus over Jenner distort the fact that this is a dangerous road and we shouldn't be enabling him and others by cheering him on.


1. Strangio, Chase. "Call Her Caitlyn But Then Let's Move on to the Issues Affecting the Trans Community." American Civil Liberties Union. American Civil Liberties Union, 1 June 2015. Web. 02 June 2015.
2. Heyer, Walt. ""Sex Change" Surgery: What Bruce Jenner, Diane Sawyer, and You Should Know." Public Discourse. The Witherspoon Institute, 27 Apr. 2015. Web. 02 June 2015.
3. Crain, Caleb. " Alfred Kinsey: Liberator or Pervert?." The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Oct. 2004. Web. 02 June 2015.
4. Schaefer, Leah Cahan, and Connie Christine Wheeler. "Harry Benjamin's First Ten Cases (1938-1953): A Clinical Historical Note." Archives of Sexual Behavior 24.1 (1995): 73-93. Print.
5. Schaefer, 1995.
6. Woo, Elaine. "David Reimer, 38; After Botched Surgery, He Was Raised as a Girl in Gender Experiment." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 13 May 2004. Web. 02 June 2015.
7. McHugh, Paul. "Transgender Surgery Isn't the Solution." Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc., 12 June 2014. Web. 02 June 2015.
8. McHugh, 2014.
9. Moskowitz, Clara. "Transgender Americans Face High Suicide Risk.", 19 Nov. 2010. Web. 02 June 2015.
10. Asscheman, H., L.j.g. Gooren, and P.l.e. Eklund. "Mortality and Morbidity in Transsexual Patients with Cross-gender Hormone Treatment." Metabolism 38.9 (1989): 869-73. Web.
11. Heyer, 2015.
12. McHugh, 2014.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Can Governments Define Marriage? (video)

The issue of what marriage is who should be allowed to marry is making headlines around the world. With the homosexual lobby pushing for states to recognize same-sex marriage, it becomes more important than ever to understand just what marriage means and who has control over its definition.

In this video, Lenny explains that marriage stems not from any law or court decision, but from the same source as human equality: natural law. Thus marriage, like human equality, cannot be redefined.

Image courtesy Fibonacci Blue [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 18, 2015

What Isn't Being Talked about in the Pew Study

The recent Pew Study showing the decline of Christians within the population of the U.S. has generated headlines across the country. Entitled "America's Changing Religious Landscape," the report reaffirms what had been known for years, young people are losing their faith at a faster rate than ever before.1 The reports cites a nearly 8% decrease in people who identify as Christians. It also notes "The percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated—describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or 'nothing in particular'—has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.)" 2 That's a significant increase, and the movement away from all faiths, including Christianity is most prevalent in young people, aged 18-35. The fact is alarming, and I have both written about it and interviewed experts on the trend, including offering suggestions on how to stem the tide.

Jehovah's Witnesses Rely on Christians to Survive

Yet, other facts emerge from the study to which we should also pay attention. One is the attraction and retention rates of other faiths. For example, the study shows that 65% of those who identify now as Jehovah's Witnesses were raised outside that tradition. That means two out of three Jehovah's Witnesses are converted to that faith. And a full 50% of those who are now JW came from either Protestantism or Catholicism.3

Because Jehovah's Witnesses hold to a strong belief in God's existence and the Bible being God's word, this sift is important to note. It isn't simply secularism or atheism that is drawing away people who were raised Christian, it is the search for definitive truth that is attractive, too. Imagine if Christians were so educated in theology that the heresies of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society would be completely unattractive to them. The organization would be crippled.

The Watchtower relies on converting Christians to survive; if that well were to dry up, the organization could not continue. Because the JWs have not increased in adherents, its new converts—those that make up two thirds of the sect—are replacing those who have walked away from the Watchtower. They can't retain their followers, yet they are still attracting new adherents. Churches need to do a better job here.

The LGBT in Your Pew

Important insights on the religious beliefs of those who identify as homosexual or bisexual also should be noted. While the Pew survey shows that 4 out of 10 people who identify as unaffiliated, 48% identify as Christians. Even more importantly, a full 13% of those who stated they were either gay or bisexual identified themselves as not merely Christian but Evangelical Christian!4 So, how many churches have any type of ministry to these people? How many self-described LGBT have anyone they know that they can talk with about their struggles? How is the church lovingly evangelizing the person in the pew who is wrestling with their feelings?

These are just two of the interesting insights that paint a bigger picture of how crucial a new kind of evangelism and apologetics will become for the church. As kingdom-builders, we need to make sure we are not ignoring them. Apologetics and theology classes can keep Christians from believing the Watchtower's errors or the atheist's assertions. Offering ministry to those struggling with all kinds of sexual purity issues will play a more important role as the church faces an increasingly salacious society. Both can have the added benefit of stemming the loss of Millennials, who increasingly see the church as out of touch or irrelevant to today's problems. Let's not dwell on the one issue to the exclusion of others.


1. "America's Changing Religious Landscape: Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow." Rep. Pew Research Center, Washington D.C., 15 May 2015. Web.
2. Pew Research Center, 3.
3. Pew Research Center, 43-44.
4. Pew Research Center, 87.
Image courtesy Achim Hering (Own work) CC BY 3.0

Friday, May 15, 2015

Christianity and the Disappearing Millennials: Exclusive Interview with Barna's David Kinnaman

Just this week, The Pew Research Group released the latest statistics on the state of faith in America from its massive study. Many interesting trends emerged. While fewer Americans identified as Christian than did so seven years ago, those who consider themselves evangelical held steady. Yet even here, the make-up of this segment is older, and the largest exodus from faith came from Millennials - young people born after 1980.

In this exclusive interview, I speak with the President of the Barna Research Group, David Kinnaman. In both this interview and in his book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church...and Rethinking Faith he distills the findings from years of study on the Millennial exodus, and he talks about how we can reach a generation raised in Digital Babylon with the timeless truth of the Gospel message.

To download this audio file, click here.

To access some of the resources and materials mentioned in the interview, follow the links below:;

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How Society is Regressing: Pushing Equality over Excellence

Are people smarter today than in centuries prior? That's the assumption of many today, including those atheists who assert that the modern era of science and technology proves our society has progressed to a higher position than previous eras. I'm not so sure. While we have greater control over our environment, we have been intellectually stunted by emphasizing feelings over reason. We live in the Age of Feeling, and that has caused society to regress, not progress.

To support my position, I've already offered two points of evidence that this society holds feelings above facts. The first was we are relinquishing our rights instead of offending and the second is in our current political climate, sympathy trumps science. Today I would like to offer a third proof: modern culture pushes for equality over excellence.

Destroying Opportunity

Bigotry is wrong. I think most people would agree with that statement, especially if they fall victim to bigotry themselves. But just what do we mean by bigotry? What do we mean by discrimination? Today, the term bigot is usually associated with a person who is racist or prejudiced because of inconsequential factors. The OED states that a bigot is "A person considered to adhere unreasonably or obstinately to a particular religious belief, practice, etc."1The key in this definition is the concept or unreasonableness or obstinacy. One may be charged with an act of unfair discrimination if they exclude one person from an employment position because they pre-judged a person based on nothing more than their ethnic heritage or the amount of melanin contained in their skin.

People all have an equal inherent worth because they are made in God's image. If one person is better able to perform a task than another, he or she should be allowed the opportunity to perform it, all else being equal. Today, though, people have distorted the idea that all people have equal worth to try and say that anything but equal outcomes is discriminatory. For example, the United States congress passed the Title IX act in 1972 to try and make any discriminatory exclusion of girls from participating in things like school sports. But the legislation has had terribly unintended consequences. Instead of merely opening the door of opportunity for women's sports program to flourish, it had the opposite effect of destroying many men's sports teams, especially in college. Men's teams were cut simply to achieve parity; the in the number of men participating in college sports must equal the number of women participating in sports at the same institution.2 Forget the fact that far fewer women in college desire to participate in sports, if the counts are off, sports teams for men are eliminated.

Equalizing Mediocrity

One of the clearest and most egregious examples of how the drive for equality actually destroys excellence is how philosopher Adam Swift began studying the questions of social justice, equality, and opportunity for children. In an ABC interview he states:
I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families…

What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn't need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people's children. 3
Basically, what Smith is asserting is parents who try to provide the best opportunities for their children by doing thing as like reading to them at night, engaging with their schooling and possibly even sending them to private schools or hiring tutors are giving those children an unfair advantage over children whose parents don't provide such attention. The article goes on to record Smith saying:
Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods. It's just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.4
This kind of thinking is insanity. We should cripple all children's education because some don't have parents who can give them the same learning tools as others? Why should we limit the minds of all kids? Shouldn't we encourage excellence and reward hard work no matter how the person was able to achieve it? Do you care whether your doctor went to a prep school in order to be an excellent surgeon or do you want all doctors to be equally but only moderately skilled? Why quash excellence for equality?

In his satiric response to Swift's arguments, Hans Fiene says that we might encourage additional ways of leveling the playing field for children by not bathing them or not feeding them fruits and vegetables when junk food will do. Personally, I thought Adam Swift's suggestions were so ludicrous to be satire themselves. I had to check twice to make sure his name was Adam Swift, not Jonathan Swift. He truly wants us to consume our children's opportunities for the sake of making the least common denominator the standard.

I realize that Adam Swift's modest proposal will not go anywhere. However, the fact that Swift can even offer it seriously in our culture says volumes about just how warped our culture has become on issues of equality and discrimination. We feel for the disadvantaged, but such solutions prove that we aren't thinking about the damage done in following those feelings. Society is truly regressing and when every child must receive a medal for their accomplishments, the medals become as worthless as the accomplishments they were awarded for.


1. "bigot, n. and adj." OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 14 May 2015.
2. "NCAA Men's Athletic Programs Cut To Comply With Title IX." College Sports Scholarships. College Sports Scholarships, 2012. Web. 14 May 2015.
3. Gelonesi, Joe. "Is Having a Loving Family an Unfair Advantage?" Radio National. Australian Broadcasting Company, 30 Apr. 2015. Web. 11 May 2015.
4. Gelonesi, 2015.

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