Persecution of Christians Increases

Persecution of Christians
Persecution of Christians in the United States has thus far been pretty much confined to legal attacks on the religious freedom of Christians. We have reported on some cases in recent months.

Unbelievers also are making legal attempts to silence the followers of Jesus Christ to prevent people from hearing our message. We are finding that even our lectureships on evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible are now being banned in many public places. That is especially true on university and college campuses. Places where we have regularly spoken for 50 years are now off limits to us. That is in the name of supporting the national mandate for religious pluralism.

Conditions in other parts of the world are much worse. The October 31, 2017, report from The Institute on Religion and Democracy tells that in India attacks on Christians numbered 410 during the first six months of 2017. In 2016 there were 441 attacks during the entire year. The Institute reports that during the years of 2015-2017 persecution of Christians has accelerated. That period now ranks as the greatest persecutions of Christians in history.

It is hard to grasp the fact that we live in a time that has greater persecution of Christians than the time of the Roman Empire. But that is apparently the case.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

American Priorities: What Really Matters?

American Priorities
What really matters to the American public? What do Americans choose to support with the money they have left after taxes and basic expenses like food and shelter? Is it the homeless, the orphans throughout the world, the starving children in third world countries, the refugees from war, or the health issues in places where living conditions are producing blights? What are the American priorities?

Today 40% of our population says “none” when asked about their religious affiliation. As America has moved from a Christian country to a secular society, a large percentage of our disposable money goes to support professional sports, including player’s salaries. What many don’t realize is that there is a vast amount of spending involved in support of the games. The NBA, for example, maintains a “Replay Center” in Secaucus, New Jersey, with a president, vice president, and staff of officials. Last season this group examined 2,265 replays. The cost factor in just reviewing basketball plays is vastly higher than what I made in a lifetime of teaching in the public schools.

If we wanted to eliminate the national debt and balance the budget or put an end to hunger in the world, we might consider dropping professional sports for one season in America. Don’t worry; it will never happen because the problems of the world are not a priority in twenty-first century America.

There are some hopeful signs of caring in professional sports. I recently saw a television show where a professional athlete was encouraging young people to wear a “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelet. I am sure Jesus would be very pleased with the care center for teens that this athlete was using his wealth to support. The interviewer expressed amazement that anyone would use their multi-million dollar salary for such a project. “That is not a high priority for most of us,” the interviewer said. Looking at American priorities today, I have no doubt that is certainly true.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: A.P. release in South Bend Tribune, 11/17/17, page C4.

Freedom from Religion Foundation

Freedom from Religion Foundation
There are always those who just can’t stand the idea of Americans, especially leaders, acknowledging their dependence upon God. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) perpetuates its existence by trying to stamp out every recognition of God from across our land. They are doing the same thing that Communist governments tried to do in the last century.

For over 240 years, our elected representatives to the federal government have begun their public duties with a prayer seeking God’s guidance. This prayer is a reflection of the faith of many people across America who themselves seek His guidance in their lives.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has challenged public monuments, prayer, and virtually any public recognition of religion. Like most on the Left, FFRF engages in bullying tactics threatening to haul the “offenders” into court for their “unconstitutional” activities. Unfortunately, too many school districts and city and town councils hand over their milk money to the bullies and capitulate.

When the Freedom From Religion Foundation actually does sue, a very high percentage of their cases are simply dismissed. However, they occasionally find a sympathetic ear as when a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled in favor of the group’s claim challenging housing allowances for pastors. After failing so many times, the FFRF is now trying a new tactic. Co-president Dan Barker (who has publicly proclaimed his atheism but maintains ministerial credentials) applied to the U.S. House of Representatives chaplain to lead a prayer. His application was rejected, and he sued, claiming the practice of House prayer was in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. That ruling said that permitting ministers to pray before legislative gatherings is constitutional.

Thankfully, Judge Rosemary Collyer from the D.C. District Court wasn’t too eager to go along. She rejected FFRF’s claims, holding that Barker could not piggyback on Town of Greece to demand that the House allow a “prayer” to what or whoever he wanted. The judge wrote: “[C]ontrary to Mr. Barker’s hopeful interpretation, Town of Greece did not reference atheists–who are, by definition, nontheists who do not believe in God or gods–but ‘any minister or layman who wished to give [a prayer].'”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who was named a defendant in Barker’s suit, praised the ruling. He wrote, “Since the first session of the Continental Congress, our nation’s legislature has opened with a prayer to God. Today, that tradition was upheld, and the freedom to exercise religion was vindicated. The court rightfully dismissed the claims of an atheist that he had the right to deliver a secular invocation in place of the opening prayer.” He concluded: “I am grateful that the People’s House can continue to begin its work each day as we have for centuries: taking a moment to pray to God.”

The interpretation of the Establishment Clause in this and other cases simply doesn’t require what Barker demanded. Sanity has prevailed–for now.
–J.R. Towell © 2017

Different Shades of Brown

Different Shades of Brown
Racial prejudice based on skin color is a function of ignorance. I am amazed that promoters of violence against black-skinned people have daughters who are using tanning booths to get darker. There is no inferior race, and there are no different species of humans. Acts 17:26 tells us that God “has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…” We are all just different shades of brown.

Many years ago the preacher of the Central Church of Christ in Birmingham, Alabama, invited me to participate in a television panel discussion. The format was a call-in where callers could ask questions for the panel to answer. On the panel with me was the black president of a small African-American college in East Texas.

The discussion took place during the time of racial strife in Birmingham. A caller asked if black people were evolved apes and white people were created by God in His image. I responded by pointing out that apes and white people have more features in common than apes and black people. This includes hair texture, jaw shape, skull shape, and even skin color when you look under the hair. This produced some antagonism from our host but was followed by the question of why black people are black and white people are white.

I took my hand and laid it on a white sheet of paper and asked if I was really white? The answer, of course, was that I wasn’t white like the paper. I was light brown. Then I asked my black friend to lay his hand on the same sheet of paper, and I asked if he was really black? The answer was obvious. He was just a darker shade of brown. I then made the point that we are all just different shades of brown, and we are all equally created in God’s image.

My black friend leaned over and whispered in my ear as we looked into some rather hostile people at the TV station. He said, “Ain’t neither one of us getting out of here alive.” I am glad to say that we did.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Religious Freedom Challenges on Campus

Religious Freedom Challenges on Campus
We have reported on challenges to freedom of religion in the United States. A growing number of religious freedom challenges have taken place on college campuses, specifically orchestrated to attack Christianity.

At Florida Atlantic University a student named Ryan Rotella refused to participate in a class exercise in which students were to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and then stomp on it. He was suspended from the class and told not to return.

At Missouri State University Emily Booker was required to write to state legislators urging passage of homosexual adoption laws. She refused, and the university threatened to withhold her degree.

Several graduate-level counseling programs require students to counsel homosexual couples rather than refer them to other therapists for relationship counseling. At Missouri State University and Eastern Michigan University, students were expelled from the programs if they referred homosexual couples to another counselor.

You can read about those cases in Citizen magazine for October of 2017 (page 30).

Another case that is very disturbing involves Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland. A young man named Brandon Jenkins applied for admission to the radiation therapy program. Even though he exceeded the minimum requirements, the college denied him admission because he was a Christian. When an interviewer asked him what was the most important thing in his life he said that God is. When Jenkins asked why he was denied, the director and coordinator the radiation therapy program told him, “this field is not the place for religion.”

The job of a college or university is to educate students for the area of work they choose. It is not to tell them what to believe or force them into actions which go against their conscience. A young person should not face religious freedom challenges just to get an education. Students and parents can find help concerning religious freedom on campus at this website.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Dangers of Long-term Marijuana Use

Dangers of Long-term Marijuana Use
A newly released study indicates the dangers of long-term marijuana use. The bottom line is that it alters brain cells.

The study was published in Jneurosci (The Journal of Neuroscience) on October 16. The researchers focused on the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain. Dopamine and serotonin receptors are concentrated there. Those receptors give a person the sensation of pleasure.

The scientists conducted the study on mice in their “teen” and “adolescent” stages of life. The mice received injections of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) every day for a week. THC is the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana (as well as opioids and alcohol) stimulates the VTA to release dopamine resulting in an experience of pleasure and the desire for more. There is a GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) cell in the VTA which acts as an inhibitor. When the brain releases GABA, it serves to restrain the desire for pleasure and keep it under control.

In the week of receiving THC, the GABA neurons lost their ability to control the desire for pleasure. They were in a state of “long-term depression” (LTD). This caused the dopamine to remain longer in the VTA giving a sense of being “spaced out,” and leading to addiction.

The researchers stated that the long-term effect of the THC was to remodel the brain’s synapses resulting in reduced “synaptic plasticity.” The synapses carry electrical or chemical signals from one nerve cell (neuron) to another. This “synaptic modification” is changing the brain at the cellular level.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is the standard reference used by mental health professionals at all levels. The current edition is DSM-5. It defines cannabis (marijuana) use disorder as a “problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”

In other words, marijuana impairs the ability of people to do things they need to do or even want to do. We have cautioned before about the dangers of long-term marijuana use and the consequences of legalization and wide-spread availability. This study confirms that danger.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Religious Freedom Threatened

Religious Freedom Threatened
We have recently posted about some believers who have had their religious freedom threatened merely because they want to live out their faith. Government agencies at various levels are attacking believers with fines, jail time, or bankruptcy because they will not participate in something which is against their Christian convictions. Wedding photographers, cake artists, and owners of flower shops and wedding venues have been charged with discrimination. Their only crime is not wanting to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies because they believe it violates God’s plan and design for marriage.

Now government punishment is being carried out against Christian farmers because they expressed their belief in the God’s design and sanctity of marriage. Steve and Bridget Tennes and their five children live on a farm 22 miles from East Lansing, Michigan. For the past seven years they have been selling their produce at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. The city has adopted a policy that bars those who believe in traditional marriage from selling produce in the market. Steve Tennes posted his Christian view of marriage on Facebook. When the administration of the East Lansing Farmer’s Market learned about that, they said the Tennes farm, known as Country Mill, would no longer be allowed to sell.

Country Mill was selling the only organic apples available in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, and those sales are a significant part of the income for the Tennes family. Steve Tennes filed a federal lawsuit against the city, and a federal district judge ordered that he should be allowed to return to the farmer’s market until the case is settled. Tennes does not want to see Americans’ religious freedom threatened. He said, “This isn’t just about our ability to sell at the farmer’s market. It’s really about every American’s right to make a living and not have to worry about being punished by the government.”

In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the cases we reported on earlier. That is the case of Jack Phillips, a Christian cake artist who will not participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony by designing a cake for it. The Justice Department is siding with Phillips in this case. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will decide. There are Christians who just want to live out their faith and not be forced to participate in something they believe is in violation of God’s commands. The Jack Phillips case could have repercussions for many others.

We can’t ignore the fact that religious freedom threatened just because it hasn’t directly threatened us. Believers should not be forced to do something that violates their faith. That sounds too much like the situation the early Christians faced in ancient Rome.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

God’s Provision for Food

God's Provision for Food
In the September issue of National Geographic, there is a very interesting article titled “A Tiny Country Feeds the World” by Frank Viviano. The article shows how the Netherlands has developed agriculture to such an extent that they not only can feed their own dense population (1300 inhabitants per square mile), but they have become the globe’s number two exporter of food. They are second only to the United States which has 270 times the amount of landmass. As many people in the world are starving, the work of the Dutch people reminds us of God’s provision for food.

Since 2000 the Dutch have increased production of food by applying their intelligence to the problem. By improved scientific methods, they have reduced their need for water for crops by 90%, virtually eliminated the use of chemical pesticides, and cut the use of antibiotics in livestock by 60%. They have done this by fully utilizing all of the resources available to grow food, and not allowing the negatives that humans have introduced. The Dutch growers use greenhouses where they can control the light, nutrients, and water. They waste nothing and allow no destructive agents. The food is still “natural” but without those things which cause us to add carcinogens to control insects and blight.

The Netherlands is also a major exporter of seeds. Their agricultural technology uses molecular breeding, rather than GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) to produce new seed varieties. Their method is faster and cheaper than GMOs, and the article says the method “is a direct descendant of methods used by farmers in the Fertile Crescent 10,000 years ago.” The Fertile Crescent, by the way, is the area of the Garden of Eden, bounded by the rivers which are still known today.

Projections are that by 2050 the Earth may have as many as 50 billion people to feed making is necessary for us to use all the intelligence as well as resources of God’s provision for food. We have the tools to do this, but it will take work and full utilization of God’s design to feed the world. God told Adam that he would eat by “the sweat of his brow.” God was saying it wouldn’t come easy, but He has taken care to provide the resources and tools to do it.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Turkish Government Will Remove Evolution

Turkish Government Will Remove Evolution
Turkish education minister Ismet Yilmaz has announced changes to the textbooks in that country. Starting next fall, the Turkish government will remove evolution and all references to Charles Darwin from the textbooks along with 170 other topics that do not coincide with the Islamic government views. The new curriculum to replace these topics is said to be “value-based” and in harmony with student development.

The current biology course for twelveth grade biology has a section titled “The Beginning of Life and Evolution.” It is being replaced with a unit titled “Living Beings and the Environment.” This new course will include discussions of adaptation, mutation, and natural and artificial selection without mentioning evolution or Darwin. An earlier section for an eleventh-grade philosophy class will be titled “Evolution and other Ontological Opinions.”

The situation is complicated in Turkey not only because of the influence of Islam but also because of the failed coup in 2016. The government is using the schools as a way to control the population. Included in the new curriculum are units about the groups that the government is fighting such as the Kurdistan Worker’s Party and the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

American creationist groups that want to include their particular view of biology in education may want to look at what is happening in Turkey. The new curriculum, which is religiously based, is turning the classroom into a political football. It will be interesting to see if the Turkish government will remove evolution from the educational system without causing major civil unrest.

We have pointed out that modern agriculture, animal husbandry, aquaculture, and fish management depend upon the basic concepts that Darwin presented. The fact that animals can change and that this change can be used to benefit the world is important for young people to learn. The enemy is naturalism in which these concepts are expanded to exclude God’s role.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Reference: Detroit News 9/18/17, page 5A, AP release by Zeynep Bilginsoy.

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Issues

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Issues
The weekend issue of USA Today for August 25-27 made the problems of Catholic priests sexually abusing children the front page story. The article centered on recent cases in Guam, and made the statement that the continuing Catholic Church sexual abuse issues have “shattered faith.”

There are multiple things to consider in this tragic situation. Many of the people coming forward and making claims about abuse are relying on “repressed memories,” which is only marginally reliable at best. Also, large settlements publicized in the media have encouraged people to claim sexual abuse, which may or may not have happened.

The point that we would like to make is that this whole horrible issue has nothing to do with the existence of God or with the validity of Christianity. The New Testament clearly teaches the condemnation of sexual acts outside of marriage. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:1-11 make it clear that the sexual needs of men and women are to be met only in the sacrament of marriage. The man-made teaching that those who serve God as Church leaders should not be married and should be celibate is at least a part of what has led to Catholic Church sexual abuse issues.

First Timothy 4:1-3 predicts that human perversions of God’s design would take place. “In latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Speaking lies in hypocrisy: having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry …” The Bible never commands celibacy as a requirement of Church leadership. In fact, the qualifications of bishops given in 1 Timothy 3 require that they be “the husband of one wife (verse 2).

When humans add commands or requirements to what God has given and alter what Jesus taught, the result is always catastrophic. While this may “shatter faith” in human institutions, it should not “shatter faith” in either God or in His Word.
–John N. Clayton © 2017