Rob Schwarzwalder

A response to Evangelical calls to disengage from the political fight

Rob Schwarzwalder
By Rob Schwarzwalder

As explained by my friends Tim Dalrymple and Mark Tooley, it has become fashionable among some young evangelicals to call upon social conservatives to disengage from the political fight. Instead, they urge their peers to serve our neighbors with Christian affection and anonymous quietude. Matt Anderson, Jon Shields and John Mark Reynolds have commented on essentially the same phenomenon.

The disaffection of some younger believers toward political action seems animated by two factors: the reality that more has not been accomplished, despite decades of evangelical political activism, and the perception that evangelical social conservatives are an angry and bumptious lot characterized more by enflamed rhetoric than compassion or effectiveness.

The first issue reflects more a naiveté about politics than anything else. Political change is incremental. Only on rare occasions (e.g., the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s) does massive social change occur. The great majority of the time, it is a matter of slow, deliberate and prudential action.

For example, the ruling legalizing unrestricted access to abortion, Roe v. Wade, remains the law of the land nearly 40 years after it was issued by the Supreme Court. Those who look with despair on the failure of conservatives to correct Roe say that we should admit legal and political defeat and simply concentrate on pro-life and pro-adoption ministries.

Those ministries are essential, but incomplete: As long as Roe is the law, however generous and effective Christian efforts to save the unborn and help their mothers might be, they will fail adequately to end abortion’s culture of death.

Since 1973, myriad pro-life measures have been passed at both the federal and state levels (See examples here and here). Abortion is being restrained, gradually, through these partial victories.

In addition, the ground has shifted beneath the feet of those who believe in “a woman’s right to choose” an abortion above the right of the unborn child to live - according to a recent Gallup Poll, more Americans than ever before identify as pro-life (50-41 percent). Changes in public opinion usually lead to political action. In this case, that action will (continue to) be pro-life.

Progress can be slow. That does not mean it is unimportant or that noble efforts should be discarded. It means thinking tactically and strategically, persuading and voting and running for office and putting up yard signs and a thousand other large and small political tasks. It means taking what victories are possible now and laying the foundation for more victories in the future. That’s the very nature of politics. I believe these younger evangelicals may very well come to grasp this concept as they mature and gain experience.

Insofar as the stereotypes of “the Christian Right:” it is easy to caricature, much harder to evaluate honestly. Those younger believers who have accepted the narrative offered by critics of Christian conservatives often will win the accolades of the “elites” who insist that evangelicals are uninformed, frightened and reactionary.

The rare flippant remark, the episodic rhetorical overreach, the infrequent but stinging criticism: yes, evangelical leaders in political and social action have occasionally made them. Yet they reflect neither the Gospel nor the remarkable, even historic work of those same leaders - men and women who, sporadically, say things they regret (and, unlike most of their critics, for which they often and quickly apologize).

That such verbal mots are used by those who denigrate Christian activists to generalize about the social conservative movement is intellectually disingenuous; such generalizations are inaccurate and unfair.

To reiterate: Socially conservative evangelicals are fallen, like everyone else. Sometimes we overstate, say things in the heat of the moment, etc. But these isolated comments are not characteristic of the generally irenic language or compassionate actions we seek to bring to the public arena. Verbal gaffes are noticeable - citable - because of their relative rarity.

Undeniably, political triumphalism is an idol. We will never inaugurate the Kingdom of God until the King Himself rules on earth. The battle will never be fully won; as long as our culture is occupied by sons and daughters of Adam (that would be all of us), social evil will exist and merit resistance. Wrong ideas never die but only lapse into episodic somnolence. Agendas of power, slaughter and cruelty wait calmly in the wings of human affairs.

Yet secession from political engagement because it is hard, its success impermanent and its achievements incomplete, is more a form of self-comfort than moral conviction. As Carl Henry wrote me in a personal letter years ago, “not to oppose a Hitler, a Stalin or a Mao would have been an act of Christian lovelessness” - in other words, passivity in the face of evil is acquiescence to it and, in some cases, even partnership with it.

Paul enjoins us to not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:13) for a reason: It is hard to persist in doing good when the results of our labor seem modest. Battles are wearing, and trenches are discomfiting. The overconfidence of some conservative Christians in politics as the means by which to “change the world” was misplaced.

But abandonment is a poor substitute for uninformed striving. Enthusiasm for an immodest aim produces frustration, or even bitterness, since that aim can never be reached. Withdrawal is a welcome alternative, surely, in the short term: It is always easier to rest than fight.

It is then that the faithful Christian remembers we are citizens of an eternal commonwealth, that doing right in all spheres of life is pleasing to - and required by - God, and that small, incremental victories can build momentum such that substantial and more climactic victory becomes possible. For example, Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, but it took another 26 years to end British slavery itself.

Evangelicals should stand for justice and righteousness (our English terms both stem from a common Hebrew word, tsehdek) wherever such a stance is needed. This means defending marriage, the unborn and religious liberty wherever they are endangered.

There is nothing more important than sharing the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave. Yet as central as this is to the church’s proclamation and ministry, it cannot stand in isolation from works of compassion and working for social structures and political initiatives that protect the unborn and their mothers, bolster marriage and the family, and supporting religious liberty.

To herald the Gospel without actions commensurate with it is insufficient. These actions include works of charity and works of public initiative. To jettison either facet of our witness and work would be, to use Dr. Henry’s phrase, “loveless.”

May the church resist such a self-satisfying and thoroughly unbiblical practice and such a dangerous temptation.

Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Christian Post

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

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By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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