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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2021  (Read 722 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - July 2021
« on: July 02, 2021, 03:24:39 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/july-web-only/we-can-reach-conspiracy-theorists-for-christ-heres-how.html








We Can Reach Conspiracy Theorists for Christ. Here’s How.






God rescued me from a conspiracy theory and terrorism, and he can save others as well.


We live in a time of social upheaval, and social upheaval is fertile soil for conspiracy theories. Most of them are based on error and misinformation, and some can be downright dangerous. The ones that ensnared me in the turbulent 1960s drew me into racial hatred and political extremism and led to a shootout with police that killed an accomplice and very nearly killed me—all in the name of Christian patriotism.

My story is just one of many that ended in tragedy. Back then, conspiracy theories were on the margins of society, but today, with the advent of the internet, they are proliferating. They have moved mainstream and now into the church, where low levels of biblical literacy and high levels of cultural seduction make people more vulnerable.

Some conspiracy theories are relatively harmless, like the idea that the moon landing was faked. Others, like the theories I believed, are dangerous. By intensifying fear, anger, and hatred, they led to violence.

The most common conspiracy theories today are not as violent as before but can still deceive and lead people astray with serious consequences. QAnon, a right-wing theory that believes former President Donald Trump was fighting an underground ring of Satan-worshiping pedophiles, is probably the most popular right now and is making significant inroads in our culture and the church. Recent research from the American Enterprise Institute shows that 25 percent of white evangelicals affirm part or all of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

QAnon makes frequent use of scriptural references and eschatological allusions, giving it unmerited credibility and even leading some ministries to propose a merger of QAnon and Christianity. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue reports that QAnon grew by more than 175 percent on Facebook alone in 2020.

Professing Christians who believe these theories are on the dangerous thorny ground Jesus described in Matthew 13:22, where, as William Hendriksen puts it, “Constant anxiety about worldly affairs fill mind and heart with dark foreboding.” Instead of being eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace through humility, gentleness, patience, and love (Eph. 4:2–3), they produce the works of the flesh, fostering dissensions and divisions that cause believers to take sides, argue, and fight with one another (Gal. 5:20). When things reach this point, the Devil has succeeded in using his age-old tools of deception and division to disrupt the church, and it underscores Peter’s caution that “whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19, ESV throughout).

How do conspiracy theories begin? Some originate from the noetic effects of sin—flawed thinking. But others originate with “the god of this world,” who blinds “the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). The Devil’s lies and deception began with Adam and Eve, and conspiracy theories were widespread as far back as Isaiah’s day (Isa. 8:11–13).

In the New Testament, Jesus warned his followers concerning his second coming: “See that no one leads you astray” (Matt. 24:4; Mark 13:5). Paul urged believers to “Let no one deceive you with empty words” (Eph. 5:6) and “Let no one deceive you in any way” (2 Thess. 2:3). John says, “Little children, let no one deceive you” (1 John. 3:7).

Unfortunately, I was not alert and on guard in the 1960s. As a teenager, I was a patriotic kid who attended a large Southern Baptist church, but I became deeply disoriented by the social upheaval around me and angered by the federally mandated desegregation of my high school and local public facilities. The world that I had grown up in was being turned upside down.

In the midst of the chaos, I stumbled onto some propaganda that was distributed at my school and later met those who were behind it. Their explanation for what was happening revolved around conspiracy theories that made sense to me at the time. They taught the superiority of white people and that a shadowy group of powerful Jews were conspiring to corrupt Christianity, undermine America, and take control of the world. The situation was dire, they said, and patriotic Americans needed to act before it was too late. This was the 1960s version of extreme Christian nationalism. Hitler used the same core ideas in Germany, and many millions died as a result.

That was the hook that drew me down the rabbit hole, the beginning of a downward spiral of indoctrination and deception that eventually led me into terrorist activity, two shootouts with law enforcement, the death of two accomplices, and a 35-year sentence in prison.

As in my high school years, the cultural, racial, and political turmoil we are experiencing today has created a swirling vortex that is psychologically disorienting and deeply unsettling for many people. This arouses fear about the future and a search for answers and solutions. A search for answers—for truth and reality—is not bad in itself; we are living in turbulent times and people should be concerned. However, we must be alert to and on guard against falling for simple answers to complex issues, which is the specialty of conspiracy theories.

Is it possible to help family, friends, or colleagues who are attracted to ideologies like Christian nationalism and conspiracy theories like QAnon? I believe it is. We can start by asking God to help us love the person, seek their good, and be an agent of his grace in their life. Then, we can ask the Holy Spirit to make us usable—to help us recognize and repent of any sinful attitudes toward the person: self-righteousness, pride, or arrogance because we see the truth and they don’t; or frustration, impatience, or anger because they resist facts, reality, and truth. These and other wrong attitudes can sabotage our efforts from the start.

Next, we need to remember that with QAnon we are in a battle with the forces of spiritual darkness. The “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” that Paul warned Timothy about in the first century are just as prevalent today (1 Tim. 4:1). Personal prayer and even fasting are essential in this battle. Pray for insight, discernment, and wisdom, and be alert to any ideas from the Holy Spirit. We may also need to recruit others to join in prayer. Unknown to me, a group of godly women prayed weekly for two years for my deliverance and salvation.

This type of spiritual battle also requires us to do our homework. Articles and podcasts from credible sources are readily available. Learn from those who have experience in dealing with what you will face. Identify the weak points and vulnerabilities in your interlocutor’s belief system. (Many people have found Steven Hassan’s work helpful.) That will enable you to discern from the start how deeply the person is ensnared.

People are scattered all along the spectrum, from the hardcore to the marginally involved. Hardcore ideologues are the most difficult to work with and may require deeper study and the support of others. The marginally involved person may see the ideology or conspiracy theory as perhaps plausible, but they are not so convinced and alarmed by it that they are committed to action. They can often be reasoned with through friendly dialogue.

Conversations must be carried on with Christlike humility and “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). This is crucial to gain a hearing and maintain a good relationship—without which there is no possibility of having a positive influence. Show respect and seek to build trust by patiently listening to their ideas (no matter how bizarre). Seek to understand them well enough that they agree that you correctly understand their position. For every hour you are together, spend 50 minutes listening.

Don’t be impatient and attempt to rush the process of relationship building and dialogue. It may take a number of sessions before you start to see progress. Arguments or debates almost never work in this type of situation. Instead, follow Paul’s advice to Timothy: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24–26). If you have done your homework, you will be prepared for opportunities to gently ask questions that expose errors of fact or reasoning. Jesus often used questions to penetrate defenses and prompt self-examination.

Keep alert for the underlying attraction for the person. Often, it is connected to a deep need. Both Christian nationalism and QAnon have cultish characteristics. Many people enter a cult because it “fitted with what they were looking for and lacked in normal society” says Eileen Barker, a sociologist and researcher at the London School of Economics. Meaningful community is often part of what people are looking for in extremist groups. If you are in a healthy church with sound biblical preaching and vibrant community life, invite them to come visit as your guest. And get some of your friends to connect with them. Engaging with a community of joyful, devoted followers of Jesus is in effect immersing oneself in his light, truth, and love. The Holy Spirit can do wonders in such an environment.

Finally, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10–18), and keep reminding yourself that nothing is impossible with God. If he could save a deeply misguided, violent religious terrorist like Saul of Tarsus, or someone like me, he can save anyone.








Thomas Tarrants is the president emeritus of the C. S. Lewis Institute and author of Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love.
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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2021
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2021, 07:27:18 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/june-web-only/fourth-of-july-church-worship-patriotic-music-america.html








America’s True Freedom Is Getting to Sing About God, Not Country






This Fourth of July, worship leaders work to focus devotion “In Christ Alone.”


Around star-spangled holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day, churches have often faced pressure to feature a patriotic song or two in their worship service lineups. But this year, many worship leaders are thinking more carefully about those expectations and how they can recognize a national holiday while preserving God’s place as the sole focus of our devotion.

Cole Willig, worship leader at The Crossing in Milton, Delaware, anticipates some criticism over the absence of patriotic content in this year’s Fourth of July service.

“I’m not going to gear [the service] toward a man-made nation,” Willig said. “My job is to provide a space for people to worship, but then also to teach what worship is.”

For the Christian, faith and patriotism are not simply two dimensions of identity; worship music and patriotic music are not simply two “genres” of music. The worship of God through song is a distinct spiritual act of love and obedience. The singing of patriotic music is a voluntary act expressing varying degrees of allegiance and support for one’s country.

But throughout US history, we’ve seen generalized Christian faith and patriotism go side by side, as two complementary facets of American civic religion and identity.

During the final years of World War II, the US military found itself responsible for the internment of over 375,000 German prisoners of war. Those in charge of overseeing the massive internment project were interested in more than just containment—they realized that they had the opportunity to “reeducate” the enemy through carefully curated propaganda.

Music was part of this propaganda effort. A radio broadcast called “Cavalcade of American Music” led German POWs through a series of musical vignettes featuring both patriotic music and Christian hymns like “In the Garden” and “Abide with Me.”

A narrator referred to them as “national hymns” that emerged during difficult seasons, with no mention of worship or Christian faith. As the music accompanying the final hymn faded into the background, the narrator encouraged the listeners to “rise and stand at attention as the most-glorious strains of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ are sung …”

Patriotic music is propaganda. But so is worship music, in a way.

Singing to Two Masters
To call something propaganda is not necessarily to say that it is evil or dangerous. Propaganda is information or media intended to exert influence. Patriotic music is meant to stir the emotions, to inspire devotion, and to cultivate feelings of loyalty or gratitude. Worship music does this as well, though for the believer, it is most centrally a form of communication with the divine.

To give a platform to both the worship of God and the celebration of America in the same service is to serve two masters, to grant power to God and the state in the sanctuary. In doing so, one makes space for the glorification of two entities that are in no way equal in the life of a Christian.

Even if leaders make a distinction during services between “worship” and “patriotic music,” a gathered congregation singing songs celebrating the state is ceding some highly prized religious freedom: the freedom to worship without interference and without the requirement to pay homage to government.

Those in favor of singing a patriotic song or two as part of the service often suggest that it is just a way of expressing gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy. This straightforward justification fails to acknowledge that there are many groups for whom Independence Day brought no additional freedom. The gratitude many Americans feel for some of the comforts of living here is distorted by the oppression and injustice visited upon their families, communities, and ancestors.

Besides, there are ways to express gratitude for the freedoms and comforts one enjoys other than corporate singing in a sacred setting.

Are there gray areas here? Could a prelude or postlude include a selection of patriotic tunes? Might it be a good idea to have a “special music” feature of some kind?

Christine Loy, director of music ministry at New Hope Church in Powell, Ohio, has planned a 15-minute concert after the dismissal of the Sunday service on July 4. “We work very hard to make sure that we are worshiping Jesus in our worship service on Independence Day,” Loy told me.

But she is excited to offer an opportunity for musicians in her congregation to put on a special event. Her church community includes a number of gifted horn players, percussionists, singers, and an organist whose talents she wants to showcase in the post-service concert.

Does a separate event in a church provide the necessary distinction between worship and a secular celebration? It may depend on the congregation.

Acknowledging Without Fanfare
Church leaders who will forgo patriotic music of any kind during their Fourth of July services this year must still decide how to acknowledge the day. Ignoring it completely will be offensive to both those desiring some form of celebration and to those desiring an acknowledgement of America’s flaws.

Josh Diaz, worship and arts director at CityChurch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, hopes that even though there are people in the congregation who might be hurt or angry, a carefully planned service will help orient hearts and minds toward Christ throughout the holiday. Songs such as “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” or “In Christ Alone” might serve as reminders of where believers ought to place their hope.

“It will be acknowledged that, yes, this is the Fourth of July,” said Laura Creel, an artist in residence at CityChurch who will lead worship on the Fourth. “But ultimately we look to Christ for a new day and to model the new earth and to build the kingdom here.”

Diaz and Creel both spoke of the importance of corporate confession in their weekly services and noted that on the Fourth, their prayer will likely include confessions such as “We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” That confession could be a part of any Sunday service, but will hopefully encourage the congregation to newly consider its meaning in light of the holiday.

“People are longing for authenticity,” said Diaz. He senses that his congregation wants honest conversation about what their neighbors are feeling, even if that means confronting differences of opinion and experience.

Jason Bradley, worship pastor at City Central Church in Tacoma, Washington, said that even as someone from a military family with a deep sense of appreciation for his country, he does not plan to make patriotic music or display part of the Fourth of July service. “We recognize our freedom,” he said, “and I’m celebrating it by just doing—[we have] freedom to worship, so we sing and worship.”

Some leaders seem to be looking at this Fourth of July Sunday as an opportunity to remind people, here and abroad, that whatever beauty or goodness American Christians attribute to their country is dwarfed by the glory of God.

In conversations about the planning of worship services, leaders mentioned songs like Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God,” and Phil Wickham’s “Great Things.” They are intentionally choosing songs that ascribe greatness, power, victoriousness, splendor, authority, and headship to God alone.

Worship and Loving Our Neighbors
In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis writes about the many “ingredients” of patriotism or love of country, and how when they are out of balance, “a false transcendence is given to things which are very much of this world.” Lewis argues that something like the benign love of one’s home “asks only to be let alone” and “in any mind which has a pennyworth of imagination it produces a good attitude toward foreigners. How can I love my home without coming to realize that other men, no less rightly, love theirs?”

Kenneth Berding, professor of New Testament in the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, wrote in a 2016 blog post of how congregants began to request that he include patriotic music in weekly worship services in the wake of 9/11, when he was serving as a worship leader in New York. In the midst of national mourning and widespread coalescence behind the war on terror, the Syrian, Lebanese, and Iranian families in his congregation were constantly on his mind. How would an increase in patriotic content affect them? How could it not add to their feelings of alienation in a country that was growing increasingly hostile toward the foreigner?

“I can’t imagine encouraging the singing of nationalistic songs,” Berding said in an interview. This moment in America, he added, “feels like a crisis, but it doesn’t feel like the 9/11 crisis … it’s a bit of a divergence.”

As leaders grapple with surging Christian nationalism in its current iteration, they are also realizing that the local church has become global during the pandemic.

“Because we’re streaming, we’ve got people in Canada and Italy and Tanzania,” said Cole Willig. “This relatively small church in southern Delaware is now a global church. It’s kind of forced us to get outside of ourselves.”

Streaming has opened the door for Christians to participate in worship services taking place all over the world. Churches that never intended to cultivate online congregations now have them, and are learning to serve a more diverse group of believers and seekers.

For a Christian in another part of the world, worship that places the glorification of God and country in the same space may give the impression that patriotism and Christian faith are just two parts of the cocktail of American identity, just as the spiritually vacant broadcast of hymns to German POWs presented American Christianity as a generalized civic religion, tame and therapeutic.







Kelsey Kramer McGinnis is a musicologist, educator, and writer who covers worship for CT. She holds a PhD from the University of Iowa and researches music in Christian communities and music as propaganda.


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2021
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2021, 11:32:51 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/quick-to-listen/critical-race-theory-racism-evangelicals-divided-podcast.html








Critical Race Theory: What Christians Need to Know







Let’s talk about the issue tearing the American church and country apart.


Christians should be afraid of critical race theory. That’s the message that a number of conservative Christian leaders have shared in recent months. Last fall, the presidents of the five Southern Baptist seminaries issued a statement saying that “affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory” is incompatible with the Baptist Faith and Message, the denomination’s core beliefs. This anxiety made CRT a main focus at the denomination’s recent gathering.

In recent years, some evangelicals have identified critical race theory as an ascendant ideology in the church that is fundamentally at odds with Christian faith. This anxiety has been mirrored by many conservatives at large and the debate over this ideology has moved from the previous president’s public disgust of the ideology to state legislature measures that would ban it in schools. All of this comes months after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have once again spurred both conversations about how the church ought to respond to racial injustice but also how the church should discuss this reality. One recurring concern for some Christians: that their fellow believers have adopted the worldview and talking points of critical race theory and Marxism.

Over time, these charges have been lobbed by Christians at Christians, the latter of whom often feel like this language mischaracterizes the movement, miscasts their efforts, or unfairly shuts down conversations without a hard look at the issues actually at stake.

D. A. Horton directs the intercultural studies program at California Baptist University and serves as associate teaching pastor at The Grove Community Church in Riverside, California. His 2019 book, Intensional, presents a “kingdom” view of ethnic divisions and reconciliation. Horton has written a four-part series on Ed Stetzer’s blog, The Exchange, about CRT and Christian missions.

Horton joined global media manager Morgan Lee and senior news editor Kate Shellnutt to discuss what critical race theory is, why it unnerves some Christians, and what can be done to help Christians stop talking past each other when it comes to addressing the reality of racial injustice.

Highlights from Quick to Listen: Episode #271
Can you define what critical theory is before we get into critical race theory?

D. A. Horton: So critical theory was developed inside of a school in Germany, known as the Frankfurt School, specifically inside the Institute for Social Research. And it really got its start in the late 1920s and the early ’30s. And it was led by the scholar Max Horkheimer, who framed critical theory with three criteria.

First of all, it needs to be explanatory. This means the individual who’s engaging the theory must be able to explain what is wrong with the current social reality that they are analyzing. They also have to identify who are the powers that are maintaining what is wrong through the systems, through the rhythms of the society. Second, it needs to be normative. What norms in this wrong society should be criticized? What are the pieces of evidence of the wrongdoing? And then finally, it has to be practical. What are the achievable, practical ways society can be transformed?

Coming out of that, we have to understand what Horkheimer meant by the term “critical.” In his writings and his lectures, he framed it as a distinct meaning: a different approach to analyzing society than the traditional way of viewing society. And honestly, Horkheimer used “critical” in synonymous with Marxism. His tool of analysis was the lens of Marxism and he used critical theory to identify what values of capitalism were producing injustice in the society that he was in.

But it is good for us to understand that, from the beginning, that framework is not how it always stayed. It did not always stay within the conversation of Marxism. What we see is in the second generation of the Frankfurt School is that it produced intellectuals like Jürgen Habermas, who expanded the research and the analysis beyond Marxism. He said claims to truth must also be moral and political goodness, and they have to be justified. And so he began to pivot away from critical theory from Marxism.

In his later works, especially in the ’90s, he began to expose how secularism, or the humanistic perspective of pushing God out, kept religious thought out of the spaces of law and politics—to which Habermas was preventing us from having a better model of society. And so in his work Habermas actually says religious voices can impact society for good if they learn to communicate their ideas in understandable language for those who are not religious.

And he goes on to give an appeal of a biblical perspective. He says that the biblical social vision is made evident in Genesis 1:26–27, where every human is an image-bearer of the God who created them. And the way that you can translate that theological concept to people who are not religious is by identifying that there is invaluable dignity that every human being has been given.

So critical theory, when it was initially founded as a framework of analysis, the objective measurement tool was Marxism. But then the second generation broadens that reach and even made appeals for the inclusivity of religious dialogue with a very specific biblical appeal.

And as a missiologist, I take that as an invitation to engage with a biblical perspective that analyzes the society but also has a different finish line than what those who are not coming from a Christian theistic worldview may present as their conclusion.

Are we waiting for our Habermas with critical race theory? Do we need someone who can take some of the ideas proposed in the framework of critical race theory and add that theological dimension to make the bridge happen for people who still see it in conflict?

D. A. Horton: Well, there have been many, many Christians who are living out their vocations as given to them by God, in the different spaces and arenas in society. In the behavior sciences, social work, the field of education, and legal studies, you have believers who engage the terms, the language, and the concepts, but at the same time, they’re also looking for the way that they can communicate a biblical perspective. Understanding that society is not going to be perfectly transformed, that our finish line is not a utopia of this side of eternity, but rather it is residents in the city of God that we read about in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.

I believe that there have been people doing that; it’s just that critical race theory and its scholarship has not been mainstream until recent years. And so that’s where I think it gets a little murky. But there have been Christians who have engaged this perspective and they’ve been engaging at it for quite some time.

Is there a way to define critical race theory for people outside of academia? And how would you define it in contrast to the perspective of race that existed prior to CRT?

D. A. Horton: The first thing that I think everyone should understand is that critical race theory is a direct growing out of something known as critical legal studies. And this is particularly focused and centered in the United States of America, so it’s not a global perspective. The only way it becomes global is if somebody adapts the principles and the tools that critical race theory leverages as a methodology of social analysis, and then they apply it to their society outside of America.

But basically, critical legal studies focused on the relationship between the legal scholarship and the struggle to see a more humane, egalitarian, and democratic society. And so critical legal studies contain insights from the Supreme Court rulings on Scott v. Sanford in 1857 and Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 because that provides the context for the legal debates surrounding the flawed “separate but equal,” as well as the colorblindness, or the neutrality, of American law.

So after these rulings, it was a normative belief in America that the law was colorblind, that although people were separate but equal in the Jim Crow era, everyone still had the same type of access to freedom and liberty and everything that our founding documents promise to residents of America.

However, that’s where critical race theory comes in. One of the architects, Richard Delgado, communicated that they began to realize that the momentum of the civil rights movement in the ’60s had stalled when it became evident that a lot of the implementation and legislative changes were not being made by academics.

The cornerstone founder of critical race theory is Derek Bell. His documents are what people consider the foundation of CRT. And alongside the scholarship of Delgado, Kimberly Crenshaw, Ellen Freeman, Cheryl Harris, Charles Lawrence III, Mari Matsuda, and Patricia Williams, they are often framed as the primary voices of critical race theory. To define critical race theory, you really must look at the themes that these primary voices begin to bring to the forefront.

I do think it’s important also to qualify that Derek Bell was interviewed before he passed away, and Bell distanced his perspective as it relates to what would become later known as critical race theory from the views of Marxism. And the reason that he did that is that he didn’t want people to think that he had to turn to European “white” men to understand the racial interactions that he as a Black man has had his entire life in the United States of America. And so one of the misnomers that we have is that CRT automatically, unequivocally, always equals Marxism. And that’s just not true because the founder, Derek Bell, distanced himself from that.

Based on the primary voices I listed, the five themes that I typically identify critical race as is, one, race is something that is manmade, and it has created privilege for something that is known as whiteness—a created American identity which immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe could assimilate. They would become white in exchange for their ethnic heritage, and that would secure them citizenship, employment, housing, and even religious freedoms and liberty.

In addition to that, racism is something that is seen as permanent in the United States of America. And a lot of that is because of the implicit racist language in our founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

The third thing is that counter-stories from marginalized people are necessary. In Christian language, we call a counter-story a testimony. It’s somebody sharing their testimony of how they have interacted with racism in America.

The fourth is that being colorblind is not being truthful.

And then the fifth element that I would say is a common theme is that racial progress seems to only be made when “white people” are the ones who benefit from it.

So these are the five themes that I have identified from the primary voices themselves.

The question about critical race being a worldview—which, when I hear “worldview,” I'm thinking through the lens of the arena of theology. A worldview is how one answers the questions such as, Who is God?; Who am I?; What’s my purpose for living?; What is real?; Who determines right from wrong?; and What happens after I die?

To me, a worldview would include deism, existentialism, monotheism, naturalism, new consciousness, nihilism, and pantheism. And each of those has varying beliefs as it relates to the concept of race. So, in my opinion, critical race theory is not a worldview—it’s comprised of legal scholars who are not dedicating their work to the cosmology of humanity or the universe, let alone the eternal condition of humanity. The focus of critical race theory scholars is the inequality of the law in the United States of America.

And I think that’s one of the misnomers: that people have forced it to become something known as a worldview. And I just don’t see that in the primary voices. Their focus is the United States of America; it’s not global-centric. It throws me off when people compare critical race theory to a worldview, because as a theologian, it doesn’t give answers to some of these worldview questions.

When critical race theory moved from academia into something that some Christian leaders begin to identify as posing a danger to our faith, what were some of the stories or connections that set off alarm bells?

D. A. Horton: This is my personal opinion; I’m limited by my own experiences and experiences of others that I’m in dialogue with. But, what began to happen is that some of the language that critical race theory has developed began to become more normal in a lot of “Christians of color.”

Critical race theory does provide language for concepts that believers, specifically of color, have wrestled within their minds, and now they have terms to use to help these abstract ideas explain in concrete ways.

One example is the term microaggression. The definition of microaggression is an action or an incident that is an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against somebody who is part of a marginalized group. As an example from my own life, I was really stressed going into my PhD entrance exam at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and for that whole process, I was just really nervous and I doubted myself. And I remember being driven to the airport by a brother in Christ and he was asking me what was on my mind because he could tell I was stressed. I explained to him how I felt overwhelmed by the process and demands of the exam.

And he looked at me and confidently said, “You should not stress out. You’re going to pass no matter what. Southeastern needs you. You’re a minority. They need more Hispanics”—which is a term I don’t use, but he used it—“They need more Hispanics so that they can show themselves to be diversified. They need more guys like you, so you’re going to get in no matter what.”

It was saying that I don’t have the educational capacity or the academic rigor and wherewithal to pass, but I’m going to get a pass simply because they need me for visibility. That’s a microaggression because he connected my ethnicity with the fact that I was going to pass.

If I share that statement in a Christian space, people ask, how can you know his motives? How can you know his intentions? And I think at that point, we want to begin to theologize what somebody said so that we don’t have to accept the claim that what was said showed discrimination.

So there was a list of terms that seem to be the no-no terms, and whenever you heard these certain words used, it was like, “Oh my gosh, there are Marxists, communists, socialist people in the church!”

Do you think part of it is that there is a suspicion that comes from hearing the non-Christianese language used by Christians? Especially when it’s being used to critique us?

D. A. Horton: I think that is part of it. But if we just even assess the language that we use as Christians—I mean, the term gospel was not a Christian term; it comes from a Greek word that was literally connected to the imperial cult, it was used for the “good news” that was proclaimed when a new Caesar was crowned or when the Caesar was going to have a child.

Our writers of Scripture—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who safeguarded them from writing anything in error—used that concept, which was connected to pagan worship. And we have seen that used to translate into the gospel because we do proclaim the Good News of Christ being the only source of redemption that God has in his plan of redemption.

And so I think that’s where it takes more education for Christians to understand that everything in our speech is not purely Christian. The clothes that we wear are not always stitched by Christians. This is exactly what Habermas asked. He gave an invitation for religious people to communicate their beliefs and how society can flourish, but they have to be able to do it using terms and concepts that the nonbeliever can understand. There has to be some shared language.

Another term is intersectionality. When people hear “intersectionality” in the church, I often think they’re fearful of a slippery slope and that it is going to somehow give affirmation and acquiesce to the LGBTQ+ community. And my pushback to that is we see the concept in Scripture. And some would say I’m isolating and reading intersectionality into the Scriptures. But what I’m doing is identifying a modern word that describes something that we already see in the Bible.

One of the classic examples I give is John 4. Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. She was identified by her ethnicity as being a Samaritan. She was a woman. You can even argue that the reason that she was drawing water from that well at that time of the day was that she was socially ostracized, so she was marginalized. Those are three identifying realities for her. Another example is in Galatians 3:28; in addition to identifying ethnicity, he [Paul] also identifies gender, and he identifies the reality in social class. All three of those concepts are right there in Scripture.

And this is where evangelicals struggle, because when it comes to gender, we see constant material being produced to advocate biblical roles in marriage, in the home, biblical masculinity and biblical femininity. So, we don’t deny gender. We’re not gender-neutral. At the same time, we see the economic realities and we talk about financial stewardship, giving, employment ethics, good work ethic. We talk about those things. So, we acknowledge the reality of employment and financial stewardship. But now we want to say, “I don’t see ethnicity”? That’s not true. You do inasmuch as you see gender and the reality of the need for financial stewardship and employment and employee ethics. And if you’re talking about ethnicity, gender, and class, that is intersectionality.

So by saying the concept of intersectionality is in Scripture, does that mean I am forsaking Christ as the only means of salvation? Absolutely not. What I’m saying is that there are multiple facets to the reality that we embody in a fallen world.

I am a man. I am also married. I am also Latino. I’m also Choctaw Nation. I have various European descents inside of me. I’m married to a woman. I have daughters, I have a son. I fit in a social class. I grew up in a different social class. These are realities. Acknowledging these realities does not mean I’m doubting the gospel. It doesn’t mean I’m denying the sufficiency of Scripture. Claims of such things are just erroneous and they’re hyperbole.

And I think if we approached it that way, without the name-calling, we would see greater progress in the body of Christ. You can engage the language, but you don’t have to lay down to the agenda of the world by engaging the language. Because my purpose and intention for engaging the language is to help the nonbeliever understand the perspective that God offers as a solution, in Christ alone, for the realities of the broken and this one.

As a missiologist, instructor, and a pastor using the language developed through CRT, what are the ways that it’s helpful, or are there places where there are limits or concerns? Are there boundaries you draw for how it can be employed as a tool within a faith structure?

D.A. Horton: My personal approach is to be honest. What I can do is look at the claims that critical race theory makes, and if it’s true then I can acknowledge that truth.

If all truth is God’s truth, then with common grace, God has given every human being who bears his image rationale, the ability to process information, to think about it, and to communicate. And so I would be remiss if I think that non-Christians cannot tell the truth. And when it comes to social analysis and assessment, if they depart from truthful claims, that’s where, as a follower of Christ, I can say that I have a different guardrail that I’m using to measure the truth claims. Mine is the Word of God.

For example, when I look at the claim that race is a social construct, that it is manmade, that is very true because, in all the times of antiquity, we do not see the racial structures or caste system that we have seen throughout the colonization of the indigenous Americas. Spain and Portugal created the caste system first in the Caribbean and Mexico and South America, and then Protestants did the same thing in the United States. None of that is endorsed in Scripture; however, it is a reality, and it is something that shows in the documents of the United States.

However, what has God given? He’s given ethnicity. And we see this in Acts 17:26 and Genesis 3:20. Ethnicity is a gift from God. And when I look at Revelation chapters 21 and 22, I see that ethnicity is present in the eternal state. So, Christians do not need to be ashamed or feel guilty for their ethnicity.

One of the things that I have been trying to do is to get rid of the color-coded language of the racial caste system and begin to challenge people to affirm their ethnic heritage that was elected for them to have and that will be present in the eternal state. And in doing that, I’m departing away from critical race theory because I’m going back to the cosmological creation of humanity and I’m going to the eternal state. Critical race theory doesn’t go there.

Another example: Often people say that critical race theory says that whiteness was created and it provides privileges for only people who are in that category. And there is some truth in that, but it’s not fully true. And one of the things that I want to communicate is that privilege is not a bad thing.

Anyone listening to this podcast, anyone that has running water, anyone that has shoes on their feet, has food in their pantry—that’s privilege because not everybody in the world has access to those amenities. Privilege is not bad. It’s not sinful. It only becomes sinful when it is not leveraged to help other humans in need. I don’t apologize for my privilege because I can leverage my privilege in specific moments.

In the four blogs with Christianity Today, I explore all of this. What are the claims that critical race theory makes? Where are they true and where are they not true? And then how does Scripture speak to the truthfulness of their claim? But also, how does it correct the errors in their claim as well?

Do you think the reason that some Christians are turning to the language of critical race theory is that they haven’t found sufficiently comprehensive language within Christian contexts to talk about racial injustice?

D. A. Horton: I think in some situations, people have grown weary and tired and they’re just exhausted. They’re just tired of trying to make evangelicals believe that this is a reality for some people. At the same time, I think some people are disgruntled because they don’t feel that they have a safe space that is safe to communicate these things without being charged and accused of various terms. It’s a smorgasbord of realities for people in their experiences.

We, as believers, have to understand that this is also a discipleship issue. Jesus has given the Great Commission and included is language which means “to every ethnicity.” So we are to be making disciples of every ethnicity in America. We are blessed because God has allowed the neighborhoods to be inhabited by the nations, so we’re without excuse. And that’s where I think the work of being diligent to diversify our dinner tables, to diversify our inner circles of friendships and discipleship rhythms is important. It should reflect the reality of the community that God has chosen for us to live in.

I think our local churches should not see the reality of Great Commission fulfillment as affirmative action or a secular perspective. No, this is the reality of what Christ is commissioned every Christian to do. We all have the same job description as the Great Commission.

And in the eternal state, what we recognize is that the ethnicities are present, we are worshiping God. We even see that products of cultural grace are going to be brought in by leaders of the various ethnicities into the city of God. So, we can appreciate the cultural expressions that we have, and we can even see them redeemed for the glory of God.

In my family, one way we’ve done that is with the quinceañera. The quinceañera began as an aspect of pagan ritual, but then it was synchronized with Roman Catholic practice and dogma. And what we did for our daughter when she was 15 is that we made Christ the center focus. We removed the paganism, but we kept the cultural celebrations. And a lot of the language and the customs could be leveraged for the glory of God. Every one of our daughter’s padrinos and madrinas (godparents) gave a gift that was connected back to Scripture and affirmed her walk in Christ.

These are beautiful things of our culture. There are certain dances, there are certain songs, there are certain testimonies and oral traditions in various cultures that in the United States of America have often been deemed as unholy. And if we have divorced ethnicity, if we have divorced the reality of race, because we’ve chosen colorblindness or other methodologies to not even acknowledge those things and framing ethnicity is something carnal and holy and sinful, that’s a discipleship issue.

I don’t think we can talk about people’s fear of critical race theory without discussing cancel culture. How do you define cancel culture? What concerns might you sympathize with for those who are very concerned about this, and where might you push back on people regarding those fears?

D. A. Horton: Cancel culture was derivative of the African American community. As it would be expressed on Black Twitter, it was stepping away from public support, and even the shunning, and the dropping of endorsements of entities or people that did not fall in step with the progression of whoever was doing the canceling.

One of the aspects of cancel culture that has now become a little bit more normative in mainstream society, which then provided a tributary into evangelicalism in America, is this contra-biblical way of interpersonal relationships. We have to understand that cancel culture and the way that it’s been done by the nonbelievers is not endorsed in Scripture.

It basically opens the door for the Evil One to allow suspicions to be brewing in the hearts of people. That we can be content with being warriors of the faith, defenders of the truth of scripture and Christianity by labeling our brothers and sisters enemies of the church enemies.

Even the term woke—a lot of people don’t have the historic understanding of the term. It was something that, again, was first used in the African American community to mean to be aware of the reality and the nuances of practical racism that had been expressed pre–Jim Crow, during Jim Crow, and post–Jim Crow.

And that terminology has now been hijacked in a similar way that the term evangelical has been hijacked. And I think one of the things that we have to do better at in evangelicalism is explaining and defining our terms. And I ground my definitions from themes all throughout Scripture—not social sciences, not critical race theorists, not the Frankfurt school, but from Scripture.

And the reason I want to define those terms is that often in these conversations, in the church we’re not defining our terms. We are allowing the interpreter to read their understanding into the terminology we’re using. That means we have to do the diligent work of explaining to our listeners what we mean by these terms. And then we can give them a better understanding of where we are coming from.

Having terms with no clear tangible definitions just leads people to move forward in their own assumptions, or move forward with the trusted voices that they listen to, and that’s a problem because sometimes the voices that you trust—whether they are grossly misinformed or whether they are intentionally participating in this sin of slander—are not always being consistent and truthful with their assessments and their terminology and even their claims.

To what extent do you say there are a significant number of Christians who are being bad actors, and when is it okay for us as Christians to call people out for acting in bad faith, and are people always aware that they’re acting that way?

D. A. Horton: I think one thing that I have learned in my journey of walking with Jesus, over the last 25 years in America, is that there is a way to theologize yourself out of being guilty of sins like slander and gossip.

We use codified language like “I’m seeking counsel” or “I’m trying to get wisdom,” and we’ll throw a Bible passage on that. And I’m not saying that it’s wrong to seek wisdom and counsel and guidance; however, when it starts getting into the realm of suspicion leading to reading things into what they’re saying …

We live in a fallen world, and sometimes when people want to see something, they’ll see it when it’s not even there. And they’ll convince themselves that they see it and they will be very convincing to others. And when I look at that framework in Scripture, the reality of systemic deception in the world and society at large is in Ephesians 2:1–3. We see that there is a worldly system that is in opposition to righteousness, justice, and all things that are derivative from God’s design for humanity.

So, is there systemic sin in society? Absolutely. Now can it also be in the church? That’s exactly what Paul was arguing in Ephesians 4. The language that he is using points to the systematic lies that are present in the churches, that were brought into the church. And the way that we refute that is through discipleship, rooting ourselves in the Word of God while living on the mission of God.

We, as followers of Christ, don’t have to be aloof when it comes to the systemic deception that unfortunately can make its way into local churches. And what’s being framed now is this new religion called woke-ism, this new perspective of critical race theory being charged as an enemy. We are headed to an unnecessary civil war. And to have a civil war, you have to have an enemy. And this enemy is manufactured because I’ve yet to see anyone who is purposefully seeking to bring the nuances of critical race theory into the Southern Baptist Convention with a desire to take it over.

Now, is that possible? Sure. We live in a fallen world, people may have vindictive motives, but the reality of what I see and who I engage with that are the “faces of this new religion” this new “liberal takeover,” I'm like, y’all are trippin’. They are not what you're calling them.

For those opposed to CRT, what do you think is the “worst-case scenario” in their mind?

D. A. Horton: You know, the only interaction that I’ve had in length with the side that is framing CRT as a religion and woke-ism and the social justice movements as entering into the church, is Fault Lines by Voddie Baucham.

And from the very beginning, the conversation is framed that you’re standing on one of two sides of a fault line, and literally the fault line—no pun intended—of the book is framing the side that Voddie is on and then the side that’s the nonbiblical social justice perspective, which starts with the world and then these Christians now are speaking the world's philosophies and perspectives into the church. And, at the end of the day, he concludes with a call to war against the opposing side.

And in that perspective, he’s framed it as a binary where the reader has to pick a side. And in my mind, that’s a false dichotomy. I don’t have to pick a side. Is there really even a fault line? And as I began to assess some of the claims made, some of the references that were there were cited, it didn’t work for me.

It’s not choosing a side. I don’t have to. I’m being faithful to the work of Christ, and I know where the truth claims are, and I know where they derive away from the truthfulness of God’s Word. And as a competent follower of Christ, I can engage in those conversations and I can give empirical data within the space of the academy.

As a missiologist, I don’t see a dichotomy between faith and scholarship. I don’t see a dichotomy between faith and career vocation. Because God is the one who has his fingerprints on the lives of his children, and the gifts, the talents, and the opportunities he’s given them, which provides them with an opportunity to give him representation in the spaces that they entered.

So, as I enter into the academic space, I am not aloof or naive. I know that I’m walking into social injustice because my God, the only true living God, has been systematically parsed out from representation in data. And I found a way to introduce the reality of who he is, what he has done, in a way that can be communicated inside of a humanistic-centric space.

But the way I communicate about that data in that space is way different than in the church. With the church I’m making the appeals for ethnic conciliation, grounding my definitions in Scripture, helping us see a pathway forward. But the pushback I’m getting is, “Well, you should read Fault Lines.”

Well, I did, and when I express my difference in opinion from where Voddie is coming from, somehow people don’t think that that’s Christian-like. And I think we, as followers of Christ, have to understand that it’s okay to disagree on things. It doesn’t mean that people are kicked out of the kingdom of God. I mean, if that’s the case, then that's a non-biblical view of salvation in the first place.

But when people are trying to create these false dichotomies and call us to war, I’m like, hold on, time out. We are wasting friendly fire. We should be advocating against the principalities and structures that the Evil One has put into place, but we should not be assuming that brothers in Christ are the ones being used as sons of disobedience. Especially if they’re still pointing to Christ as the only means of salvation.

So why are we allowing cancel culture in our evangelical spaces to now be practiced in interpersonal relationships, church relationships, and relationships with staff members? We, as the people of Christ in America, have to be able to recapture the art of dialogue. We have lost that.

In that spirit, can you see the genuine or sincere motives that people have for raising questions about critical race theory? Do you see a good reason or the gospel as a motivation for people who are still suspicious, skeptical, or trying to learn?

D. A. Horton: Yes, absolutely. I do feel that there is a desire now for followers of Christ in America to at least understand critical race theory, and how a Christian is supposed to interact with it.

The first thing that I express to people is a Christian doesn’t need to use critical race theory. You don’t have to. Nobody’s forcing you in the Word of God to communicate that you have to engage critical race theory. Salvation is a gift given by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, confirmed in Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. So only embracing Christ, the Savior, is necessary to be a part of the kingdom of God, to be a part of Jesus’ church.

Jesus’ work is not dependent on anything or anyone other than him. And I recognize that as a follower of Christ. But as a missiologist, who is evangelistically active and discipleship driven, I engage critical race theory because it’s relevant to my mission field in North America.

So, when people enter into the conversation wanting to understand, then that’s what I want to do. I want to help give them the themes that I’ve identified from the primary voices and point them in the direction of Scripture. I want to show them where some claims are truthful and you’re not compromising Christianity or reducing the finished work of Christ if you acknowledge that there are claims that are true in this methodology. And then, at the same time, as a follower of Christ, because CRT was not developed in a theological sphere or arena, it’s not going to lead to the same kingdom conclusions that we see as those living on mission for Christ. The conclusions and the solutions should lead to gospel conversations with people.

And I think the fear is that people are saying that CRT is being forced on them by Christians who have platforms. CRT is saying that the gospel is not enough, and we need this to help us. And I think that’s where we just read our presuppositions and what people are saying.

I’m not admitting that the gospel is not enough. I still proclaim the gospel. So when people are saying you got to pick critical race theory or the gospel, I’m like, that’s a false dichotomy. I don’t have to play your game. Helping people understand that through dialoguing and answering honest questions with us honest research will help us. And it doesn’t mean that just answering questions is going to suffice and everything goes back to being good. No, these are ongoing conversations again. That’s why I say it’s a discipleship issue.

People are cherry-picking some of their quotes, not giving diligence to the context of the quote, and people are only seeing the sound bite. And the people who don’t want to do the diligent work of researching or cross-referencing or searching for context, they're going to believe these little sound bite options. And that’s where the motives of people then have to be measured.

These are things that I think can only be parsed out through ongoing, honest, transparent, and safe spaces created for these real conversations, and they’re best done in discipleship relationships.
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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2021
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2021, 06:50:57 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/july/pope-francis-lebanon-crisis-christian-leaders-vatican-visit.html








Evangelicals Ask Pope Francis to Help Save Lebanon






Visiting the Vatican for a Christian summit, leaders explain why the problems of sectarian politics have become unbearable.


Pope Francis has a message to consider from Lebanon’s evangelicals.

“We are not comfortable in our sectarian system, and thank God that we are not a part of the politics that led the country to collapse,” said Joseph Kassab, president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon.

“We are not benefiting, and it hurts us like the vast majority of the Lebanese people.”

Last week the Catholic pontiff invited Lebanon’s Christian denominations to the Vatican for a time of prayer and reflection. Ten patriarchs, bishops, and church leaders gathered, as Francis encouraged them to speak with one voice to the politicians of their nation.

Lebanon has been unable to form a new government since its prior one resigned 11 months ago, following the massive explosion at Beirut’s port. As its Christian, Sunni, Shiite, and Druze political parties wrangle over representation, more than half the population now falls below the poverty line.

Following a default on national debt, personal bank accounts have been largely frozen as the Lebanese lira has lost over 90 percent of its value. The World Bank estimates the economic collapse to be among the world’s three worst in the last 150 years.

“We blame and condemn our Christian and Muslim political leaders equally,” said Kassab.

“We have to say this loudly.”



Pope Francis (left) attends a prayer with Lebanon’s Christian leaders in St. Peter’s Basilica on July 1, hosting them at the Vatican for a day of prayer amid fears that the country’s descent into financial and economic chaos is further imperiling the Christian presence in the country.


The nation’s longstanding sectarian system, however, works to recycle these leaders. Lebanon’s president must be a Maronite Christian, its prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and its speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.

The 128 parliament seats are divided evenly between Muslims and Christians, with one reserved for Protestants. But confessional distribution extends into ministerial and civil service positions, including the army, police, and intelligence services.

Each community seeks to maximize its interests, while being careful not to upset the sectarian balance.

“Positions are distributed by religious identity, not qualification,” said Kassab. “Francis called us to push our politicians toward the common good, but we are imprisoned in this system.”

Closed door discussions were frank, he said, but conducted with a brotherly spirit. There is no Lebanese consensus on solutions, let alone among Christians.

The Maronite patriarch has repeatedly called for an international conference to compel a political solution, as well as to ensure Lebanese regional neutrality. But AsiaNews reported that the Greek and Syrian Orthodox leaders have reservations, likely due to headquarters in Damascus.

Consequently, the pope sought to find the common denominator between the churches. This was identified as the urgent necessity for a government, and social assistance to keep Christians in Lebanon.

Currently “50 to 60 percent of our young people live abroad,” stated Samir Mazloum, the Maronite patriarchal vicar. “There are only old people and children left.”

The Vatican released no official statement, but Pope Francis’ closing homily served as an indication.

“Lebanon cannot be left prey to the course of events or to those who pursue their own unscrupulous interests,” he said. “It is a small yet great country, but even more, it is a universal message of peace and fraternity arising from the Middle East.”

Francis’ earlier visits with the Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar, a Sunni, and the Grand Ayatollah in Iraq, a Shiite, represent his attempt to secure good relations across the Muslim world. In Lebanon, however, there was some unease about the nature of last week’s Christian-only dialogue.

To assuage them, John X, patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, met with the heads of the Sunni, Shiite, and Druze communities in advance of the gathering. This initiative, Kassab said, was roundly appreciated by the pope and Lebanese Christian leaders.

“We need to be a church that serves the Muslims,” he added. “We cannot exclude our partners in the nation.”

Despite the economic troubles, this sentiment is holding firm.

Lebanese dismiss the possibility of a return to civil war, which tore the country apart from 1975 to 1990. But those wounds were never healed, stated Bishop Michel Aoun of the Maronite church, with no confession of wrong. International pressure may help force a government, but the political system—adjusted after the war—failed to instill a sense of Lebanese unity.

So Francis prayed for it.

“We have seen our own lack of clarity and the mistakes we have made,” the pope stated during his closing homily. “For all this we ask forgiveness, and with contrite hearts we pray: Lord, have mercy.”

And specifically, he mentioned a failure “to bear consistent witness to the Gospel,” including missed opportunities for reconciliation.

The daylong gathering began at Casa Santa Marta, where Lebanese leaders joined the pope at his simple residence. He walked with them to St. Peter’s Basilica, where they recited the Lord’s Prayer. After about five minutes of silent meditation, the heads of denominations descended into the crypt, where they each lit a candle in front of an ornate Bible.

Left above was Charlie Costa, head of Lebanon’s Baptist convention, invited by Kassab as part of the evangelical delegation. Awed by the sense of history at the Vatican, he remarked that this cathedral was built with the indulgences that triggered the Reformation. Yet it also preserved Western Christianity throughout the ages.

Francis listened intensely during the sessions, speaking little, he said. And he received the Protestants respectfully, engaging them as an equal component of Lebanese society, along with the Catholic and Orthodox delegations.

“He is an amazing man,” said Costa. “Christians in Lebanon, evangelicals included, can learn from his humility.”

There was a consensus among the Lebanese leaders that they must.

“We forgot for a while about our differences,” said Kassab. “But if we leave the situation as it is, Lebanon is going to die.”

The evangelical report handed to Francis emphasized the necessity of freedom of conscience and belief, while maintaining good relations with the traditional churches and Muslim community.

Lebanese evangelicals would welcome the Vatican taking a leading role in international efforts to rescue Lebanon. Francis announced no concrete steps, but delegation members anticipate he will lead the charge to preserve the diverse, multi-confessional nation.

Will it remain sectarian in its political system? No one knows the details.

“Lebanon will be different,” said Kassab.

“We as Christians have to be prepared for that future.”
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2021
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2021, 11:23:35 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/july-august/conversion-therapy-bans-ex-gay-global-lgbt-laws.html








‘Pray Away the Gay’ Has Gone Away. Why Are Governments Trying to Stop It?







Nations around the globe are pushing bans on conversion therapy, some without defining what it is.


When the Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom wrote Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the country’s push to ban conversion therapy, its first request was that lawmakers define the term.

Conversion therapy has become a vague catchall that can refer to abusive and even violent efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation but also can be construed to mean any religious act that doesn’t affirm LGBT identities. In addition to proposals in the UK and Canada, bans have been enacted in Malta, Germany, Spain, Ecuador, Brazil, Taiwan, Australia, and 20 US states—some carefully defining conversion therapy, some not.

The term often evokes the most extreme attempts to eliminate unwanted same-sex attraction: shock therapy, exorcisms, forced heterosexual marriages, and even rape. More commonly, conversion therapy ministries have promised that people could overcome their desires through prayer, discipleship, and counseling.

In the past decade, however, even that kind of conversion therapy has mostly disappeared. Exodus International, evangelicalism’s flagship ex-gay ministry, shut down in 2013 after former leader Alan Chambers said it had caused pain and harm to too many people and that more than 99 percent of those who’d sought help there hadn’t actually experienced an orientation change. No major organization has emerged to take its place, and conversion therapy has fallen out of practice.

Psychologist Mark Yarhouse, director of Wheaton College’s Sexual and Gender Identity Institute, said that while some smaller organizations persist in prayer ministries aimed at changing people’s sexual orientation, he’s not aware of any major groups, mainstream evangelical ministries, or professional Christian counselors who practice any version of conversion therapy.

And yet, as the practice itself has all but disappeared, public campaigns to ban it are growing around the world. Some Christians worry that new regulations with poor definitions will take aim at what the UK Evangelical Alliance calls “everyday aspects” of church life.

A new law in Victoria, Australia, for example, will ban “religious practices, including but not limited to a prayer-based practice” aimed at “changing or suppressing the sexual orientation.” The government also says conversion therapy is illegal “with or without the person’s consent.” It is not yet clear how the law, which goes into effect in February 2022, will be applied, but it could criminalize praying for people who ask for prayer.

Australian pastor and writer Stephen McAlpine says the law is intended to challenge Christian teachings on sexuality.

“They’re looking for churches to self-censor,” he said. “It’s not like there’s churches doing lots of conversion therapy. It’s prayer groups where someone comes to you and says, ‘I’ve got unwanted same-sex desires. Could you pray for me?’ ”

McAlpine worries that Victoria’s new law will prompt pastors to say no. “Churches are going to actually pastor people less,” he said.

While ministries including Exodus International and Focus on the Family used to preach that homosexual desire should be eliminated, most evangelical churches, pastors, and mental health professionals today emphasize chastity amid desires that might last a lifetime. “Conversion” is no longer the goal—faithfulness is.

“There’s a greater proportion [of Christians] today that see it as more of an enduring reality,” Yarhouse said. “The person may experience same-sex sexuality, but now it’s, ‘How do I live with it?’ ”

Even the Nashville Statement, a 14-point manifesto by the complementarian Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, maintains that homosexual desire may never change. “We affirm that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life,” it reads.

Licensed counselor Jen Simmons says she has counseled clients and walked alongside friends who are same-sex attracted but have chosen celibacy or to marry someone of the opposite sex. She doesn’t try to change their orientation, but helps them develop skills to cope with unwanted same-sex attraction.

Simmons says therapy that promises to change a person’s sexual orientation is unethical, harmful, and simply impossible.

“Just like if someone has a genetic and biological propensity to anxiety, and they came in saying, ‘I want you to make my anxiety go away,’ ” she said. “I could never promise that.”

Still, Simmons is concerned about conversion therapy bans, since some of them, such as Australia’s, could target her work and prohibit “even just introducing a biblical ethic or talking about the biblical view of marriage,” she said.

Jayne Ozanne, founder of the Ozanne Foundation and the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBTQ+ Lives, which advocates for a national conversion therapy ban in the UK, said such a law is necessary to curb self-harm and suicide among those who identify as LGBT. A 2019 government survey found that only 2 percent of LGBT people in the UK had undergone conversion therapy, but she believes it still happens widely.

Ozanne, a lesbian evangelical, says she was repeatedly told while growing up in church that God would change her orientation if she prayed hard enough. When it didn’t happen, she not only felt shamed, but it shook her faith.

She pushes back on concerns that conversion therapy bans would muzzle therapists, but she has confirmed some evangelicals’ fears: She believes the bans need to focus on what’s going on inside churches. She says that prayer ministry teams “aren’t as regulated as we’d like to think they are” and untrained professionals, like pastors or lay ministers, shouldn’t be talking to people about things like sexual orientation. Ozanne hopes the conversion therapy ban in Victoria, Australia, will be used as a model in the rest of the world.





In the US, where there are lots of protections for speech, federal courts have struck down bans in two Florida cities on First Amendment grounds. The bans that have withstood challenges have been more narrowly focused: In Virginia and other jurisdictions, the therapy is banned only for minors.

Most bans in the US also explicitly exempt churches and pastors, though they can still threaten Christian professionals, according to Matt Sharp, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom.

At the same time, licenced counselors are rarely trying to change orientation. Simmons said that when issues of sexuality come up, she is more likely to appeal to the science of trauma and attachment than she is to cite Scripture.

“We can rely on what’s true,” she said. “We can rely on a lot that’s being discovered in science...all truth is God’s truth.”

Maria Baer is a contributing writer for CT and is based in Columbus, Ohio.


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2021
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2021, 02:30:41 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/july/tower-of-babel-ark-encounter-ky-ken-ham-answers-genesis.html







The Latest Biblical Attraction: The Tower of Babel








Answers in Genesis plans a three-year expansion at its Ark Encounter site in Kentucky.


The Ark Encounter, a Bible-themed attraction in Kentucky that features a 510-foot-long wooden Noah’s ark, is planning to begin fundraising for an expansion.

The Ark Encounter said Wednesday that it would take about three years to research, plan and build a “Tower of Babel” attraction on the park’s grounds in northern Kentucky.

A release from the Ark Encounter said the new attraction will “tackle the racism issue” by helping visitors “understand how genetics research and the Bible confirm the origin of all people groups around the world.”

No other details were given on the Babel attraction or what it might look like. “I can assure you: it will be a fascinating, eye-opening attraction,” said Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis.

The Tower of Babel has been on the list of planned expansions since the park opened. Answers in Genesis, the ministry behind the ark and the Creation Museum, raised private funds to construct and open the massive wooden attraction in 2016.


Unlike Noah’s giant vessel, there is no biblical template or physical description for the dimensions of the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11, but according to Answers in Genesis, “Studying the oldest buildings from the area, archaeologists assume the Tower at Babel looked like a ziggurat.”

In the biblical account, people unite to build a brick tower as high as the heavens to “make a name for ourselves” (11:4). The Lord responds by confusing their language and scattering the people across the world. Prior to this, the Bible says, everyone on earth had been “of one language and of one speech” (Gen. 11:1).

A depiction at the Creation Museum shows a squat, unfinished structure since God interrupted plans to build it.

The Ark Encounter’s expansion plans also include an indoor model of “what Jerusalem may have looked like in the time of Christ.”

The Ark Encounter said attendance is picking up after the pandemic lull in 2020, with up to 7,000 visitors on Saturdays, according to the news release.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2021
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2021, 09:44:51 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/july-web-only/chosen-vidangel-made-us-like-christ-mimetic-desire.html



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1-FoFj8Jbo










Why We Love ‘The Chosen’ So Much









The show isn’t just about the transformation of the disciples, it’s about our spiritual transformation, too.


The Chosen, a multiseason look at the life of Christ through the eyes of his disciples, has garnered more than 50 million fans in 180 countries with its engaging and affecting storytelling, according to producers. Even viewers initially skeptical that anything good could come out of the Nazareth of Christian entertainment have found themselves hooked by The Chosen’s imaginative scripts and high production value.

Director Dallas Jenkins has raised the bar for the quality of religious-themed entertainment. The show has broken crowdfunding records, raking in $10 million in donations for the first season and attracting $12 million in donations from 125,000 people for the second season, which wrapped up with the season finale on July 11.

But it’s not merely higher-quality filming techniques or the relatability of actor Jonathan Roumie’s portrayal of Jesus that accounts for The Chosen’s power. It comes from its convincing portrayal of each disciple’s transformation of desire. Characters who have small hopes at the beginning of the show evolve into people who want great things. As we watch the disciples change, we are drawn into the mystery of their transformation in Christ.

The French historian and philosopher René Girard experienced a profound Christian conversion when he realized that the greatest novels in history—like Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, or Cervantes’s Don Quixote—emerged out of a conversion experience that pierced the author’s vanity and pride. This experience allowed them to create deeply complex characters truer to life.

From his deep study of history, human behavior, and great literature, Girard observed that we learn to desire by imitation, through a process he called mimesis (which comes from the Greek, meaning “to imitate”). We come to want the things that are modeled to us as desirable and valuable. Girard was not referring primarily to our basic needs—food, shelter, safety—but to the kind of metaphysical desires that people develop to be a certain kind of person.

Girard thought of this as an inherently good thing—a form of radical openness and receptiveness to others—but one fraught with obvious dangers. All of us are more susceptible to manipulation of our desires than we fully understand. We are also in danger of frittering our lives away chasing “thin” mimetic desires that don’t ultimately satisfy, as opposed to the “thick” desires implanted by God that bring happiness and fulfillment.

Christian conversion involves the reordering of a person’s desires through a continual encounter with Christ. The model of divine love that Christ reveals begins to permeate a person’s entire life. Old desires give way to new ones. This reordering of desires—as demonstrated by a divine model—is impossible if a person’s only models of desire are of the world. People consumed by worldly models are condemned to remain stuck in a hamster wheel of sorts—never able to break loose from the tyranny of the age. Only one model in human history had the power to desire differently: Christ, whose greatest desire is to do the will of his Father, shows us the way out.

When Jesus says in the Gospels, “Follow me,” he is not talking about a physical following only, but a following of desire. In other words: “Don’t just go where I go or adopt my habits of speech and dress but want what I want.” What he wants is each person’s salvation. When he interacts with Mary Magdalene and Peter, or any of the other disciples whom he calls, Jesus clearly desires them to be fully alive, free to love wholeheartedly.

To imitate Christ’s desires is to re-order our own—to pattern them on his, where there is a hierarchy. When the Pharisees ask Jesus which is the greatest commandment, he answers clearly: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” In other words: learn to desire these two things above all, and the rest of your desires will fall into place.

When Paul writes, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1), he is also referring to the imitation of desire. When he writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2), he is talking about the same thing: This world has no models that are worth patterning your life after. If you wish to be saved from this world of sin and death, you need an otherworldly model, and you must find it in Christ, who is able to transform you within through grace.

We become like the things we imitate. And that’s why Christ not only saves us—he also transforms us.

In the imaginative telling of the “backstory” of the first disciples, The Chosen shows the profound tension between worldly and transcendent desires. The ancient Roman world had shaped the disciples’ desires in certain ways, just as the modern world shapes ours. As Jesus becomes their new and primary model of desire, their thin desires begin to fade away in favor of the transcendent purpose he models.

Three minutes into the first episode of season 1, we meet Mary Magdalene in a time where she is unable to imagine an existence for herself outside of the reality of demonic possession with brief periods of lucidity. What does she desire? Anything that will for a moment relieve her intense suffering: alcohol, even death. After Jesus calls her by name, however, we see Mary gradually come to want other things: to live the Sabbath properly, to be generous and serve others, to learn the Scriptures. She says of herself, “I was one way and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between was him.” Jesus has become her new model, and she has begun to want for herself what he wants.

We see Peter’s desires change before our eyes in a similar fashion. What does Peter want when we first meet him? The things his culture has modeled: the overthrow of Roman oppression, the relief of his tax burden, to be a successful fisherman. He’s closed to anything else. When his brother Andrew tries to interest him in Jesus, Peter is initially dismissive, but his encounter with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee changes everything. He has a new model placed before him, and thus the trappings of his old life—his thin desires—start to have less hold on him.

In episode 5, Peter tells his wife, Eden, how excited he is to go where Christ goes and learn from him. Like a child, he exclaims, “He said I wouldn’t be a fisherman anymore but would catch men! I don’t even know what that means, but … I want to quit fishing and leave the sea behind.”

These are but two moments. The show (so far) does an excellent job of illustrating the gradual changes that happen as the disciples begin to desire differently after they choose to follow Christ.

Yet to be shown in the series is the ominous ending we all know is coming: the Passion. The Passion is the ultimate moment of hope for a Christian because it is the moment when death is conquered and the doors to a new way of living and loving are opened to us. Taking hold of that new possibility is only possible for the disciples though—as it is for us—after a period of divine preparation in which our desires are transformed enough to see the love of God that was poured out on the cross.

Yes, Peter will betray Christ; he will even try to get Christ to imitate his own desires (which earns him the strongest rebuke in the Gospels when Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan!”). But the transformation will have been sufficient to bring Peter and the rest of the disciples (except Judas) to repentance. They finally desire to live the rest of their lives in service to a higher truth—to the point that nearly all of them will go willingly to their deaths in imitation of Christ, when their transformation was at last complete.


The Chosen, a multiseason look at the life of Christ through the eyes of his disciples, has garnered more than 50 million fans in 180 countries with its engaging and affecting storytelling, according to producers. Even viewers initially skeptical that anything good could come out of the Nazareth of Christian entertainment have found themselves hooked by The Chosen’s imaginative scripts and high production value.

Director Dallas Jenkins has raised the bar for the quality of religious-themed entertainment. The show has broken crowdfunding records, raking in $10 million in donations for the first season and attracting $12 million in donations from 125,000 people for the second season, which wrapped up with the season finale on July 11.

But it’s not merely higher-quality filming techniques or the relatability of actor Jonathan Roumie’s portrayal of Jesus that accounts for The Chosen’s power. It comes from its convincing portrayal of each disciple’s transformation of desire. Characters who have small hopes at the beginning of the show evolve into people who want great things. As we watch the disciples change, we are drawn into the mystery of their transformation in Christ.

The French historian and philosopher René Girard experienced a profound Christian conversion when he realized that the greatest novels in history—like Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, or Cervantes’s Don Quixote—emerged out of a conversion experience that pierced the author’s vanity and pride. This experience allowed them to create deeply complex characters truer to life.

From his deep study of history, human behavior, and great literature, Girard observed that we learn to desire by imitation, through a process he called mimesis (which comes from the Greek, meaning “to imitate”). We come to want the things that are modeled to us as desirable and valuable. Girard was not referring primarily to our basic needs—food, shelter, safety—but to the kind of metaphysical desires that people develop to be a certain kind of person.

Girard thought of this as an inherently good thing—a form of radical openness and receptiveness to others—but one fraught with obvious dangers. All of us are more susceptible to manipulation of our desires than we fully understand. We are also in danger of frittering our lives away chasing “thin” mimetic desires that don’t ultimately satisfy, as opposed to the “thick” desires implanted by God that bring happiness and fulfillment.

Christian conversion involves the reordering of a person’s desires through a continual encounter with Christ. The model of divine love that Christ reveals begins to permeate a person’s entire life. Old desires give way to new ones. This reordering of desires—as demonstrated by a divine model—is impossible if a person’s only models of desire are of the world. People consumed by worldly models are condemned to remain stuck in a hamster wheel of sorts—never able to break loose from the tyranny of the age. Only one model in human history had the power to desire differently: Christ, whose greatest desire is to do the will of his Father, shows us the way out.

When Jesus says in the Gospels, “Follow me,” he is not talking about a physical following only, but a following of desire. In other words: “Don’t just go where I go or adopt my habits of speech and dress but want what I want.” What he wants is each person’s salvation. When he interacts with Mary Magdalene and Peter, or any of the other disciples whom he calls, Jesus clearly desires them to be fully alive, free to love wholeheartedly.

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To imitate Christ’s desires is to re-order our own—to pattern them on his, where there is a hierarchy. When the Pharisees ask Jesus which is the greatest commandment, he answers clearly: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” In other words: learn to desire these two things above all, and the rest of your desires will fall into place.

When Paul writes, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1), he is also referring to the imitation of desire. When he writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2), he is talking about the same thing: This world has no models that are worth patterning your life after. If you wish to be saved from this world of sin and death, you need an otherworldly model, and you must find it in Christ, who is able to transform you within through grace.

We become like the things we imitate. And that’s why Christ not only saves us—he also transforms us.

In the imaginative telling of the “backstory” of the first disciples, The Chosen shows the profound tension between worldly and transcendent desires. The ancient Roman world had shaped the disciples’ desires in certain ways, just as the modern world shapes ours. As Jesus becomes their new and primary model of desire, their thin desires begin to fade away in favor of the transcendent purpose he models.

Three minutes into the first episode of season 1, we meet Mary Magdalene in a time where she is unable to imagine an existence for herself outside of the reality of demonic possession with brief periods of lucidity. What does she desire? Anything that will for a moment relieve her intense suffering: alcohol, even death. After Jesus calls her by name, however, we see Mary gradually come to want other things: to live the Sabbath properly, to be generous and serve others, to learn the Scriptures. She says of herself, “I was one way and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between was him.” Jesus has become her new model, and she has begun to want for herself what he wants.

We see Peter’s desires change before our eyes in a similar fashion. What does Peter want when we first meet him? The things his culture has modeled: the overthrow of Roman oppression, the relief of his tax burden, to be a successful fisherman. He’s closed to anything else. When his brother Andrew tries to interest him in Jesus, Peter is initially dismissive, but his encounter with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee changes everything. He has a new model placed before him, and thus the trappings of his old life—his thin desires—start to have less hold on him.

In episode 5, Peter tells his wife, Eden, how excited he is to go where Christ goes and learn from him. Like a child, he exclaims, “He said I wouldn’t be a fisherman anymore but would catch men! I don’t even know what that means, but … I want to quit fishing and leave the sea behind.”

These are but two moments. The show (so far) does an excellent job of illustrating the gradual changes that happen as the disciples begin to desire differently after they choose to follow Christ.

Yet to be shown in the series is the ominous ending we all know is coming: the Passion. The Passion is the ultimate moment of hope for a Christian because it is the moment when death is conquered and the doors to a new way of living and loving are opened to us. Taking hold of that new possibility is only possible for the disciples though—as it is for us—after a period of divine preparation in which our desires are transformed enough to see the love of God that was poured out on the cross.

Yes, Peter will betray Christ; he will even try to get Christ to imitate his own desires (which earns him the strongest rebuke in the Gospels when Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan!”). But the transformation will have been sufficient to bring Peter and the rest of the disciples (except Judas) to repentance. They finally desire to live the rest of their lives in service to a higher truth—to the point that nearly all of them will go willingly to their deaths in imitation of Christ, when their transformation was at last complete.





Luke Burgis is entrepreneur-in-residence at the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship and author of Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life.



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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2021
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2021, 04:45:05 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/july/court-iowa-intervarsity-ruling-discrimination.html








Court Upholds Ruling in Favor of InterVarsity at U of Iowa






A federal appeals court has upheld a 2019 ruling against the University of Iowa, affirming that the university discriminated against a Christian club by stripping it and dozens of other religious clubs of their registered status.

A three-judge panel of the US 8th Circuit Court of Appeal on Friday found that a lower federal court correctly ruled that the university can’t selectively deregister student organizations. That ruling came on a lawsuit filed by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after university administrators deregistered its local chapter along with multiple other religious groups.

The university moved to deregister the groups after another faith-based group, Business Leaders in Christ, sued the university for kicking it off campus following a complaint that it wouldn’t let an openly gay member seek a leadership post.

The appeals court said Friday that “we are hard-pressed to find a clearer example of viewpoint discrimination.”

The university had not allowed Christian, Muslim, and Sikh groups to appoint leaders based on their shared faith, selectively enforcing its policy requiring all clubs to offer equal opportunity and access regardless of classifications including race, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

According to Becket, which represented InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the case, “the court warned that university officials who ‘make calculated choices about enacting or enforcing [such] unconstitutional policies’ should be on notice that they are not entitled to qualified immunity but instead will be held personally accountable for their actions.”

The university exempts sororities, fraternities, and some sports clubs from its policy prohibiting sex discrimination and allows some groups to require members of specific racial groups, the appeals court said.

It even allowed one group, LoveWorks, to require its members to sign a “gay-affirming statement of Christian faith” while disqualifying groups that required members to affirm different religious statements of faith, the court said.

“The university’s choice to selectively apply the Human Rights Policy against InterVarsity suggests a preference for certain viewpoints — like those of LoveWorks—over InterVarsity’s,” Circuit Judge Jonathan Allen Kobes wrote for the panel. “The university focused its ‘clean up’ on specific religious groups and then selectively applied the Human Rights Policy against them. Other groups were simply glossed over or ignored.”

Attorneys with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office listed on court filings as representing the university in the lawsuit did not immediately return phone messages Friday seeking comment.

A UI spokeswoman, Anne Bassett, said in an email Friday afternoon that the university “respects the decision of the court and will move forward in accordance with the decision.”

Daniel Blomberg, an attorney for InterVarsity, said Friday's ruling puts other schools on notice.

“Schools are supposed to be a place of free inquiry and open thought, but the school officials here punished opinions they didn’t like and promoted ones they did — all while using taxpayer dollars to do it,” Blomberg said.
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